Sugar and espresso

With or without sugar? This question inevitably comes up often before tasting Espresso.

On the one hand, the (self proclaimed) experts, of whom one will receive a somewhat disagreeing look, because they are convinced that coffee can only be tasted without sugar, to those who love the sugared crema like the one you get in the bars of Napoli. But what is “the real thing”?

First and foremost, let’s start with the fact that with Caffè Espresso, as with any other dish or recipe, there are two ways of tasting: the enjoyable way of culinary delights or the critical and analytical. Both deserve the utmost respect, but must be clearly separated.

If you talk about the first form, the “pleasurable” way, the following slogan from a few years ago might come to mind: coffee is a pleasure, this is why we need to enjoy it too!
With sugar, with cream, with Biscotti, with a dash of vanilla syrup or “corretto” with rum! Sometimes we may even like to put in our espresso two spoons of sugar and a touch of cocoa, while next time the bitter taste is just right for our current “feeling”.

Coffee can vary and also the way you want to enjoy it.
From the analytical side, however, the matter is considered somewhat differently. Over the years, especially since espresso has become known worldwide and has become a true science in itself, some aspects have emerged that distinguish a good coffee from a mediocre or a bad one.

Three elements are fundamental when tasting coffee:

1) “Cleanliness” of the cup (absence of roughness, earthiness and astringency)
2) Nuances of the flavors
3) Balance between bitter, sweet and sour taste

These criteria, unlike many might think are not covered up by sugar. Actually, sugar tends to emphasize them, both for the positive and the negative.
For example, in some varieties of Robusta and in many (or actually all) low quality blends, the sugar emphasizes the woody, rough taste which, characterizes such blends, in a negative sense.

To the contrary, in some Arabica varieties from Ethiopia or Central America, which are very fragrant but sometimes characterized by even too much bitterness, the sugar softens and rounds the acidity by countering the honey-like consistency, giving some wonderful taste sensations.

What do you coffee lovers think about this matter?