Trieste, the city of coffee: how the tradition was born

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In Italy, we know, coffee is a serious thing: not just a drink, but an essential ritual. And few cities are linked to this beverage as Trieste, the capital of coffee with a long-standing tradition and a peculiar language even to order a cup. 

It is said that here the air itself smells of skilfully roasted blend, every year the Triestines consume on average twice the beans compared to the rest of Italy and many know the historic cafes of Trieste, fixed stages of every itinerary to discover the city. But when did the connection between coffee and the Gulf of Trieste become so close?

Coffee in Trieste

Why is Trieste famous for coffee?

First of all, the tradition of coffee in Trieste has to do with its history, in particular with the establishment of the “Porto Franco” (free port) in 1719 by Emperor Charles VI. The special legislation of the port of Trieste, that continues today, 300 years ago marked the birth of the city as we know it, giving life to one of the main commercial harbors in Europe. Thanks to the saving on tariffs for imports and exports, the proclamation of the free port stimulated trade by attracting companies, investments and immigration to the city. 

It was at that time that Trieste became the most important Italian port for the import of coffee: a gateway through which the precious beans destined for the consumption of the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire and beyond, just in the years when the beverage became fashionable among the European bourgeoisie. The arrival of tons of coffee soon gave rise to a series of related industries: in the late nineteenth century, in Trieste there were over 60 import companies, 10 coffee roasters, 98 coffee shops. Among the companies that still remain famous, Hausbrandt and Illy were born in Trieste.

Trieste city of coffee

The coffee shops became the meeting place par excellence in the city, where to discuss art and politics or where to write some pages of literary masterpieces, such as Joyce sitting at the tables of Pirona. Several of those historic cafes are still in business today and are worth a visit, we have recommended five in this article.

How to order a coffee in Trieste

If you want to fully enjoy the coffee experience in Trieste, you must first know the right dictionary. No espresso or macchiato: in Trieste you order a “nero” or a “capo”. To pretend to be true autochthons, the best order is the “capo in B“: halfway between a macchiato coffee and a cappuccino, but served in a glass instead of a cup.

Just the capo in B is probably the most popular type of coffee in Trieste, so much that every year there is a special competition among the baristas of the city in the “Trieste Coffee Festival“. Because around here, like we said, coffee is definitely serious. 

How to order a coffee in Trieste