Italians launch bid for espresso coffee to be given World Heritage status

Nick Squires
Coffee pouring from an espresso machine - Bloomberg

Smooth, dark and diminutive, it is an affordable and indispensable jump-start to the day for millions of Italians, and now the country is pushing for World Heritage recognition for its espresso coffee.

Italy argues that espresso, made in traditional coffee machines in bars and cafes across the country, is not only a distinctive beverage but an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage.

Cappuccino, macchiato and caffe corretto (‘corrected” with a drop of grappa or cognac) may have their followers, but espresso remains the pure, elemental expression of Italian coffee.

Espresso will be put forward as a candidate for Unesco listing at an event on Tuesday in the Italian parliament in Rome.

The bid is being promoted by a grandly-titled entity called the Consortium for the Safeguarding of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee.

“We represent the whole supply chain, from the companies that roast the coffee to those that manufacture coffee machines,” said Andrea Pascale, one of the event organisers. “We think Unesco recognition would bring benefits for everyone.”

Espresso is part of everyday life for millions of Italians Credit: Stock4B Creative

The Italians want espresso – a slug of black coffee served in tiny white porcelain cups and costing around €1 – to be inscribed on Unesco’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a compendium of customs, carnivals, ceremonies and traditions from around the globe.

The esoteric list includes bobbin lace-making in Slovenia, beer making in Belgium, traditional hand puppetry from Egypt, Jamaica’s reggae music and dry stone-walling, which was successfully registered by a handful of Mediterranean countries, including Spain, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus.

Italy was successful two years ago in having the art of Neapolitan pizza-making recognised as a part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

“The art of the Neapolitan ‘pizzaiuolo’ is a culinary practice comprising four different phases relating to the preparation of the dough and its baking in a wood-fired oven, involving a rotatory movement by the baker,” Unesco said in its official listing of the tradition.

For its size, Italy punches well above its weight in the World Heritage stakes, boasting 55 listings, from Venice and the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the Amalfi Coast, the Dolomites and the historic centres of Rome, Florence, Naples and Siena.