In Italy, espresso is a way of life, and the country is arguably its spiritual home. Now Italian officials are pushing for the beverage to be recognised on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.

Espresso coffee machine inside an Italian bar in Florence
Italy wants espresso to be recognised by UNESCO ©Elena.Katkova/Shutterstock

Coffee culture is an essential part of Italian life; the day is defined by coffee rules and rituals (i.e. no coffee with milk after breakfast). Italians take it seriously. Especially espresso, or caffè as they call it. Italy is, after all, the birthplace of espresso. Now they're campaigning to have the beverage included by UNESCO in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list to safeguard its traditional preparation and brewing techniques.

Historic Caffè Al Bicerin (1763), located in Piazza della Consolata, Turin
Espresso is an integral part of Italian culture ©MikeDotta/Shutterstock

Advocates claim that espresso, made in traditional coffee machines in bars and cafes, is an essential part of Italian culture. Italy’s espresso is "not just an indispensable drink for a good start of the day, it is a real social ritual," the Consortium for the Safeguarding of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee said in a statement. The consortium is one of the many groups supporting World Heritage recognition for Italy's espresso coffee.

Cup of hot black espresso coffee on table at a street cafe in Rome
Espresso is the perfect post-dinner treat in Italy ©Ekaterina Smirnova/Getty Images

Coffee was introduced to Europe in the 17th century but it was Italy who gave the world espresso when Angelo Moriondo invented the first steam-driven, coffee-making machine in Turin in 1884. It also gave the world the language for coffee. Espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, americano, latte are all Italian words that we use to describe how we like our liquid gold.

UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list officially recognises more than 500 customs, carnivals, ceremonies and traditions worldwide including harping in Ireland, traditional hand puppetry in Egypt, Bosnian grass picking and Jamaica's reggae music. In 2017, the art of Neapolitan pizza-making was added to the list. 

An official decision on espresso's inclusion on the list is not expected until next year.

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