TIME magazine posted a “Summer Journey” special documenting the theme of “we are what we eat.” One of the stops of this photo essay is an espresso bar in southwest Rome: Black Magic: The Perfect Espresso – TIME’s Summer Journey | TIME. The author, a California expatriate and recovered Starbucks addict, waxes on the joys of the true Italian espresso bar.

The author notes the Italians’ preference for fast, furious, and pure espresso service, and he gets into the timing and mechanics of the espresso-making process with his local barista. And given that “barista” is Italian for “bartender”, he also mentions that a barista’s skills are also of the social kind — i.e., what we typically associate with bartenders.

In an interview with his local Roman barista, the author learns how young, aspiring baristi in Italy get their start: “When you start out, they let you do the base for cappuccinos. It’s easier to hide errors.” Oh, how true that is.

This is one of the reasons why CoffeeRatings.com reviews espresso as the yardstick of coffee quality — rather than the more popular cappuccino or caffè latte. (In contrast, the Roman barista quoted in the article suggests that 80% of his orders are for a basic espresso.) This American preference for the “milkshake” also ensures few cafés ever need to hire decent baristi.