Italy is to apply for Unesco status for espresso coffee, claiming it is “much more than a simple drink”.
It follows the art of the Neapolitan pizza-maker being added to the UN agency’s list of the world’s intangible heritage in 2017 as Italy aims to secure the worldwide status for another of its successful symbols.
“It is an authentic ritual and an expression of our sociality that distinguishes us around the world,” said Gian Marco Centinaio, the agriculture undersecretary, confirming that the application had been submitted.
Espresso quickly became an integral part of the national identity after its creation in Turin at the end of the 19th century. Drinking espresso creates an occasion for an encounter, to discuss politics and football, to complain, to make peace or to pay a debt, or simply an excuse to talk on this and that.
According to the Italian Espresso Institute, founded in 1998 with the specific goal of safeguarding and promoting the original espresso, the market is worth more than €4bn (£3.3bn) annually, with more than 90% of Italians drinking a cup of it each day, usually served in a porcelain cup.
The institute’s strict regulations for the perfect espresso include the use of a certified coffee blend, certified equipment and even licensed personnel.
It specifies that the crema, the lighter froth that sits on the top of the dark caffeinated brew, “must be uniform and persistent for at least 120 seconds from the time the coffee has been dispensed without stirring”. It says its colour should be “hazel-brown to dark brown [and] characterised by tawny reflexes”.
Centinaio said espresso’s candidacy was also a way to celebrate Italy’s social interaction, partially halted by the Covid restrictions.
Previous attempts to have Italian espresso coffee on the Unesco list have been made but never officially finalised, allegedly because of the country’s turbulent politics.
The agriculture undersecretary said he was confident Italy’s national Unesco commission would approve the bid, with the verdict expected some time in the spring.