Ah, the much-debated lemon twist: that bright yellow sliver riding sidecar in your demitasse saucer beside a steamy, fragrant espresso shot. Some give it a chew or a squeeze, some people drop it in the cup, and still others want nothing to do with it. What’s the deal with this little peel?
About the history of coffee and citrus, we’ve heard quite the tale. It suggests that during World War II, used coffee cups in Italian cafes would get a swipe around each rim with lemon peels as a way to sanitize when water was scarce. Kind of puts a different twist on the subject.
As always, people will follow their tastes. Some coffee purists claim lemon has no place in the Italian espresso ritual, instead viewing the garnish as an American accessory aimed at masking poor quality drinks or reducing bitterness. Baristas and fans of the beverage will vow that a properly roasted and pulled espresso results in a harmonious, richly flavored cup needing no extra acid (or anything else).
But you do you—we are not here to judge. Just be sure to use freshly ground, quality roasted beans for crafting your espresso shot, and you can’t go wrong. If you want to know more about a few of our favorite options, read onward.