could someone please explain where this tradition came from and why?

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I was told that originates in Italy. You drop the zest into the espresso and it removes any bitter notes present. I don't know if it started way back before good shots of espresso were more common or what. I'm not 100% sure this is accurate. This is just what I was told when I was first was exposed to it.
Jessica, In Italy, when an espresso is served it often served with a lemon slice and Annisette. I have been told it is an insult if the lemon is used. Meaning the espresso is too bitter
Also very nice if you serve a dopio over 2 ice cubes, a teaspoon of sugar, then the rind of lemon in the glass. Use the back of a teaspoon to crush the lemon rind and release the flavors into the glass. Drank this a lot in Southern Italy during summer. Refreshing.
Agreed Sandy- 100%! I must admit I have never even thought of destroying an espresso with a wedge of lemon... Somehow I struggle to translate the "lick-sip-suck" theory of tequila consumption to drinking a good shot of espresso, although I guess waking up the morning after would be a lot easier than after an evening on the tequila!
I love a good ristretto romano - but I usually rub the lemon along the edge of the glass so that it doesn't directly effect the espresso - you just have a nose full of it when you take a sip.
is it typically served just with a wedge of zest only or should there be any pulp included?
you should only use the zest (the yellow part). soaking the rine (white part) can leave a bitter taste in your espresso. when i was served this, i received the rine attached, but that is just my personal preference. try it and i'm sure you'll agree!

Chasse said:
is it typically served just with a wedge of zest only or should there be any pulp included?
I've heard that the origin of the lemon peel was (possibly in addition) related to the cleanliness of the demi. Demitasse 'may or may not' have been kept in a bucket of rinse water. If you can imagine the volume of demitasse making their way through this rinse water it 'may or may not' have become quickly less desirable.

The lemon was served as a sanitizing agent because of its acid. The customer cleaned the rim of the cup before sipping. The reduction in bitterness kept the practice in vogue after more modern cleaning practices came into play.

It reminds me of the Elizabethan practice of bring orange half to the theatre. You held it under the nose to overpower the collective stench of the people sitting around you (and yourself). They didn't like to bathe, washed away the soul.
I've heard this same scenario & it makes sense to me. You know they didnt have quite the same health regulations of today! I've used lemon before to clean coffee pots as well.
I would have to say that it would be like drinking Earl Grey. Which if you are drinking properly it would just have lemon in it. In doing this it evens out the bitter aspects of the tea. Now before all of you jump down my back for bringing up a tea reference I believe it could provide the same effect with espresso as with the earl grey. Two bitters make a right.

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