23 Nov 2019

Coffee and the five senses

Article written by Michele Sergio and published in Rome on 10 October 2019

When a Neapolitan invites a friend to drink a coffee he doesn’t say “let’s have a coffee” but, rather, he says “pigliammece or cafe”. This dialectal expression contains the whole philosophy of worship and of the culture of the most loved drink by the Neapolitans. In fact the coffee break is an important moment of the day and that, besides being also the most suitable moment to show esteem and affection for the person to whom it is offered, is a moment that involves all five senses.

Let’s see more in detail if really drinking coffee in the city of Vesuvius is such an important sensory experience.

The first impact is the visual one: when you enter a coffee shop you are primarily attracted by the style and character of the place. The attention shifts, then, to various details: the lever espresso machine, the scattered coffee beans, a little here, a little there, the baristas who frantically carry out their work trying to satisfy the lots of patrons waiting to drink the beloved tazzulella ‘e cafè. The visual moment is also one of the three phases of coffee tasting (together with the olfactory and gustatory one we will see very soon). The coffee prepared with the Neapolitan mixture has the typical and characteristic dark hazel color (unlike the light hazelnut of 100% Arabica). This particular color is due to two factors: the robust species contained therein and the dark roast that make it similar to “the monk’s mantle” (as Sophia Loren used to say). Last detail: the cream that forms on the surface is what gives an expression to the espresso is one of the indices to verify the goodness of coffee.

Hearing comes into play at the same time: the din of cups and plates, the sound of the steam from the hand of the coffee machine, the shouting of patrons combined, also, with the noises coming from the street.

The sense of smell then. The aroma of coffee you hear as soon as you enter the restaurant is the best welcome for the customer. The most careful drinker before bringing the cup to his mouth, always brings his nose close to catch the most hidden notes of the unique and unmistakable aroma of our coffee.

Touch is a sense involved only by drinking coffee in Naples. According to our tradition, coffee should be drunk in a hot cup and fingers and lips inevitably feel the strong heat. Also “pamper” the cup, holding it in your hands and feeling its convex shape – very useful to enhance the success of the infused black – it is an intense sensory moment.

We arrive, lastly to taste. Velvety, full-bodied, bitter, strong are just some of the characteristics of our coffee; persistent on the palate, leaves “o doce‘ n vocca ”(the sweet in the mouth). The difference between the coffee of our city and that of northern Italy is precisely in the structure that being more loaded with caffeine makes it rounder and stronger.

It is now easy to understand why we define a complete sensory experience drinking coffee in Naples and then … Good coffee to everyone!