Article written by Michele Sergio and published in Rome on 30 June 2019
The uniqueness of the Neapolitan espresso coffee, its goodness, are recognized far beyond the city and regional limits. In spite of some “obstinate” who persistently insist on not recognizing the peculiarities of our espresso, which has arrived through a centuries-old evolutionary process of tastes and customs, we are right when we say that comparisons with other types of espresso, national or foreign, they are inappropriate and inappropriate.
There is not only one way to drink coffee, to prepare it and to taste it but there are many and there is no question when it comes to flavors: de gustibus non disputandum est wisely affirmed our ancients. It is, however, an indisputable fact that anyone, from every latitude coming, could enjoy a coffee in Naples, not only keep the (voluptuous) memory of the tastiest of the espresso but, also, the cultural background of the Neapolitan coffee ritual.
It is a ritual, because it is a real ritual, a series of details and subsequent actions that customers and bartenders repeat every day: drinking a glass of water (strictly free) to cleanse the mouth and prepare the palate for tasting; turn the coffee with a teaspoon before tasting it (to mix the creamier upper part – typical of the Neapolitan blend – with the lower, more liquid part); be careful not to burn your lips with the cup. Under this last profile it must be said that tradition requires drinking coffee in the very hot cup to make the moment of consumption careful and stimulating. There is also a technical reason behind this habit: the temperature of the cup must be similar to that of the coffee just extracted from the machine, so as not to make the drink suffer a thermal shock that could alter its taste and aroma.
For the benefit of those who do not like the hot cup, the Neapolitan coffee makers have come up with a way to please them, while at the same time creating a real variant of the classic coffee: the Scrambled Coffee. Adding cream of sugar and cocoa to coffee, they quickly “scramble” it with a teaspoon, with which, then, they wet the edge of the cup thus cooling it. Scrambling is increasingly in demand in Neapolitan bars and even recommended by Japanese and Chinese guides.
It has become a real cult that has further aroused the imagination of the legendary Gennaro Ponziani, historical director of Gambrinus, who, years ago, was the first to think of adding a teaspoon of cream in a bain-marie to the scrambled one. This variation on the theme has been so successful that it has become a real specialty with the name of Caffè Gegè (name of Gennaro, the name, as mentioned, of its creator).