Italy Argues This Drink Is So Italian It Should Be Granted UNESCO Status

If you can't travel to Italy and wander amongst the basilicas and Roman ruins, you might be able to pour yourself a cup of espresso and sip on some Italian heritage. Italy is abundant with awe-inspiring, culturally significant sites, and now it seeks recognition from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for Italian espresso to be officially deemed a symbol of the country's heritage.

According to Perfect Daily Grind, espresso directly translates to the English word "express" and was created when Italians looked to brew a delicious cup of the highest quality of coffee quickly. The origins of everything espresso can be traced back to Italy, from the machine that brews the concentrated coffee concoction to the emergence of the barista. What sets Italian espresso apart is the use of the highest quality coffee beans that are often roasted locally in small batches and then brewed in old machines that have collected the flavor of many cups of espresso (per Just Coffee and Me).

UNESCO, which typically acknowledged culturally significant landmarks, started an Intangible Cultural Heritage List to recognize "cultural and culinary tradition[s]" originating in specific countries (via Food & Wine). The country's beloved Neapolitan pizza has already made the list, and now Italy hopes to see Italian espresso make the cut as well.

What is required for espresso to gain UNESCO status?

Italy is committed to preserving the authenticity of the coffee drink that 90% of Italians enjoy daily by applying for UNESCO status (via The Guardian). Before the Italian beverage can be recognized as an official part of Italy's heritage, it will have to adhere to strict guidelines to ensure authenticity.

According to the Italian Espresso National Institute, a certified Italian espresso is made with qualified coffee beans that are ground by trained baristas and brewed in a certified espresso machine. The institute further clarifies that any crema (the creamy foam that sits atop espresso) "must be uniform and persistent for at least 120 seconds from the time the coffee has been dispensed without stirring," shares The Guardian. Only after meeting these specific criteria can a cup of espresso be certified as "espresso Italiano."

As far as espresso being an integral part of Italian culture, Italy's agriculture undersecretary, Gian Marco Centinaio, says, "It is an authentic ritual and an expression of our sociality that distinguishes us around the world." This intensely flavorful coffee is infused into Italy's culinary heritage, whether it is sipped in a piazza or enjoyed over gelato in an affogato. The undersecretary confirmed the submission of the application to UNESCO, and shared approval will be announced in the spring.