If you are a true coffee lover, you will certainly know that this beverage does not always look the same, but is available in different blends, and one of the most popular is undoubtedly Neapolitan coffee. Characterised by a strong and assertive aroma, sweetened by suggestive Arabica notes, this coffee has literally bewitched millions of palates.
We who know about coffee can assure you that there are many people who, after tasting Neapolitan coffee, have never been able to go back to traditional coffee, definitively converting to the unmistakable taste of Neapolitan coffee. A coffee so good that, in past centuries, it was even considered diabolical!
To discover the history of Neapolitan coffee, we have to travel back in time to the 18th century: a historical period when Naples was dominated by the Spanish and the clergy, neither of whom particularly liked coffee. But the arrival of a beautiful Austrian princess changed things forever…
The Story of Neapolitan Coffee
The origins of Neapolitan coffee are lost in time, representing a fascinating blend of history and legend. What is certain is that, in the 18th century, the city of Naples began trading the first coffee beans thanks to flourishing exchanges with Venetian merchants. This trade, and the subsequent consumption of coffee, was however opposed by the clergy, whose influence was particularly felt. In fact, the Church believed that coffee, with its disturbing black colour and its effects on people, was a real ‘devilish drink’, even the bearer of the evil eye!
These superstitious beliefs were, however, finally swept away when the King of the Kingdom of Naples, Ferdinand of Bourbon, married the beautiful Maria Carolina of Austria, a princess of Hapsburg descent and a great lover of coffee, which she used to drink habitually. It was she who introduced the custom of drinking it at court: a novelty that, for obvious diplomatic reasons, could in no way be averted.
This, however, is not the only version of the story. According to another, the Neapolitan coffee was introduced by the musicologist Pietro Della Valle, who discovered the ‘forbidden drink’ during a long journey to the Holy Land. According to some scholars, however, Naples knew its coffee as early as 1450, when the drink was smuggled into the University of Medicine in Salerno.
Regardless of which is true, historians agree that Neapolitan coffee did not become massively popular until 1800, when the first street cafetière began to appear in Naples, thanks to whom this drink began to be consumed by everyone. The question is: what makes Neapolitan coffee so special?
Differences between Italian and Neapolitan coffee
To understand the differences between classic Italian coffee and Neapolitan coffee, it is enough to drink a cup of the latter, which, unlike traditional coffee, has a definite extra kick due to its particularly full-bodied taste.
The secret of the intense aroma of Neapolitan coffee, after all, lies in the blend from which it is prepared. The coffee beans are roasted at higher temperatures and for a longer time, combining the traditional Arabica quality with percentages of robusta quality, whose low sweetness is compensated for by a higher caffeine content.
And it is thanks to the aforementioned robusta quality that Neapolitan coffee is characterised by the presence of a delicious cream on the top, which is why it is necessary to swirl it often with the teaspoon in order to amalgamate it with the liquid part underneath.
The blend, however, is not the only secret of Neapolitan coffee. Other important factors intervene to make it so different from the classic Italian coffee, which are:
- Water: coming from the crystal-clear Serino springs, located in the Irpinia mountains, and still recognised as one of the purest waters in the world.
- How to serve it: the cup in which Neapolitan coffee is traditionally served has a rounded structure, which keeps the drink inside hot. This is why it is served together with a glass of water, which in Naples is included in the service.
- Barista mastery: real Neapolitan coffee is only prepared by baristas who are extremely skilled in their trade, ‘children’ of the Bourbon coffee masters, from whom they have inherited the talent and expertise needed to make coffee.
- Tradition: Neapolitan coffee is not a simple drink to be consumed before going to the office in the morning. It is a real ritual to be savoured strictly in good company and at any time of day. The average Neapolitan drinks a good five coffees a day, and often leaves a ‘suspended’ cup of coffee already paid for to be offered to the first lucky person to enjoy it.
Alongside these fascinating secrets, however, there is a much simpler one, which has directly to do with the machine with which you make your coffee. After all, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you want to drink good coffee, you should make it with the right machine.
The absolute best, in this regard, are the lever machines which, besides being rather simple and intuitive to use, have the merit of working through a process similar to that of an internal combustion engine.
Thanks to the presence of the lever that gives them their name, in fact, managing the various phases of coffee extraction becomes much easier but, above all, the water in the boiler always remains clean. In this way, not only do the internal ducts not become clogged, but the quality of the coffee itself is maintained cup after cup.
So, if you want to enjoy an exquisite Neapolitan coffee whenever you want, all you have to do is use the right machine or, alternatively, stick to the ancient preparation of this drink, which involved the use of the so-called ‘cuccuma’.
Neapolitan coffee is made with the cuccuma
“Cuccuma’ is the name given to the Neapolitan coffee maker. It was designed by French inventor Jean-Louis Morize, who made it back in 1819. Its structure, which has remained virtually unchanged to this day, consists of the following parts:
- the actual coffee maker, equipped with a handle and spout;
- the water tank;
- the coffee container;
- the filter to close it;
- the lid.
The cuccuma, or cuccumella, takes its name from the Neapolitan expression used to define copper or terracotta pots: this is because the original material of the Neapolitan coffee pot was precisely copper. From 1886, however, it was replaced by aluminium, which was more practical and manageable.
The real strength of the cuccuma, in fact, lies in its ability to evolve and change to keep up with the times, without betraying its original design.
An example of this is the modern steel cuccumelle which, while retaining the traditional structure, are made of a material suitable for today’s induction hobs. What remains unchanged, however, is the preparation of Neapolitan coffee, which is subject to a very precise procedure.
How to make Neapolitan coffee
Knowing how Neapolitan coffee is made is of crucial importance if you want to fully enjoy this exquisite beverage. In order to savour its authentic aroma, you first need to get hold of the right blend: the one in granular form sold in fine coffee roasters.
Once you are in possession of the key ingredient, simply grind it and place it in the appropriate tank, screwing it in with the filter. Next, fill the water tank as well, paying attention to the indicated limit, and insert the coffee reservoir inside.
If you have followed these first steps correctly, you will end up with a kind of ‘one-piece body’, ready to be heated on the cooker in an upside-down position, i.e., with the spout pointing downwards. As soon as you see water or steam coming out of the little hole in the reservoir, you will in fact have to turn the cuccuma upside down to make the boiling water fall onto the coffee powder.
A further touch of class is the creation of the so-called ‘cuppetiello’: a paper cone with which you will cover the spout of the coffee maker, in order not to lose the aroma of your coffee, which, once the water has dropped completely, will finally be ready to be served!
So, now that you know how to prepare a good Neapolitan coffee with the cuccuma, what are you waiting for to treat your senses to this refined nirvana? And remember, as we will never tire of repeating, if you want to drink good coffee you should do it with the right machine, which is why we invite you to discover the right coffee machine for you!