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Starbucks's Coffee Culture vs Italian One

Updated on July 13, 2017
Alessio Ganci profile image

I'm from Italy, country famous for its food. I love true Italian food... and yeah, also love to drink a Frappuccino when I am abroad!

Starbucks is actually the most popular coffee chain you can find in many countries. Howard Schultz founded it after a trip to Milan: he had been so conquered by the Italian tradition of drinking coffee he wanted to export it in the United States of America, starting the company that would become the empire everyone knows today in many places of the globe. This fascinating story may led some people to conclude Starbucks is actually providing the Italian experience with coffee to people of all round the world. The facts are different and there are many differences between American coffee experience and Italian one.

Different Beverages

Starbucks Chocolate Frappuccino
Starbucks Chocolate Frappuccino

The most popular types of coffee beverages served in Italian cafes are espresso (plain coffee) and cappuccino (an espresso with addition of milk, from which the Frappuccino has been inspired). These are beverages served in little coffee cups, while Frappuccino is something served in bigger cups. In addition Frappuccinos are cold while Italian coffee beverages are hot. Obviously Starbucks is not all about this cold and sweet drink: they actually also serve hot coffee and even the Italian beverages. The real differences are between the Italian and the American different attitudes to drinking coffee beverages.

A Little Break?

Italian's attitude to drinking coffee is really rapid: they just order it, drink it in front of the counter and then they go out!
Italian's attitude to drinking coffee is really rapid: they just order it, drink it in front of the counter and then they go out!

For Italian people coffee is just seen as a little break to have after lunch, in the morning or in every part of the day. If they are outside home, they go to a cafe just like American people go to Starbucks. Here comes the first difference: Italian people go to the cafe and drink their desired beverages at the counter (it is not common for them to carry their coffee cup and use tables in order to drink it). As espresso and cappuccino are drinkable in just few minutes, the Italian break is very little: people are often used to have their coffee just by standing up in front of the counter: after they finished drinking it, they just go out.

American people and, in general, all those following Starbucks's coffee culture, behave differently: here coffee is not a little break to have in few minutes. Coffee is carried in paper-made cups (or plastic ones if we are talking about beverages like the Frappuccino) and drunk in every place: this also because American coffee (without taking in exam more complex beverages) is also longer than Italian one, so it takes more time to drink it. Starbucks's coffee culture sees this popular beverage as something to be part of our life in every moment: we can walk the street or go to the park by carrying our cup with us.

Social Relevance Of Coffee

Starbucks is popular as a place where sitting at a table and enjoying free Wi-Fi while drinking a cup of coffee, while Italian cafes are more a place in which drinking it in few minutes
Starbucks is popular as a place where sitting at a table and enjoying free Wi-Fi while drinking a cup of coffee, while Italian cafes are more a place in which drinking it in few minutes

When we talk about Starbucks, we imagine a place where everyone can stay for long time, enjoy free Wi-Fi and talk with their friends: this is a plece where people are more used to engage in social relationships with other people. Italian cafes, because of people's attitude to drinking coffee, are less used as places for social relationships, unless people decide to sit at a table and have more than just a coffee: in this case, the so called happy hours (in which drinks and little snacks are served) are the most frequent moments in which cafes are not just places used for drinking coffee in few minutes, but for enjoying a longer moment with friends or family. The same can be said for Starbucks, as there are surely people who go there and just drink an espresso and then go out. Both Italian and American cafes feature different types of behaviours: in the Italian ones fast drinking experience is more often, while in the American ones sitting at a table with friends is the predominant behaviour.

Coffee or Coffee Beverages?

When talking about coffee Italian people are very traditionalists: espresso and cappuccino are the most popular beverages here and some cafes offer only plain coffee drinks. Beverages like the Frappuccino do not exist in Italy (unless you go to an American place or to Starbucks, as it is going to expand itself also here) and, in general, we can say American people tend to prefer more complex variations of coffee beverages (the same can be said also for pizza, as American pizza is much more complex than Italian one).

Quick Poll

Do you prefer Italian or American coffee?

See results

© 2017 Alessio Ganci


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    • Alessio Ganci profile imageAUTHOR

      Alessio Ganci 

      14 months ago from Italy

      Thanks. I am Italian and obviously drink Italian coffee, but I also really like Starbucks and other coffee shops products (luckily also in Milan I can have them, even Starbucks is arriving here in October)!

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 

      15 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

      I never once thought Starbucks was providing an Italian experience. I like Starbucks. I'm a shareholder and I also like other coffeeshops especially the independent ones. Great read buddy.


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