Bragging about the macchiato is a national pastime in Kosovo. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
It takes very little nudging to get a Kosovar to brag about the nation’s prowess in brewing the perfect macchiato.
"No matter where you go in Kosovo, you will find a macchiato made much better than the Italians," my waiter, Armend Bytyqi, tells me while I dine at the Hotel Carshia e Jupave in the town of Gjakova.
“Italians make just milk and coffee. We boil the milk, and we make a cream on top of the milk,” Bytyqi said.
My guide, Petrit Riza of Air Tour, glanced sideways at me as if I were a crazy person when I questioned why they consider their frothy drink to be superior to those made in Italy.
"Italians invented the macchiato. What do you have on them?" I ask.
Riza scoffs. “It’s our creativity,” he tells me. “Our macchiato is simply perfect. We have the perfect froth. We do the froth with the espresso machine.”
This macchiato was procured at the gas station. It was delicious. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Espresso machines are big business in this Western Balkans country. They’re everywhere. You can order a macchiato almost anywhere you go in Kosovo: a roadside greasy spoon, a gas station. And they’re cheap, typically less than a single euro for one cup. Compare that to more than $4 at Starbucks.
This is a country with no chain stores. There are no McDonald’s or Starbucks.
Lura Limani is an author who just finished the quintessential guide book to Kosovo. She says that even the Italians who visit are blown away by the country’s signature drink.
The secret to a good macchiato is in the milk. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
"It is the people who prepare them that make them so good. They love them. The trick is also how you foam the milk," Limani says. "You can never reuse the milk. That is the big mistake."
Frankly, they are delicious. The beans are never burned, but the drink has a strong espresso flavor. The milk is sweet, and its froth is lighter than air.
The first macchiato of many for the day (Photo: Jo Piazza)
The macchiato fits seamlessly into the daily routine of the Kosovar. After spending only 24 hours in the country, most visitors will find it fits seamlessly into their life too.
"We don’t need a Starbucks. We already make the best macchiato," Riza says.
"See, you start your morning with a Turkish coffee," Riza points out. "And then around 11, you will have a macchiato, and then a lunch macchiato, and then, if you work hard, you have another macchiato."
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