Last week, we reported on the price of espresso in Italy potentially reaching the €1.50 mark due to a mix of pandemic- and climate change-related reasons. The fine people of Italy, as you may have surmised, were nonplussed, some calling it a “right” and not a “luxury” and going so far as to aver that espresso “should be free.”

We even noted at the time that the rich tradition of espresso in Italy is the sort of thing that UNESCO would recognize, as culturally significant as the city of Venice or Mount Etna. Well, in a real life case of news reflecting culture and so forth, the entire country of Italy seems to agree and has applied for espresso to have heritage status with UNESCO.

As reported by the Guardian, Italy is seeking to have espresso added to the UN agency’s list of “world’s intangible heritage,” hoping to join the country’s other great cultural gifts to the world, including the art of Neapolitan pizza-making, Sicilian puppet opera, truffle hunting, and joint-country heritages like alpinism and the Mediterranean diet.

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Created in the 19th century in Turin, espresso has been inextricably linked to Italy since its inception, and indeed most espresso-based drinks today still use their given Italian names. And its popularity in the country is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world, with “more than 90% of Italians drinking a cup of it each day, usually served in a porcelain cup,” per the Italian Espresso Institute, whose “specific goal [is to safeguard] and [promote] the original espresso.”

“It is an authentic ritual and an expression of our sociality that distinguishes us around the world,” states Gian Marco Centinaio, Italy’s agriculture undersecretary, noting that seeking UNESCO recognition for expression is “a way to celebrate Italy’s social interaction” that has sputtered due to COVID lockdown restrictions in the country. This isn’t the first time Italian espresso has been considered for UNESCO designation, but prior attempts could never be finalized, “allegedly because of the country’s turbulent politics,” per the Guardian.

But it appears that a potential €.40 increase in the price of espresso is enough for people to put petty political squabbles aside and unite for a common good: seeking a cultural heritage designation to keep the price of a little tiny coffee at around €1.

Before the bid can be made official, Italy’s UNESCO commission must approve the application, which Centinaio is confident it will, with an announcement of the results expected later this spring.

Espresso’s cultural significance is undeniable and should without question be recognized as such by UNESCO. It could serve as the blueprint for other culturally important coffee drinks to make the list. Soon enough, you may see heritage status for Scandinavian light-roasted filter coffee, the queer community’s unflinching love of iced coffee, and even the Australian urge to falsely claim authorship of the flat white and avocado toast.

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

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