Orzo Coffee

Let's talk about Orzo coffee; a drink that, although very old, is now gaining more ground in the market than ever. Caffè d'orzo, often shortened to simply orzo, the Italian word for barley, is a type of hot drink originated in Italy.

 photo: Emmanouela Paradeisanou

photo: Emmanouela Paradeisanou

Even though Orzo Coffee was traditionally considered as a coffee substitute for children, now is a very common choice for those who choose to eschew caffeine for health reasons. Highly recommended to pregnant women, children, people suffering from anxiety and those with high blood pressure or heart problems. However, Orzo might not be suitable for celiac patients as barley contains gluten.

History

Much loved for its beneficial properties, this drink is so old that it was once known as Hippocrates' herbal tea. He often praised barley for its virtues and used to drink it as a decoction. The benefits described by the Greek doctor, are fairly faithful with those known today which indicates the wholesomeness of barley. Its popularity in modern times occurred during the Second World War, a period in which coffee was very expensive and difficult to find due to the customs blockade procured by the fascist regime. In Italy people sought after a product similar to coffee, in colour and flavor. Barley was the perfect fit. Begging to gain popularity in Italian homes and cafes, orzo coffee managed to break the emotional bond that Italians had with coffee. There are now many countries that are gradually rediscovering barley and as a result there is an increased demand worldwide.

Properties and Benefits

At a nutritional level, orzo coffee is low in calories (about 20 calories per 100 ml of product), lipids and protein. Another important attribute is the presence of vitamin B3, essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, also boosts blood circulation and improves skin health. It further contains betaglucan, essential for slowing the assimilation of carbohydrates and, therefore, especially recommended for diabetics and all those who need to regulate blood sugar levels. Barley has a positive effect on the nervous system, promoting brain and intellectual activity. Orzo coffee also has anti-inflammatory properties and this makes it particularly suitable for those debilitated or at risk such as children, the elderly and immuno-compromise patients. In addition, barley has the ability to inhibit the synthesis of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), helping those suffering from hypercholesterolemia and benefiting the liver and its functions. And though coffee is the king of nervous excitement, barley, on the contrary, causes a mild sedation thanks to the silicon contained in it. This makes it an ideal drink to help you relax before going to sleep.

 photos: Emmanouela Paradeisanou

photos: Emmanouela Paradeisanou

Preparation

Orzo coffee is highly digestible and easy to prepare. It can be made in a coffee pot, diluted directly in boiling water (barley is soluble), or it can also be done in the traditional moka pot. Italians tend, instead, to make it using an orziera; a special moka pot adapted to roasted barley, which is able to enhance the taste and form cream on the surface. Last but not least, it can be prepared the same way as the turkish coffee.