The history of the Americano is not fully agreed upon, but the spirit of its story is this: During W.W.II, American G.I.s stationed in Italy longed for a cup of coffee just like they had back home – drip coffee. However, in Italy, a traditional shot of caffeine was just that – a shot of bold espresso, accompanied by a delicate layer of crema and G.I.s were not accustomed such a powerful expression of coffee. In order to accommodate the G.I.s wishes – and offer a sign of peace – baristas began to add hot water to the pull in an effort to better resemble a Maxwell House, Folgers, or Sanka. And so, the Americano was born.
I can’t quite identify how my admiration for the Americano started. Perhaps it is out of honor and admiration for the Greatest Generation. Or perhaps it is because of a subconscious need to protect my gastrointestinal mechanics from any adverse effects of a straight shot of espresso. Either way, I have come to choose an Americano over any other coffee house menu item for its straight-forward and unassuming nature, which easily accompanies any confectionary that may be asking for purchase from the counter.
And so, I set out to find the best Americano around.
What I soon discovered, however, is that this was an impossible task. Every shop I visited – the incredible local coffee houses in Findlay such as Coffee Amici, We Serve. Coffee, George House, The Baker’s Café and Fort Findlay Coffee & Doughnut Shoppe to our commercial franchises such as Caribou Coffee, Starbucks, and Biggby Coffee – all offer their own version of the Americano. The basics are all the same – one or two shots of espresso with hot water. Ratios of espresso to water differ and some pour the espresso into the hot water rather than add the water to the pull. All varieties provide for a unique experience and depending on the day, time, atmosphere, and company, may all be enjoyed for their unique and subtle differences.
And then it occurred to me. Waxing nostalgic about the essence of the American dream juxtaposed against our current challenge of rising above social inequity and disparity, I was called to reexamine my original quest. The Americano (despite its propensity toward appropriation in name) is better suited to serve as a reminder that we desire a community of belonging where our own uniqueness and differences both great and small are celebrated, honored, and revered.
And so, as we celebrate National Coffee Day this week – let us gather in the cafes we love, chose the coffee that brings us joy, relish in the company of those we love, and invite others that we have yet to know to the table to join us.