Coffee in Italy is part of the culture. But it is not just based on a physical addiction to caffeine, it is rather also a social and cultural ritual.
On average, it is normal to consume around 3 coffees per day, perhaps 4.
In Italian homes, the day starts with a large cup of milky coffee into which biscuits (cookies) or a sweet pastry are broken into and eaten with a spoon. Sometimes even chocolatey cereal is eaten this way! And yes, even older children start their day this way.
If you’re having breakfast out of home, you may opt for a cappuccino at the local coffee bar, to be eaten with a sweet pastry, called a ‘brioche’ (pronounced ‘bree-osh’). If you prefer your coffee with less froth, you can ask for a ‘café latte’ (coffee with milk) or a ‘latte macchiato’ (milk ‘stained’ with coffee) ? don’t make the mistake of asking for just a ‘latte’, or you will be served with a cup of plain milk!
For the really hard-core, you can have a ‘café corretto’ ? literally a corrected coffee, which includes a shot of grappa to really get you started on those cold mornings. In Venice, they drink the espresso first and then rinse out the cup with a shot of grappa rather than having them together.
Some Italians will have another coffee mid-morning, either made on the stove in the mokka or at the local coffee shop where they stand at the counter to drink the coffee (sitting down for an espresso will usually cost you more!).
Meeting a friend for a coffee in Italy is a quick experience, certainly not designed to be an hours-long experience. To meet up with a friend and hang out for some time, it is more likely done over a meal which can last several hours and will usually include several plates, including the starter (antipasto) and primo (pasta or risotto), followed by a main (secondo) possibly with a side (contorno) and almost always ending with a sweet traditional Tuscan of a piece of fruit and/or a dessert (dolce), followed by the coffee designed to help with digestion.
Lunch in Tuscany is almost always a social occasion, usually amongst family members who gather for an hour or two to dine together for plates of pasta and usually also a light main. After lunch very few Italians will refuse a bitter end to their meal. Considered as a digestive, they conclude lunch and dinner with an espresso. The very idea of having a heavy, milky cappuccino after a meal literally turns the stomachs of most Italians.
An espresso may also be had after dinner, and often locals will head out to the local coffee shop to catch up with friends over an after-dinner espresso, and perhaps also a grappa or limoncello. The word for coffee shop in Italian is ‘bar’, and most actually do serve as cafés during the day, and bars by night.
If you not up for downing a black shot of coffee, you can soften the blow with milk, known as ‘café macchiato’ (coffee stained with milk). For a long black, as for a ‘cafè lungo’ ? a long coffee or ‘café americano’ for a really long black.
Tea drinkers will be pleased to know that the tradition of having a tea is becoming more diffused (excuse the pun!). ‘Tè’ is the Italian interpretation of the English word. It is however usually served with lemon as opposed to milk. Tesana is herbal tea ? literally meaning ‘healthy tea’.