Caffè d’Orzo: The Italian Espresso That Isn’t Actually Coffee

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Take a look at this cup of coffee. It looks like a good little cup of espresso, doesn’t it? Looks are deceiving in this case; there isn’t a bit of coffee in this photo. Want to know what it is? 

This drink is not espresso or coffee at all, but caffè d’orzo, an Italian coffee substitute made from “orzo” — barley. I was staying in a swanky hotel in Milan for a press event, and I noticed this unfamiliar beverage on the room service menu so of course I had to try it. 

Barley coffee is made from roasted ground barley grains, which can be put through a regular coffee maker or espresso maker. It doesn’t have caffeine, obviously, so children or caffeine-avoiders can enjoy it. 

How did it taste? Not like espresso, that’s for certain! It had an earthy, slightly bitter taste, with less body and richness than real espresso. I can’t imagine substituting this for my own daily cup of coffee, but I do think that the taste was interesting and refreshing so it could stand on its own merits. It reminded me naturally of the cold barley tea I like to drink in the summertime. 

Have you ever tried caffè d’orzo? What did you think? 

(Image: Faith Durand)