Coffee isn't actually grown in the hills of the Valley, but the preparation of the drink in its many forms has become a well known ritual. The 'café à la cogneintze' is one of the most typical of the region. It is prepared with a mouthful of boiling coffee, grappa, red wine, sugar and a dose of lemon then reheated over an open flame.
The proportions need to be just right although a little experimentation does no harm. It is served in a round and shallow wooden cup called a grolla which is closed with a 'coperchio' or top featuring normally 6 holes from which the coffee is drunk in company.
The whole moment is thus transformed into a collective rite. Salute.
We receive many requests from readers asking for the exact amounts to make real traditional dishes and all our references are as vague as yours.
It seems personal and local preferences from town to town play a part. Anyway, for a classic coffee from Valle d'Aosta bear in mind that a cup = 0.5 pints (8fl oz) which seems interchangeable with a glass.
It all depends on the size of the Grolla as well. We believe the proportions are 1 glass coffee: 0.5 grappa or genepy: 0.5 red wine and the zest of one lemon. Sugar to taste.
The grolla is perhaps the strongest visual symbol of Valle d'Aosta. Its origins are a mix of religious (a reference to the 'graal' or Holy Grail itself) and communal, as it offered a chance for wine to be shared during festive occasions.
Look out for the characteristic lid often decorated with grapes and hearts etc.
The 'friendship cup' is squatter and has more 'drinking holes' and is used not only for wine but also the typical Valdostana coffee mixed with grappa, sugar and spices.