Have you ever sat there sipping on a perfectly pulled shot of espresso and wondered, who do I have to thank for this incredible gift? In this article, we’ll take a look at espresso and it’s origins, which countries consume the most, and who we have to thank for the first latte. But, most importantly, we will name one country the official espresso country of the world!
Origins of Espresso Machines
While espresso has become synonymous with trendy cafés and expensive, sugary drinks like frappuccinos, it is actually a beverage of humble origins. Cafe businesses were booming throughout Europe in the late 1800s. Stand up bars became a trend as a place where people would socialize while enjoying the energy-laden staples. The problem was that coffee brewing was a slow, tedious process that took up to five minutes per cup.
Turin, Italy is the birthplace of the first ever patented espresso machine, invented by Angelo Moriondo in 1884. Moriondo’s family had a long-standing history in the culinary world. His grandfather was the founder of an early liqueur company while his father was the founder of the historic “Moriondo and Gariglio” chocolate company.
The earliest versions of the espresso machine were manufactured specifically to be used as a bulk brewing system as opposed to single-serve usage. The first patents of these steam-powered coffee machines blended a combination of chemistry and ingenuity, but there was a lot of room for improvements still. While Moriondo may have been the first, his machines were far from the best.
In the early 1900s, innovators Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni made improvements to the new concept of coffee on demand and made the machines more usable for single-serve purposes. These two men knew there was a huge market for their products and rushed at the opportunity to improve off of Moriondo’s earlier machines. Bezzerra and Pavoni debuted “Caffe espresso” at the 1906 Milan Fair featuring their new machine, the Ideale.
Back then, the machines being made were still not able to produce what would be considered a standard shot of espresso in today’s culture. The machines weren’t able to get the proper amount of pressure during the brewing process that we see today and that oh so delicious “crema” on top was yet to be realized.
The Modern Evolution of Espresso
It wasn’t until the early 1960s that espresso machines really started to look and produce a product similar to what we see today. Ernesto Valente introduced the world to the Faema E61 which modernized the older, elaborately large chrome and copper centerpieces. Valente’s model was a smaller, sleek and sexy version of the old fashioned machines that properly utilized modern day basics. These machines obtained the pressure needed thanks to motorized pumps, drew water from standard tap plumbing lines, and passed water through copper piping at regulated heat temperatures. While improvements and updates would still be made throughout history to the point of modern-day touch screens and personalized user profiles, Valente’s machine was a pivotal point in the history of espresso.
American Influence on Espresso
In the United States, espresso caught on as the core ingredient in the popular latte which is thought to have been first conceived in the 1950s in Berkeley, California at Caffe Mediterraneum.
You can’t discuss espresso in America without mentioning Starbucks. A one-time small coffee shop based out of Seattle not only grew itself into a dominant worldwide corporation but also was the biggest thing that ever happened to espresso. Their sugary takes on coffee beverages such as the frappuccino became an instant pop culture icon throughout the 80s and 90s. Now we get graced with multicolored concoctions like the Unicorn Frappuccino and pumpkin spice lattes that rule the fall season. These American favorites are a far cry from the preparation of artisanally made, classic Italian espresso-based beverages, but large-chain Western-based “Second Wave” coffee companies have broadened their reach in recent years to become recognized internationally in countries like Asia, Europe, and even the Middle East.
Smaller, artisanal roasters and coffee shops also continue to be a sweeping trend throughout America as people are willing to pay the extra money to get guaranteed freshly roasted beans. Not just a good way to stick it to the man, but also a great way to support local businesses in your community. These shops are also great places to just sit back and unwind while catching up on all the great articles here at Espresso Country.
Who Drinks the Most?
The International Coffee Organization tracks worldwide consumption of coffee and lists Finland as the top consumer of coffee. The report shows the top-10 coffee consuming nations all reside in Europe. While Italy is the birthplace of espresso, it surprisingly doesn’t make the list as a top coffee consuming nation. Nor does either the U.K or the U.S., though the U.S. does rank as the second largest importer in the world behind Europe. The latte has gone on to be the most popular espresso-based beverage in the world having sold over 900 million beverages in the U.K. alone in 2018 according to the BBC.
It’s also interesting to note that none of the countries who produce/grow the most coffee are top consumers. That is probably due to the fact that coffee needs strict warm weather requirements to grow and is mostly found in humid, developing countries between the Tropic Lines of Cancer and Capricorn.
Which Country Pays the Most?
While the U.K. and Italy didn’t make the cut as top consumers, they did rank at the top for countries who pay the most for their coffee. Maybe this has something to do with the lower consumption rates? The U.K. pays the most at an average of around $16 US dollars per pound while Italy ranked third at nearly half that price closer towards the $8 per pound mark. Slovakia gets the biggest break on their magic beans paying barely over $3 per pound. A tempting selling point if considering a move to the Polish paradise.
So, Who is the Official Espresso Country?
They may not consume the most, but you have to give the award to Italy as the official “Espresso Country of the World”! Their rich history and innovations that helped bring the world the machines that help keep us going every day are second to none. While the top consuming countries in Europe should all be awarded honorable mention ribbons, as well as the countries producing the beans, respect needs to be given where it’s due. So, the next time you’re sitting back, enjoying that perfectly pulled espresso, properly steamed latte, or flamboyant coffee and sugar flavored blended beverage, make sure to give a quick tip of that hat to Italy.