So the idea of local experiences has really taken off over the past few years. A lot of the demand has been driven by people who have grown tired of joining tours that take daily, or hourly, groups to see the highlights of the city. These tours may be good if you’re pressed for time, but you could put together your own tour by simply googling top 10 things to see in...
And I think that’s why the experiences market has really taken off. With the help of the internet, people are able to do and see more on their own. So now we are all searching for something new, unique, and interesting.
Our first local experience was with our Couchsurfing host in London. He took us on a tour of his London suburb and gave us our fill of local history and knowledge. The sights we saw weren’t on any tourist map or list of “things to see in London”, but were still fascinating – and the history of the old buildings in the neighborhood is something that only a local would know. Since this experience, we have been very interested in connecting with locals and learning more about life, culture, and history from the perspective of local residents. It’s definitely a good way to feel more connected to the places you visit!
We were recently in contact with Triple, a company that offers a lot of experiences in major cities across Europe. Our next destination was Rome so it was a perfect chance for us to give them a try and get in contact with a local from the city. Triple offers a range of opportunities to connect with locals in the form of history tours, bike tours, and so on. However, when we saw the experience listed as “Make Italian espresso with a local barista in Rome” we knew that was the one for us!
Booking with our host Federico was super easy – we only needed to choose the date and time (which is set at 10 am), and select the number of people. Once we booked we were able to communicate with him through the contact form and confirm any questions or details related to the coffee class. We were headed to a new hotel later in the day and let our host know that we would be arriving with our backpacks. Federico messaged us back and let us know that it wouldn’t be a problem. On the day of our meeting, he even reserved a pair of seats for us with space to place our bags!
The first thing we were impressed by was the quality of the cafe. We hadn’t done much research on the place beforehand but the cafe is spacious and quite popular while being in a good location in Rome. It is only a couple minutes walk from Rome’s centrally located Termini station. This might seem like a small point, but we were really happy with the location since we didn’t need to make a long journey coming and going.
When we arrived Federico guided us to a pair of seats overlooking the coffee bar. Now that’s something that might be a new concept if you haven’t been to Italy. Many cafes in Italy have a long counter where guests can stand and order their drinks. From what I’ve seen the majority will order an espresso, which they promptly down before paying and heading out of the shop. This is quite interesting to observe as very few people stay for extended periods of time while they leisurely sip on oversized coffees. It also means that the baristas need to be on their toes, churning out espresso after espresso for the steady stream of customers. During the 2 hours we spent with Federico there were several dozen customers who flowed in and out of the coffee bar. Even though he was busy our host never let get bored. He had a steady stream of coffee and snacks pointed in our direction and gave us a lot of information related to the coffee making process and about coffee culture in Italy.
About the coffee.
We weren’t expecting to get so much out of a 2-hour experience. We started off with shots of espresso and a lesson about the arabica beans used at the cafe. It was a good starter as the caffeine kick woke us up from the morning lethargy and got us ready for the rest of the class. And, it wouldn’t really be an authentic experience if we weren’t drinking espresso, would it?
From there we moved on to a cold brew which was freshly prepared in front of us using ice water. Federico explained how the taste of true cold brew differs greatly from coffee which is brewed hot and then refrigerated after. This was interesting to learn about and I think I’ll use my newly acquired knowledge to make some cold brew coffee at home now! One special touch was the addition of orange peel to the coffee. It added a light flavor and fragrant aroma to the drink which was quite nice!
The third drink we tried was an ice-blended coffee with sugar and milk. To be honest, this was the only drink I didn’t enjoy. I’m not a fan of sweet coffee and this wasn’t an exception. Federico told us this is a popular drink in the summer months when the weather gets hot, but isn’t served in the winter when people are more interested in drinking something hot.
Next up were two unique drinks that I had never tried before. First was a barley espresso, and the second was a ginseng espresso. Both of these were quite interesting and had a nice flavor. They were a bit lighter in taste than coffee and were quite delicious. We were told that many younger customers will order this before they are old enough to want (or need) a normal espresso.
The last drink on the menu was a cappuccino. The barista showed us how to prepare the drink with the just right amount of steamed milk.
Now, you might think that all that coffee would be a bit too much, right? That’s what I was worried about before we started the experience but it turned out to be a non-issue. The drinks are spread out over a couple hours and you can take it as slow as you like. On top of that, you are supplied with a steady stream of snacks from Agora Cafe’s wide selection of baked goods to make sure you aren’t taking your coffee on an empty stomach.
Oh, did I forget to mention the food?
This should really be labeled as a coffee and dessert experience due to the number of treats that Federico gives you. They make a lot of cakes and pastries in-house and they are all quite delicious. We tried a bit of everything but the highlight was the blueberry coffee cake which was paired with our first shot of espresso. It was lightly sweet and a perfect combo for the coffee. If I chose a runner up it would have to be the cannoli that we got to eat at the end of the experience. It was actually the first cannoli we had during our trip around Italy – I don’t know how we missed out on trying one for so long!
As I mentioned before, our host was excellent at managing his workflow. We spent a great deal of time chatting with him about his cafe, and about coffee culture in Italy. We really learned a lot from him and had a lot of fun during our time together. We will definitely make a stop by Federico’s shop next time we are in Rome!
This was a great memory to add to our honeymoon around the world. We aren’t sure where we will end up once we finish but it will likely be either Los Angeles or Taipei. Wherever we end up, it would be nice to host an experience of our own. We’d like to give back a little bit and help travelers delve deeper into our cities!
If you’re headed to Europe (or already there!) be sure to check out Triple’s list of experiences around Europe. The offerings vary from city to city so I can’t guarantee you will find a coffee class in other destinations, but I know there will be plenty of interesting experiences with locals that you can join!
We will totally be checking out one of Triple’s Art Tours in the near future – this might be a good reason to book the long-overdue trip to Sweeden!