Hello to all where ever you maybe!
Before I begin the discussion, I thought it would be fair to have a disclaimer about the topic. As an Italian born, American resident, I am wondering how the Italians became to lose grip on the coffee culture here in America.
What I am about to say may be harsh or even taken the wrong way and I can understand that. So let me make myself clear. My culture and belief is that a coffee house is a place to grow, learn, and communicate with others in an intelligent manner while enjoy the best that coffee offers. I see many coffee houses that have strayed from this concept, and that is to be expected. The world is changing and cultures are being learned everyday. To say it also, I believe it is not wrong to stick up for your cultural identity and belief. I will be the first to admit some Italians lack respect in this regards. (but to note there are Italians committed to learning languages, cultural history, and their place in the world)
The second point maybe my fault: I judge quickly sometimes by the person I met at the coffee house. Sigh this word causes an uproar, but I see the hipsterish types that work at coffee houses, feigning their love of coffee just to be accepted in society. I maybe looking deep into it but I can give an example of my discontent: Why are people making a fuss over gourmet food trends or rustic ethnic dishes, when we, the ethnic groups have been living like this for centuries? I believe in growth, so do not belief me to be someone so stuck in the past or stagnant.( I have been listening to death metal for 15 years, for what that is worth) I believe these people are cashing in on cultural points that should be shared with passion, tradition, and proud, and not for the sake of financial gain. Another good example of this is a lot of Italian coffee houses or restaurants that are high quality but are owned by non Italian persons, while the places with Italians, are low quality. Why is this you ask? There was a belief that true Italian cuisine could not be understood or grasped, so quality suffered. I myself being from Italia do not adhere to this custom.
I would love to hear many other views about this subject, and also if you believe that culture should be kept intact. I do believe that since everyone is becoming multi cultural, that one can easily forget that there are those who continue their traditions. Neither side should have any hatred of any kind towards each other, only if I believe when questions of passion and your work ethic abide.
It would be then a great time in coffee culture to have a re emergence of traditional European cafe's. Would you not like to see my coffee shop with Italian amari and Italian craft beers? This in my heart and soul is the true essence of a coffee house. Hey let us be frank. There are many well to do and haute minded individuals. So why not have something that can be enjoyed with class?
Oh and my Italian coffee book is 98% complete!
The premise of your first point is, I believe, a bit off.
You should not think that Italians have "lost their grip" Maybe think of it this way...Many different cultures use the same alphabet to express themselves and reinforce their culture through words. It would be silly for someone who is from the culture that established that alphabet to pipe up and claim that because there are different cultures using the same alphabet in different ways that somehow they have lost their grip. No, it is in fact that you were just the steward of a discovery who then passed that on to others. By bemoaning an imagined loss of something that was never really yours one can sound like a parent who cannot let go of their child and constantly tries to tell them how to do everything even into adulthood.They may bear your resemblance...but they are not you.
The reality is that many people before you could claim the exact same thing that many well meaning Italians are attempting to claim. That the pure form of the coffee house (Italian of course) has been lost. But who came before the Italians and why have the Italians not preserved their traditions? How many Ethiopian coffee ceremonies are being conducted in Italy right now? How did the Dutch, the Austrians, The Turks, the North Africans etc "lose their grip"?
You see...the very thing you say in your following paragraphs is the thing that is happening right now. People are growing, learning, and evolving the information AND the traditions. Coffee houses are opening everywhere where their is great community and itillectual exchange. The coffee house IS a the place this is happening.
There is nothing wrong with making money...I get what you are saying that it should be passion before profit...but do not mistake the american appetite for ethnic cuisine and experiences as somehow completely wrong. After all...Italy being a major port of trade was developed on the idea of novelties such as spices, pasta from China (now there is a big one), precious stones, all sorts of things.
So take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. There is no going back to the traditions of the past, you can't go back in time...but what new traditions you bring to the table are completely up to you. Whether they are an interpretation of old traditions or something seemingly new.
Italians came to lose their grip on cafe culture here in the United States? Hmmm, interesting premise but one that I don't quite see.
My viewpoint, though well-traveled, is still a myopic one. A viewpoint limited by my exposure to such cafe culture. That said, I still think a strong Italian cafe culture exists in the United States - though in nurtured, small, ethnic pockets. And it is a cafe culture that is different. Visit ethnic Italian enclaves of communities with true Italian immigrants and you're sure to find a cafe with that traditional focus.
I think of Little Italy in Baltimore or Atwells Avenue in Providence and there you'll find Italian cafes serving Italian coffees. Not too long ago, I was taken to Baltimore's Greektown where we visited a very traditional Greek coffee house. It was a very different experience and one that was very unique.
These are the places where you will find that traditional Italian cafe culture. Otherwise, what you are going to find is a new American interpretation of cafe culture. However, this American cafe culture is not a straight derivative of Italian cafe culture, it is an amalgamation of various influences starting with the English. Bear in mind that cafe culture in America predates the invention of the espresso machine in Italy and that cafe culture in America today is not strictly limited to espresso-based beverages, as it is in a traditional Italian cafe.
I also disagree that hipsters feign a love for coffee because they're accepted into society. If anything, they feign that love because they're not accepted in society and are continually ridiculed.
However, I think it's more of a passing of age. Another 20something generation trying to find their way in the world and developing their own sense of identity.
Now, when it comes to ethnic, traditional dishes, this is where I have a concern. We like to talk about going to traditional places to eat ethnic cuisine - and certainly those cooks have the chops to make great cuisine. The problem is the ingredients they are using, they're of low to poor quality because they're buying American commodity-grade ingredients.
I've been to my homeland and I've tasted the cuisine there. I grew up here and tasted our ethnic cuisine produced here. The stuff produced here in America is good, but it pales in comparison to the Real Thing. Of the last few years, I've been testing locally sourced, expensive American ingredients in traditional dishes and I've started to find the true flavor of the motherland. It's exciting stuff. It's the ingredients that make it exciting and this is where we need to explore deeper.
Sure, you can go to the neighborhood Italian shop but chances are they're using Barilla (or lesser quality) dried pasta, canned #10 can tomatoes but is that truly "authentic"? Manzano tomatoes came to use because of their locality once upon a time, how about traditional dishes using fresh, local and thoughtfully grown/raised ingredients? That's why there's been such an interest and enthusiasm over the new gourmet thing.
As for me, I believe that culture should be kept intact. Though that's not for everyone. Take French cuisine. I love the traditional gran cuisine of France, but does that mean I turn my nose up at nouvelle creations or interpretations from Pierre Gagnaire or Pierre Herme? Certainly not. I enjoy their creations as much as I enjoy a baguette from Djibril Bodian and a roasted chicken from the deli down the street.
As for coffee, I like those operators who continue the traditions because we need them. As for myself, I'm interested in pushing new boundaries of coffee. There's a place for all interpretations.
I live in New Jersey and am a 5 train stops away from the Italian market. I see many things change. Some for the better, some for the worst.
Food is a great passion of mine besides coffee, and then there is my love of craft beers, especially Italian. My wife is a chef and Puerto Rican and that is the best wife I could ask for! We have been to many great places in Philadelphia, and have much more to explore. In my town of Collingswood, there is great restaurants for the small town that we are.
I love the small Italian cafe's in the city where you see the old timers screaming in Italian while playing cards and drinking sambuca and espresso. Got to love it!
Thanks for your insight to this query!
Well, as far as the decor of an European coffee shop.
Ik vroeg me af hoe je dronkkoffie in Nederland. Thanks to the Dutch for coffee and cocoa! :D