The Marocchino–An Orgasm in a Cup
There are two kinds of people in the world, coffee drinkers and tea drinkers. I am definitely in the tea drinking camp. If you asked me to describe one of my favorite pleasures, I would say: Drinking a cup of tea–black with milk and honey in the morning and mint or rooibos in the afternoon and evening. Add a rainy day, a fantastic novel, snuggling on the couch, or chatting with friends, and I’m as happy as a Milanese woman with a new Furla purse.
The problem is, no one really drinks tea in Italy. This is the land of espresso. But it’s not like I pictured it would be: people sitting around in cafes, chatting as they savored their cappuccinos and lattes. Oh no. That’s France. In Italy, people drink coffee like they drive–friggin’ fast. A typical Italian walks into a bar during her morning break, orders an espresso, then stands at the counter and kicks the coffee back like a shot of whiskey. She’ll chat with her work friends for a few moments, finish off her brioche (croissant) then head back to work. There is no lingering.
Coffee culture is different in the U.S., and in some ways it’s a recent phenomenon. I remember many high school nights, when I slipped off to the new cafes that had popped up around the Sacramento suburb my family lived in. My friends and I thought we were so cool and independent as we sipped our mochas, listened to live folk music, and flirted with the boys. It wasn’t just me falling in love with the bitter drink: ever since the mid-nineties, with the advent of the Starbucks effect, coffee has become an increasingly large part of American culture.
Now over fifty percent of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day. Now it’s possible to order decaffeinated mochas with soymilk and mint (I know, because I have). But I have to say that despite the appeal of a sticky-sweet pumpkin spice latte (you know you want one), I’ve become a fan of the less adorned Italian espresso drinks. As one article put it, “Italian espresso drinks are the liquid equivalent of Italian cuisine—dependable, straightforward, and delicious in their simplicity.”
I think I kinda like simplicity.
But which espresso drink do I choose? The cappuccino is nice, but it’s too milky and filling for me. And the espresso goes by too quickly; I like to savor my drinks a little bit, like my cups of tea. In fact, I was beginning to think there wasn’t any hope for me to enjoy a cup of coffee with my Italian teacher and the other students in my class. I had begun to follow them to the bar only to watch them drink their espressos while I looked on idly, feeling a bit jealous.
But then Guido suggested I try a marocchino. And this is why I love my boyfriend: he knows me well. I LOVED IT. My friend Sara, who keeps the Ms. Adventures in Italy blog, calls the marocchino “Heaven in a Cup,” but I’m going to refer to it as “Orgasm in a Cup,” for reasons that are probably a bit obvious.
A bit about this tasty drink. Marocchino means “little Moroccan” in Italian, but don’t let that fool you. This drink doesn’t come from North Africa. Apparently, the marocchino is named after the Moroccan leather used in Italian hat making, because the perfect marocchino should have the same subtle brown hue as the carefully tanned goatskin. But before you start making associations that might make mar your marocchino experience, let me bring you back to the basics: chocolaty coffee goodness, topped with a frothy cloud.
Want to make it at home? Try this recipe I got off the Italy Magazine website. You’ll need an espresso maker to replicate it exactly, but you could probably make a decent version of it just using an Italian Moka, cocoa powder, and some warm frothy milk. Yes, it’s a bit girly. But who cares? It’s orgasmico!
To Make a Marocchino:
Use 7g (.25 oz) of freshly ground Italian espresso blend and let your coffee percolate for 25 seconds—that’s crucial to extract all the pleasant flavors from the coffee and none of the bad ones. You should end up with 25ml of coffee at 67C (153 F), which you should serve in a demitasse cup.
Sprinkle cocoa on the espresso (or add the cocoa to the empty cup and pour the espresso over it), then add the frothed milk and top with more cocoa.