Espresso could become a UNESCO intangible heritage item

Italy wants UNESCO heritage status for espresso coffee

Culture News

Created in Turin in the 19th century, espresso coffee is an integral part of the national identity. Italy intends to apply for intangible heritage status for the drink.

Italy is to apply for UNESCO status for espresso coffee, claiming it is “much more than a simple drink”. Following on the heels of the Neapolitan pizza-maker’s inclusion in 2017, Italy also wants to secure espresso a place on the UNESCO intangible heritage list.

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

Espresso – part of the Italian way of life

Created in Turin, espresso offers an occasion for an encounter, to discuss politics and football, family matters and so on. Standing at the counter and shaking the sachet of sugar, before sipping the bitter drink is a very Italian experience; all of which has been curtailed by covid restrictions.

According to the Italian Espresso Institute, founded in 1998 with the specific goal of safeguarding and promoting the original espresso, the market is worth more than €4bn (£3.3bn) annually. More than 90% of Italians drink a cup each day, usually served in a porcelain cup.

The institute’s strict regulations include the use of a certified coffee blend, certified equipment and even licensed personnel.

It specifies that the crema, the lighter froth that sits on the top of the dark caffeinated brew, “must be uniform and persistent for at least 120 seconds from the time the coffee has been dispensed without stirring”. It says its colour should be “hazel-brown to dark brown [and] characterised by tawny reflexes”.

Centinaio said espresso’s candidacy was also a way to celebrate Italy’s social interaction, partially halted by the Covid restrictions.

The agriculture undersecretary said he was confident Italy’s national UNESCO commission would approve the bid. The verdict is expected sometime in the spring.

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