This article originally appeared in
sponsored by
Roman coffee break
By ERIC J. LYMAN
TALK magazine published by
Orascom Telecom in Cairo, Egypt.
All rights reserved.


Rome is a coffee-lover's paradise:
every neighborhood has its own
coffee bars serving rich and dark
espresso served in a tiny demitasse
designed to be drunk standing up in
a bar. If you're a Roman, you make
the pilgrimage to the closest bar for
an espresso pick-me-up several
times a day.

And while every Roman has a soft
spot for the little caffé around the
corner where he or she tasted the
first-ever cappuccino, if you ask
where the best coffee in the city is
served, the name that comes
up most often is Sant'Eustachio,
which has been operating just beyond the shadow of Rome's monolithic Pantheon since 1938.

Sant'Eustachio's coffee is unlike that anywhere else in the city: pre-sweetened with a frothy texture and
an amazingly rich flavor and a pleasantly burnt edge to the aftertaste. Theories abound about how this
signature taste is achieved, but very few people know for sure. The coffee machines are positioned and
shielded so that customers can't see what the barrista is doing while making the dense brew, and
rumor has it that employees are asked to sign non-disclosure forms before they can begin work.

"I've had people offer me a lot of money to know the secret to how the coffee is made," said Raimondo
Ricci, one of the bar's owners. "The answer I give them is always the same. I say 'it's a secret, and if I
tell you I would have to tell everyone, and then it wouldn't be a secret any more.'"

Part of the secret, for sure, is in the beans, which are freshly roasted on the premises every day. The
wood-burning roaster dates back to when the bar opened, and it has room for only small batches that
roast at low heat. Another factor is the ambiance of the place, which has hardly changed since it first
opened its doors as what was then the only coffee bar in Rome with two espresso machines (both are
still in operation). The walls are adorned with dozens of old-fashioned coffee makers, and the
countertops are made of the same smooth marble that was considered trendsetting in the 1930s,
when most coffee bars were dark wood-paneled establishments. But the main factor is the technique
used to make hundreds of small coffees each day, and that's something people in the know aren't
willing to talk about.
TALK
magazine
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Summer 2006