by Carlo Odello *
From Portland to Vancouver, via Seattle. Three cities, three states, two nations. But one great love for the quality of life and fine food. A love that express itself in a choice of high-level restaurants, expression of the diverse world cuisines that meet in this cities. A passion that involves the wine too, with its continued holding of more or less mundane events that bring in these cities the best producers worldwide.
And a visceral love for coffee. A fervent activity which is reflected in thousands of coffee shops, owned by the most important chains or independent. Yes, indeed: the independent ones, run by entrepreneurs who, in total financial autonomy, have decided to make coffee their business. And in many cases almost a reason for living. People that welcome you in the coffee shop with a pride and an enthusiasm that leaves you amazed.
Baristas who are not there by chance, people who made a precise choice and who prepared themselves for this. People ready to pull out a few thousand dollars to learn how to make a business plan for their shop, to understand how to manage it from a financial point of view, to develop a marketing that will give them a possibility more with respect to the fierce competition. Baristas who treat their equipment as objects of a liturgy: difficult to find a dirty machine, the metal always shines, the hoppers of the grinders are impeccable.
In any case there is something that leaves you a little confused. Because if it is true that the bow must be well tended if you want the arrow to go far, it is equally true that you must take a good sight. In most coffee shops you have the impression that the search for the perfection has led to a race in which who fills the filter the most wins. If you do not specify that you want a single espresso you will nearly always have a double, even triple one, considering that it is extracted from 20 grams of ground coffee. The feeling, as some Canadian friends confirm, is that they have misunderstood the concept of espresso: it has to be powerful, but someone said that power is nothing without control. Certainly, most of the cups go into cappuccinos, lattes and other beverages.
Yet, well begun is half done. And then, let’s start again, we said in the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. Well, we said, let’s see if we can bring the word of Italian espresso in such a complicated context. So we took the occasion of the invitation by Caffè Umbria, which for years has been working only with the Italian standard. So with the help of Pasquale Madeddu, Emanuele Bizzarri and Jesse Sweeney the first two Espresso Italiano Tasting courses were born. For the first time we went overseas, more precisely in Vancouver and Portland.
Our impression? At first a little difficulty by the participants to understand exactly the Italian standard, but at the end of the course, satisfaction on their part for the experience. It was helpful to them to hear the voice of Italy and they have finally taken the right measures of what is truly an Italian espresso. That’s the beauty of America: it is the land of opportunities. You just need to know how to catch them. The door is now open and some strange ideas about espresso have been eradicated, at least in the minds of our first students.
* Trainer and member of the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters