Italy bids for UNESCO status for traditional Italian espresso (again)

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Italy bids for UNESCO status for traditional Italian espresso (again)
Could Italy's espresso coffee tradition receive Unesco recognition?  Photo by Chase Eggenberger on Unsplash "

Italy has put in another application for traditional Italian espresso to receive UNESCO heritage status after its nomination was derailed last year by competing bids from Naples and Treviso.


Deputy agricultural minister Gian Marco Centinaio announced on Thursday that Italy's Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies had unanimously approved the application and delivered it to the Italian National Unesco Commission for review.

The commission must in turn submit to Unesco's Paris headquarters by March 31st for the nomination to be considered.

Centinaio said in his statement that he was confident Italy's candidacy would be accepted by the commission, Sky TG24 reports.

"In Italy, coffee is much more than a simple drink: it is an authentic ritual, it is an integral part of our national identity and an expression of our social relationships that distinguishes us around the world," Centinaio said.

"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."

READ ALSO: Why Italy thinks its coffee should get Unesco heritage status

Italy's candidacy was derailed last year when it transpired that two separate applications had been made for Unesco recognition of the espresso coffee tradition: one by the Consortium for the Protection of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee in Treviso, representing all of Italy, and the other by the Region of Campania, representing Naples.

One academic who worked on Campania’s bid decried the Treviso consortium’s application as “an act of war by the north against the south”, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, while the consortium’s founder Giorgio Caballini denounced Naples’ attempt to assert ownership over Italian espresso as “unacceptable”.

The spat culminated in Italy’s Unesco committee disallowing both candidacies and telling the groups to apply again as a united front the following year.

A man enjoys an espresso at an outdoor cafe in Rome. A man enjoys an espresso at an outdoor cafe in Rome. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

This time around, it appears the warring factions have managed to resolve their differences.

Commenting on the application, Campania's Agriculture Commissioner and regional councillor Francesco Emilio Borrelli said: "After months of discussions and discussions, we managed to find a synthesis between the two proposals that had been presented and that at first had seemed irreconcilable," reports the news site Fanpage.

READ ALSO: How Italy came to be Europe’s coffee capital

The 'Intangible Heritage of Humanity' Unesco recognition sought by Italy is not for the espresso drink itself, but for the traditional process by which it is made.


According to the regulations drafted by the consortium, in order to be real espresso the crema on top “must be uniform and persistent for at least 120 seconds from the time the coffee has been dispensed without stirring,” and should be "a dark hazel colour, with light streaks.”

The coffee must be freshly ground and brewed for exactly 20 to 27 seconds, and the espresso must be made by a trained barista using a bar's coffee machine.
There are also rules on the type of cup used (porcelain with a narrow bottom), amount of coffee in the cup (between 13 and 26 grams) and the temperature, which must be between 90 and 96 degrees Celsius.
There are detailed rules as to what constitutes a traditional Italian espresso.
There are detailed rules as to what constitutes a traditional Italian espresso. Photo by Enis Yavuz on Unsplash 


However, some Italian food and drink commentators are wary of the espresso's quest for UNESCO recognition.
Writing on the event of Italy's 2019 Unesco application, Michela Becchi, a journalist for the well-known Italian food blog Gambero Rosso, warned that Italian food traditions like this one risked becoming a 'cage'.
Coffee is “a speciality to be enjoyed free from the constraints of alleged tradition,” she wrote.
Writing for the food blog Dissapore, Nunzia Clemente was more outspoken, blaming public pressure to keep the price of an espresso under a euro for what she judges to be the poor quality of Italian espresso coffee.
“The Italian espresso, the one we all know, is not good, even if you like it,” Clemente wrote in 2019, adding that a Unesco application “doesn't make sense”.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian


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