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'A History of Espresso in Italy and in the World' (2008),

This article outlines the history of the origins of espresso coffee in Italy, its incorporation into Italian mass culture during the years of the economic boom, and the transfer of 'Italian style coffee' into overseas markets during the 1950s
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  A Short History of Espresso in Italy and the WorldJonathan MorrisEnglish language post-print of  ‘Storia dell’ espresso nell’Italia e nel mondo’ inMaurizio Cociancich ed., 100% Espresso Italiano (Trieste, Antorami, 2008) pp.4-32 The global boom in „out of home‟ coffee consumption since the mid -1990s hasgenerated renewed interest in the world of coffee among both academics and thegeneral public. The politics of coffee production and market governance have beeninvestigated from a wide variety of stances, yet what these studies have tended toneglect is that this boom has been driven by a profound shift in consumer preferences from traditional „national‟ coffee beverage styles to those based upon the use of  espresso.Espresso is the product of a preparation process that evolved in Italy over the first half of the 20th century, and by now has become almost an icon of the country itself. „ Italian-style coffee ‟    –  by which I mean all forms of coffee beverage using anespresso base - has thus followed the trajectory of other „typical‟ foodstuffs, such as pasta and pizza, in projecting Italian cuisine, lifestyle and culture abroad. Yet, as foodhistorians have demonstrated, this was a far more complex and contested process thanmight seem apparent. Pasta and pizza were essentially regional dishes whose incorporation into an Italian „national‟ cuisine, was as much a consequence of, rather  than a precursor to, their success abroad 1 . Indeed the „globalisation‟ of Italian style coffee can also be read as an example of the homogenisation of consumer tastes, areading whose popularity has been increased by its close association with the coffeeshop format that was popularised in the United States. Consequently contests over the „authenticity‟, „nationality‟ and „ownership‟ of espresso form a key part of this story. Explaining the global success of Italian-style coffee requires us was to construct a „commodity biography‟ of espresso in which the influences of technological innovation and business structures are integrated with an analysis of changing socialand cultural practices within consumer societies to explain how, when, where and why „Italian - style‟ cof  fee beverages evolved and were transferred between markets.Such a commodity biography should be able to demonstrate how the relationshipbetween consumers and producers around the globe has been mediated  –  both  materially and metaphorically - through the product itself. Crucially, for example, asItalian-style coffee has spread into new markets so the beverage recipes have beenadapted and emphasis has shifted to the milk-based derivative drinks rather thanespresso itself. This was why I entitled my research project into the globalisation of espresso „The Cappuccino Conquests‟ 2 . The Origins of Espresso The history of coffee in Italy long predates that of  „ Italian- style‟ coffee. Venice wasone of the first ports to begin importing coffee into Europe from the 1570s, and shopsselling beans had opened by the 1640s, although the first recorded coffee house didnot open until 1683 3 . During the following century, famous cafes appeared major cities such as Florian‟s in Venice and the Caffè Greco in Rome. Carlo Goldoni‟s comedy  La Bottega del Caffè (1750) captured the cultural phenomenon of the coffeehouses while Pietro Verri‟s Milanese journal  Il Caffè (1764-66) was at the centre of the Italian enlightenment. In the 19th century the coffee houses of Turin hostedmeetings among leaders of the  Risorgimento . Yet while these cafes are justlycelebrated for their splendour and tradition, they were in many ways parallels of acommon European experience as seen in the role of cafes in the French revolution orthe culture and politics of the Habsburg Empire. The coffee served in the Italiancoffee houses was prepared and served in pots using infusion-based methodsconsistent with the prevailing practices across Europe 4 . Hence, while these cafes forman important part of the history of coffee in Italy, they do not form part of the history of „Italian coffee‟.  That story really begins in 1901 when Luigi Bezzera, a Milanese inventor registered apatent for a coffee machine that consisted of an upright, gas heated, brass boiler firedby carbon, which produced steam that was used to force hot water through the coffeecake clamped at the group head, under a pressure of around 0.75 atmospheres. Thispatent was acquired by the manufacturer Desidero Pavoni in 1903, who used it toproduce a machine known as the Ideale of 1905 which is generally held to be the firstespresso machine to enter into commercial production. Although Pavoni was theprimary manufacturer, he also allowed Bezzera to continue to produce machinesunder his own name  –  with both producers taking stands at the 1906 Fiera di Milano 5 .   The value of the machine to caterers was that an individual cup of coffee could now  be prepared „expressly‟ for the customer on request. The use of the term „espresso‟also reflected the fact that the water was „expressed‟ through the coffee, and played on the supposed speed of delivery of the coffee, although this actually took at least 45seconds. A 1922 poster designed by Leonetto Cappiello for the other leading coffee-machine manufacturer in the first half of the century, Victoria Arduino of Turinemployed the Futurist artistic style that was then in vogue, to make a visual play onthe idea of the express train (also known as an espresso ) and the way that both thecoffee machine and the locomotive were driven by steam.The coffee produced by these machines was very different from espresso as we knowit today. Due to contamination from the steam, and the high temperatures in the grouphead of around130-140C, the coffee appeared black, rather than brown, and tastedburnt. It lacked any of the crema that we now associate with espresso, due to the lowpressures at which it was produced, and was served significantly longer, as the cup size in Cappiello‟s poster makes clear  . All in all, the resultant brew was probablycloser to filter coffee than a contemporary espresso.The machines were particularly suited to the so- called „American bars‟ amongst the working urban bourgeoisie as places to socialise while transacting business, or at theend of the day. Whereas coffee in the traditional cafes was served by waiters to seatedguests at a table, in the American bar, the clientele stood on one side of the enclosedbar and purchased drinks from an attendant who served them from the other. The firstof these bars is reputed to have been the Caffè Manaresi, opened in Florence in 1898, and nicknamed „Caffè dei Ritti‟ by loca ls because the patrons consumed theirbeverages standing up 6 . The espresso machine facilitated this speedier service andstood on the counter itself   –  often adding to the decor and theatre of the establishmentas the large size of the machines afforded plenty of space for decoration in accordancewith the tastes of the time  –    so that the Art Deco or „Liberty‟ styling popular in the first two decades of the century gave way to an austere Fascist aesthetic during the1930s.  The number of bars and cafes serving espresso grew gradually in the first threedecades of the twentieth century, though c offee drinking „ out of  home‟ remained largely confined to the upper and middle classes. This circumscribed market led themain machine manufacturers, principally Pavoni in Milan and Victoria Arduino inTurin, to become heavily reliant on their exports to France, Germany and CentralEurope 7 . Nonetheless a significant number of artisanal coffee machine manufacturerswere established in this period, particularly in the vicinity of Milan where the 1939trade directory listed 22 companies including Bezzera, Carimati, Pavoni, Snider andUniversal 8 .Coffee consumption per capita increased slowly in Italy reaching 1.2kg per annum inthe 1920s. However, the new Fascist regime regarded coffee as a luxury import. Atthe time of the 1926 „Battle of the L ira ‟ , the installation of new espresso machines inbars was briefly banned in an attempt to restrict imports of coffee, although hotelsserving foreigners were exempted, suggesting that there was already a recognition of  the importance of espresso to Italy‟s image. T he impact of the currency revaluationalso disrupted the terms of foreign trade on which the machine-makers depended.Domestic consumption was progressively driven down during the 1930s, averaging  just 0.8kg per capita, a consequence of the regime‟s introduction of high import duties as part of its striving towards autarchy 9 . With the outbreak of the war, real coffeedisappeared. Perhaps the most important Fascist contribution to the development of Italian coffee culture was that the term „ barista ‟ made its appearance in Italian as an alternative to the American barman  –    no doubt in deference to the regime‟s desire to purge the language of foreign influences 10 .Members of the coffee industry were well aware that the quality of the beveragesprepared by the pre-war espresso machines often left a lot to be desired, dueprincipally to contamination and burning of the coffee by the steam. Severalinnovations were patented in the 1930s to try and correct this. Francesco Illy, founderof the Illycaffè roastery in Trieste, for example, registered the Illetta, a machine thatworked with compressed air in 1935, but never bought it into production. In 1938 aMilanese engineer named Cremonese died having patented a screw-press piston topower the water through the coffee, leaving the rights to this to his wife, RosettaScorza. In the same year, Achille Gaggia, a bar owner with a particular interest in  coffee, also registered a patent for a rotating handle piston to do the same job. It appears that this could potentially have infringed Scorza‟s pat ent, and he paid her forthe rights to this. Again, however, with the decline in coffee consumption, followedby the outbreak of war, there was little point in producing this.The revolution in the history of espresso came in 1947 when Gaggia registered a newpatent, this time for a lever operated piston incorporating gearing and a spring. Thiswas simple to operate by hand, and would force hot water, drawn directly from theboiler, through the coffee cake. The use of the piston meant extraction now took place under nine atmospheres of pressure which resulted in essential oils and colloidsfrom the coffee creating a mousse or crema on top of the resultant beverage. Todaythis is seen as its defining characteristic of espresso; however at the time this newbeverage was renamed caffè crema , cream coffee, in order to distinguish it from thepre-existing espresso beverages.In 1948, the first Gaggia classica lever machines appeared, manufactured for him byErnesto Valente of the Faema light engineering company. The slogans on the Gaggiamachine made clear its revolutionary nature  –    „Crema caffè naturale‟ and „It workswithout steam‟. Over  the next decade innovations within the industry took place at aremarkable rate as manufacturers attempted to appropriate and improve the newtechnology. Nearly all of the leading companies were based in or around Milanwhere ideas, components and personnel flowed between the various workshops. TheCimbali company replaced the spring-loaded piston which required considerablestrength to operate with hydraulic levers, Pavoni  –  inspired by Gio Ponti - turned theboiler on its side to make long horizontal machines allowing the barista to interactwith his customers, but it was Ernesto Valente, who had split from Gaggia in 1950,who came up with the most radical innovation in 1961, introducing an electric pumpinto his Faema E61machine, which was operated by a simple switch. Instead of taking the water from the boiler, the pump drew it directly from the mains,pressurized it, and then passed it through a heat exchanger before it reached thegroup- head. This machine was therefore capable of „continuous erogation‟ i.e. drawing water from the mains on demand, and was dubbed semi-automatic as it leftthe barman in control over the length and parameters of the extraction, but did not
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