Italian espresso could get Unesco protected status

‘Coffee is much more than a simple drink: it is an authentic ritual,’ says minister

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 26 January 2022 10:46 GMT
<p>Espresso culture is integral to Italian life</p>

Espresso culture is integral to Italian life

Italy’s coffee culture – specifically the act of ordering an espresso – could be in line to get Unesco-protected status.

Italy is campaigning for its unique caffeine scene to be added to Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage list.

“In Italy, coffee is much more than a simple drink: it is an authentic ritual,” Italy's deputy agriculture minister Gian Marco Centinaio told Italian news outlet Sky TG24.

“It is an integral part of our national identity and an expression of our social relationships that distinguishes us around the world.”

Similar entries have already been accepted onto Unesco’s list, including “Turkish coffee culture and tradition” – but Italy’s application was denied in 2021.

This was down to an admin error: two different agencies applied simultaneously, with the Region of Campania claiming espresso was integral to Neapolitan culture, while the Consortium for the Protection of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee also put it forward as representing the entire country.

Italy was turned down but told to reapply as a united front this year instead.

Centinaio said he was confident the application would get the go-ahead this time around.

The Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies unanimously approved the submission; it now needs to be approved by the Italian National Unesco Commission, followed by Unesco headquarters.

“The cup of espresso represents for all Italians a social and cultural ritual that is also reflected in literature and that fascinates the whole country, from Naples to Venice to Trieste passing through Rome and Milan,” said Centinaio.

“This candidacy is all the more important in this historical moment when the restrictions due to the pandemic have penalized social relations, many of which were framed by the counter or the outdoor lounge of a [coffee shop] with a good Italian coffee in front of you.”

Italy already lays claim to 15 entries on the intangible heritage list, including truffle hunting and Neapolitan pizza making.

The latest application follows the news that the cost of an espresso in Italy could rise to €1.50 this year, sparking outrage among caffeine-loving Italians.

“We are receiving numerous complaints denouncing the rise in prices of coffee,” said Furio Truzzi, head of the Italian consumer rights group Assoutenti.

At the beginning of last year, Assoutenti reports, an espresso typically cost €1 but has risen to €1.10 in many cafes, around 75 per cent of which have raised their prices.

The consumer body’s projections show that it could rise again in 2022 to hit €1.50.

Inflation is “transforming a daily ritual into a luxury for the rich,” Truzzi told local news outlet VeronaSera.

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