Apart from other few countries in the world, in Italy, a glass of water is served next to Espresso coffee. Not in all Italian cities there is this custom however, it comes mainly from the city of coffee par excellence, Naples, followed step by step by the capital, Rome.
So, why the glass of the water?
There are two reasons: to clean the palate before coffee or to quench the thirst afterwards. Actually, there is also a third one that says that because the coffee wasn’t good, you need to get that taste out of your mouth by drinking a glass of water.
Drinking the glass of water before coffee is used to cleanse the mouth from other flavors, so you can fully enjoy the taste of coffee. This is the proper custom, to drink water only before sipping coffee.
Many people use to drink a sip of water even after sipping coffee to quench the thirst that arises after drinking a hot Espresso or as said as third chance, drinking water after coffee is considered, by the baristas, a very important sign to understand that the Espresso served was not to the customer’s liking.
Along with this custom, in Naples there is another ancient tradition connected to Espresso coffee that is woven into the structure of society itself.
When paying their Espresso coffee at the cashier, some wealthier Neapolitans pay for two at once: in this way, the bar can offer a coffee to someone that cannot afford it. It’s a tradition that developed during the hard times of the Second World War and continues nowadays, and it’s called ‘Caffé Sospeso‘, which roughly means ‘paused coffee‘.