09 May 2020

The coffee landscapes

From the plantations of the producing countries to the bars and cafes of the Neapolitan alleys and squares

Article written by Michele Sergio and published on the Neapolitan Espresso of April 2020

Once it was all jungle. Then the tropical trees made room for the cultivation of cocoa, sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. Central America is an area of ​​the globe that is still partly wild and dedicated, largely to agricultural crops. Crossing it, preferably with an off-road vehicle (consider the many dirt roads that, with the rain, become difficult to use by other means), you can admire breathtaking landscapes especially at sunset. As you go up and down the hills, through narrow and impervious paths, among the rich vegetation you will notice areas where the plants are lower and a darker green. It is the coffee plantations (almost all of the Arabica species) that are grown in the plains and hills. During the flowering period the green of the leaves mixes with the shining white of the petals; when the plants bear fruit, on the other hand, the red of the cherries (containing the precious grains) mottle the extensive green spot in a beautiful new melange. During the harvest phase, many people are seen equipped with baskets and machetes who collect only ripe drupes from the branches of the plants. These, millions and millions, are left to dry in the large open spaces of the coffee processing plants to allow the subsequent extraction of the bean from the fruit (the so-called natural process). Characteristic are the few huts immersed in the huge plantations of the “local farmer”. The beans collected and processed in the producing countries are loaded onto huge ships and shipped to the ports of the consumer countries where they will be roasted, packaged for families and bars.

The country of coffee is undoubtedly Italy and the city where it is consumed most and over the centuries a real cult has been created around it is undoubtedly Naples.

Our city also boasts spectacular landscapes and scenery. The gulf dominated by Vesuvius is an icon known and appreciated all over the world, reproduced over the centuries by guaches and great artists (most recently Andy Warhol). Next to the classic scenario there are other intriguing and interesting ones to look for in the belly of Naples. When you enter the alleys of the historic center, a riot of colors, smells and sounds surround the visitor. Walking through the maze of narrow streets and alleys you can admire historic buildings, very close to each other, the fragrant and colorful “panni spasi”, you hear the voices of the common women who converse from the balconies and the voices of the street vendors who advertise their merchandise, the sense of smell is overwhelmed by the aroma of freshly baked pizzas and the aroma of coffee prepared in the many bars scattered around the city.

Very high is the density of small bars in the streets and alleys of the city, made of wood or all white (taking the style of American coffee houses), marble or decorated with objects of Neapolitan folklore (from the “curniciello” to the Pulcinella mask), make drinking coffee an experience not to be missed. The steam that comes out of the espresso machine hand, the noise of the shots of the grinder, the aroma of the cup served by friendly waiters, are all details that make our coffee a cult experience. Naples is also the city of great Cafes, some ancient, where one socializes, thinks, writes, discusses and tastes the classic espresso, Italian pride. Among crystal chandeliers, gold stucco vaults, mirrors, red sofas, marble tables and Art Nouveau chairs, we can enjoy an excellent espresso pausing with our thoughts on the very long journey that the bean had to face starting from overseas plantations up to to our cup.