Contrary to popular belief, espresso coffee isn’t a specific kind of bean, blend, or roast—it’s a small one to two ounce shot of pressure-brewed coffee that contains about one tablespoon of finely ground coffee beans. In short, it’s a brewing method. When done right, espresso is a wonderful pick-me-up that perfectly tops off any meal with its concentrated flavors and rich crema (creamy foam).
I’ve had my fair share of the popular drink and as a result, have come to realize that all is not fair in love and espresso: Different regions favor different styles of espresso coffee bean roasts. Here are three delectable espressos from around the world, based off the degree of roast that I, along with many others (and perhaps you after reading this) have found to prefer best—dark.
1. Southern Italy
While traveling through Italy, I fell head over heels for the southern part’s delicious espresso. Separating itself from Northern Italy’s light and sweet taste, natives from Rome downward use darker roasts of coffee, creating a stronger and fuller-bodied kick. The staple drink is just as delicious after a traditionally sweet Italian breakfast as it is after a savory dinner plate of fresh seafood and pasta…as it also is at 2 a.m. in the morning for no good reason at all. Basically, it’s always delicious.
Okay, so I haven’t been to Ethiopia. However, living in New York City, I have come to press my lips on many different espressos that have featured just as many different coffee beans, and Ethiopian-based ones simply stuck with me; you could even say, I grew attached. It’s pungent and aggressive—just how I like it. The earthy taste warms you up as it dually sends shock waves of alertness up and down your body. Ethiopia’s lighter roasts are fruitier, but if you wanted to taste fruit, you’d buy some fruit, no?
Café Cubano is similar to Southern Italy’s espresso with the exception of an important ingredient: demerara sugar. The natural brown sugar is added directly to the espresso pitcher – not at the table – causing the heat from the coffee-making process to hydrolyze bits of the sucrose, thereby sweetening and thickening the overall product. Traditionally, the shot is taken mid-afternoon, while many add warm milk to it (without sugar) in the morning to serve café con leche (coffee with milk). Another form of it is the café cortado, where the espresso is cut with a small amount of steamed milk, typically leaving it to a 50/50 or 75/25 espresso-to-milk ratio. I’ve had the privilege of visiting the enigmatic island and can attest to the fact that the drink, in all its forms, is…how do you say, muy, muy bueno?