Espresso Cuisines : Introduction

Espresso is more than simply a way to make coffee — it is an entire coffee cuisine. And as espresso technology has been adopted by cultures outside Italy, that one cuisine has become many cuisines. The components that go into these cuisines are simple, however: coffee, always brewed by the espresso method; milk (or milk substitutes); and finally various flavorings added to the drink, at one time only chocolate, but in the United States an increasing (and often bewildering) variety of syrups and garnishes.

We describe three of these cuisines: the classic northern Italian, the Italian-American, and a new, thoroughly American cuisine that has erupted in many-flavored splendor out of Seattle over the past decade-and-a-half, and has come to dominate the American experience of espresso. This last tradition could be called post-modern espresso, Seattle-style espresso, cart espresso (after the ubiquitous Seattle espresso cart), mall espresso, or even latte espresso, after its featured drink. It should be noted that Seattle, which has become one of the meccas of North American coffee culture, produces some of the purest and most elegantly presented espresso cuisine in the world. However, it also has spawned an innovating new cuisine that has about the same relationship to classic espresso as the pop singer Madonna has to her namesake. Starbucks has adopted a restrained version of the Seattle cuisine, and is busy initiating the rest of the world into its milky ways.