With recent posts about where people got their start in their interest in coffee, (including my post about a moment when I changed the way I thought about espresso) I thought I'd recollect a bit about how my first interest in espresso started (as opposed to brewed coffee).
I went from a coffee snob to an espresso snob when I lived in Italy for six months. I decided that while I was in Italy I would drink coffee the way they did and not the way I was used to drinking it (mostly from a French press). At home I had been too cheap to drink coffee out in shops when I could make it just as well at home, but when I was abroad I figured drinking it with and around the Italians was part of the point.
In Italy you (surprisingly for the American who is not used to this way of doing things) get a cheaper price on your coffee if you drink it standing at the bar than if you drink it sitting down. The idea makes sense though that if you drink it at the bar you are unlikely to linger taking up the precious space that other customers might want later as opposed to sitting down where you might choose to stay for a long time.
Also a difference is that here a waiter will come by when you have stayed too long and ask you if there will be anything else, implicitly pointing out that you should pay and go. If you still do not take the hint we will often be presented with the check. In most of Europe this would never happen. Once you have a table it is yours for the day. You may want to leave, but you will have to hunt down the waiter. This policy probably dates back to when homes were small and overcrowded (especially in poorer European countries) and the bar was the most comfortable place to spend time.
In any event I jumped right in while I was there and learned to drink it at the bar. This was the first step in my conversion.
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