Italy seeks Unesco heritage status for espresso coffee

Italy will seek Unesco recognition for espresso coffee, claiming it is “much more than a simple beverage.”

It comes on the heels of the UN agency adding the art of the Neapolitan pizza maker to the list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage in 2017, as Italy seeks to secure global recognition for another of its successful symbols.

“It is an authentic ritual and an expression of our sociality that distinguishes us around the world,” agriculture undersecretary Gian Marco Centinaio said in confirming the application’s submission.

Espresso quickly became ingrained in the national psyche following its invention in Turin at the end of the nineteenth century. Drinking espresso creates an opportunity for interaction, for discussing politics and football, for complaining, for making peace or paying a debt, or for simply talking about this and that.

According to the Italian Espresso Institute, which was founded in 1998 with the express purpose of preserving and promoting the original espresso, the market is worth over €4 billion (£3.3 billion) annually, with over 90% of Italians drinking a cup of it daily, typically served in a porcelain cup.

The institute’s stringent standards for creating the perfect espresso include the use of certified coffee blends, certified equipment, and even licenced personnel.

It states that the crema, the lighter froth that forms on top of the dark caffeinated brew, “must remain uniform and persistent for at least 120 seconds after the coffee is dispensed without stirring.” According to the manufacturer, its colour should range from “hazel-brown to dark brown” and be “characterised by tawny reflexes.”

Centinaio stated that espresso’s candidacy was also intended to commemorate Italy’s social interaction, which has been stifled in part by the Covid restrictions.

Attempts to include Italian espresso coffee on the Unesco list have been made in the past but have never been finalised, allegedly due to the country’s volatile politics.

The agriculture undersecretary expressed confidence that the bid would be approved by Italy’s national Unesco commision, with a decision expected in the spring.

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