I've seen espresso served with a lemon peel next to it, just wanted to know if there was a specific reason for this. Theories I have:

  • Its flavor, specifically the oil that can be squeezed out, complements the flavor of espresso, although if this is the case I'd like to know why. It would seem counter intuitive to me that you would want to add more acid to an acidic beverage, but I guess milk is slightly acidic too.
  • Its flavor covers up imperfections in bad coffee and/or poorly prepared espresso.
  • It is simply a garnish to make the presentation more appealing to the eye.

Maybe one more more of these contributes to serving espresso with a lemon peel? Maybe something else?


This article states that it is possible it started in WW II when cafe's used lemons to clean their espresso cups due to the fact that water was scarce in Italy. And the "tradition" stuck and expanded.

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  • 1
    Interesting I've never heard that the lemon might have been a method of cleaning the cup. Not sure that it passes the sniff test though because there would be no reason to give it to a patron. – Steven Vaccaro May 21 '15 at 19:08
  • Well, lemon is used a lot among cleaning products nowadays so I think it makes sense. @StevenVaccaro – NealC May 22 '15 at 14:53
  • Good point! @NealC – Steven Vaccaro May 24 '15 at 12:43

Possibly the same reason as serving alcohol with lemon/ orange/ etc peel, but if you are drinking high quality coffee the same rules apply as in high quality alcohol, namely, no additional supplements, additives, admixture or any other impurities (that will lead to losing of the high quality taste characteristics which will be totally covered by the, let's say lemon peel or sugar for example), are advisable.

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