In Italy, coffee is as much a part of the culinary culture as pasta. Just think of all the coffee-related terminology we borrow from Italian – latte, cappuccino, espresso, barista. That’s an indication of just how coffee-mad a country Italy is. And also a sign that, when it comes to coffee, Italians set the standards that everyone else wants to follow.
For Italians, drinking coffee is also very much an outdoor pursuit – or, to use their term for it, al fresco. There is little more quintessentially Italian than a pretty piazza lined with coffee bars, with patrons sitting in the sunshine at outdoor tables chatting over an espresso.
Of course, you can’t do much here in the UK to replicate the Mediterranean sunshine that draws people outdoors most of the year round in Italy. But when the sun is shining, why not enjoy your morning coffee in authentic Italian style out in your very own garden, patio or veranda? All you need is a good coffee machine, the finest Italian blend… and an outdoor coffee table.
Here at Jo Alexander, we love a good coffee table for the garden. As far as garden furniture goes, larger tables and dining sets often hog the limelight, along with the usual laze-about-in-the-sun-all-day seating arrangements – loungers, daybeds, sofas etc.
But for versatility, we don’t think you can beat a coffee table. After all, if you’re taking out that morning espresso or latte or cappuccino to enjoy outside, you don’t want to be chained to the big dining set and always have to sit there to drink it. You want to have the freedom and flexibility to move your lounger or deck chair wherever you choose, to get the best of the sun or find a little shade. You want to make use of that showpiece garden bench you invested in.
But where do you put your coffee cup when you move around your outdoor space? Not to mention the book or magazine or newspaper you take with you. Why, a coffee table of course.
Not only are they versatile, but coffee tables also make a pretty addition to any garden. Here are four examples in different styles that we think are perfect for those relaxing al fresco moments.
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Let’s start with the classic coffee table style. Low slung, rectangular, this gorgeously simple Provence vintage teak coffee table is the kind of furniture piece that would be equally at home indoors or out. With a generous surface area, it’s ideal for serving drinks or snacks to a group, not just for enjoying a solo espresso moment.
Its low height makes it an ideal companion piece to sofas – again, inside or outside your home. And if you’re querying the wisdom of having wooden furniture outdoors exposed to all elements, well that’s the beauty of teak. The high oil content of this fabulous tropical hardwood makes it naturally water and rot resistant, and it can be safely left outdoors all year round with no ill effects.
As well as specialising in teak garden furniture that has a timeless, traditional quality to it, we also love our polished concrete furniture collection. We love the fact that, given an artisanal polished finish, a material as mundane and maligned and concrete can literally be scrubbed up to achieve a unique glimmering beauty.
We stock polished concrete tables in a wide variety of shapes and sizes – the fact that concrete is moulded makes it ideal for realising a broad sweep of different forms. But as far as coffee tables are concerned, we think this round Isla example, complete with its rust effect steel lattice base, sums up the urban chic appeal that polished concrete carries.
Earlier in this piece, we suggested that one of the attractions of having a coffee table in your garden was that you could drag it around with you wherever you wanted to sit while sipping your cappuccino. Well, the two examples offered so far, as attractive and useful as they are, are admittedly on the large side to be moved around with too much regularity.
But coffee tables come in all different shapes and sizes, and we have a number of smaller examples – often referred to as side tables – which really do offer complete flexibility. This lovely wooden round folding table is made to be rolled out as required and stashed away neatly when not. Wicker is also a very useful material for a small table as it is very light and therefore easy to move around.
In Italy, a cafe or coffee shop is called a ‘bar’ – which can be confusing for people in countries where a bar is somewhere you go for an altogether different type of beverage! A common feature of the outdoor seating areas in an authentic Italian bar are the round-top tables.
So for a real Italian al fresco coffee-drinking experience, how about adding this Charlwood zinc-topped round table to your garden collection. The curved tripod legs and scrolled feet have a classic elegance about them, while zinc is popular as a table surface because it has natural germicidal properties and is also easy to clean.