Filippo Mezzaro crowned 2014 Espresso Italiano Champion

2014-10 Filippo-Mezzaro-vincitore-EIC2014

After months of anticipation, the 2014 Espresso Italiano Champion has been named. Held for the first time in London at Pall Mall’s Royal Automobile Club, Filippo Mezzaro beat 14 other baristas to win the prestigious title. All 15 competing baristas came from 14 Italian espresso companies and partner organisations from around the world.

Each barista had 11 minutes to produce 4 espressos and 4 cappuccinos, judged by a panel of technical and sensory judges. The technical judges graded the baristas on the production of their coffees; whilst the sensory judges let the coffee speak for itself.

Each barista was awarded a certificate by the Vicepresident of INEI (Espresso Italiano National Institute), Marco Paladini, and the Secretary General, Luigi Odello. For the best espresso, Cristian Tetro representing Costadoro, took the title and the best cappuccino went to Alessandro Corsi, Essse Caffè. The overall champion, creating the best espresso and cappuccino of the day with the perfect technique, was of course Filippo Mezzaro, representing Torrefazione Saturno.

Filippo’s family life has over 40 years history in the cafe industry: ‘For me, coffee is first of all a passion, but managed with the proper training, it is a much higher quality.’ Filippo has always participated in courses run by the INEI and IIAC (International Institute of Coffee Tasters) and has always believed in continuing his education alongside his hard work as a barista.

This debut event and Filippo’s win signify the beginning of a new trend in the UK coffee market – a trend that celebrates the skill of a traditional barista and the origins of Italian espresso.

Be a protagonist of the world’s biggest Italian Espresso event!

Coffee Experience, the world’s biggest Italian Espresso event, is returning again this year to Verona from 7th to 11th April. The figures for 2010 have been impressive: 35 coffee blends available for tasting, more than 7,000 Espresso coffees served over five days.
If you want to put yourself to the test, then send us your application! We are looking for two baristas who will be at the centre of the Coffee Experience scene. We offer our baristas food and accommodation in Italy, and the possibility of a true and unique experience in the world of Italian coffee. Please write to

Italian espresso abroad: training will save us Italians

by Carlo Odello *

Some people still believe that simply by virtue of being Italian we are entitled to talk about espresso with greater authority than others. It is a comforting thought cherished by many. And yet it could not be further from the truth, at least in some of the markets much coveted by us Italians.

Let’s take Japan, for example, a country that loves Italy and its products: the food, wine, fashion, history (because history is also a product that has to be sold through adequate marketing; who knows, perhaps sooner or later some of our politicians will wake up to this fact). Italian espresso therefore has an advantage over the other products. And yet let no one believe for a moment that being Italian is enough in itself to sell coffee in the Land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese are careful buyers: their selection of products is extremely accurate, long and complex. But once they choose a product, they stick to it faithfully, unless of course the supplier himself turns out to be unreliable.

Let’s take the USA, which have a very strong home market boasting thousands of coffee roasters. The specialty coffee and the so-called Third Wave dominate the market. And the West Coast, from Portland to Vancouver via the legendary Seattle, is a stronghold of espresso made in the USA (but luckily there are exceptions, such as Caffè Umbria which stubbornly and successfully continues to offer the tradition of Italian-style espresso). So let’s face it: the Americans are only relatively interested in Italian espresso.

What is the best way to enter both the Japanese and the American markets? Training, of course. The Japanese want to have certainties rather than half-truths. They want to have the tools to judge the quality for themselves. For this reason they appreciate the tasting courses designed to teach how to assess the quality of Italian espresso. As for the Americans, we just need to explain to them our espresso: the training periods are therefore vital to explain to them the importance of our seven grams per cup, of our 25-millimeter extraction, the centrality of the blend, and so forth.

A student of mine, who is a celebrity barista, told me recently in California: “The coffee tasting course has opened my eyes on what you Italians mean by espresso”. There are still many more eyes to be opened. And only through training can real culture and experience be passed on. The rest is important but nowhere near as effective.

P.S. Talking about training: from 18th to 20th May there are advanced courses in Brescia run by the International Institute of Coffee Tasters.

* Trainer and member of the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters

Italian Espresso and North America: let’s re-open the game

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

Why can I refuse wine when it is corked, but I have to pay a corked coffee?

by Luigi Odello

Secretary General of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, he is also a lecturer at the University of Udine, Verona and at the Cattolica in Piacenza. In addition he is the Chairman of the Taster Study Center and Secretary General of the Italian Espresso National Institute

There is a strange combination in the chemicals of foods, which can be very useful to understand how the coffee industry is less mature than that of wine.
Both drinks contain the trichloroanisole (and their companions), perceptible at the level of one part per trillion (threshold of perception in the air, in coffee and wine is a little higher), which is seen by our sensory system as a threat and then declined in the most categorical way.
In fact, even a suburbs medium-level restaurant refuses to replace a bottle of wine to a customer if it is corked, while for coffee, people close their nose and drink. Yet from a data base we have been filling for years we understand that a significant amount of coffee on the market has trichloroanisole concentrations well above the threshold of perception, even 500 times. Yet they continue to circulate without limits.  
However, if we go on talking about defects we can consider geosmin’s smell of rotten wood and earth, pyrazine that gives a vegetable taste (pea, chicory, depending on what accompanies it and on the levels of presence), dimetilsulfide and dimetildisulfide, both donors of fetid scents, or the more calm vinylguaiacol that, when highly concentrated, confers smoke and burnt taste.
These are just some examples, because in the course about the defects in the coffee, which the International Institute of Coffee Tasters is developing, the tasters will have the opportunity to try about twenty, spending an unforgettable day. It is necessary to make this step to create an embankment to the product of poor quality circulating unpunished on the market to accurately identify and tell the barista that he can drink it himself!  
Precisely for this reason many topics related to sensory vices and virtues of coffee, as they originate and by which compounds are given, will be discussed during the modules of the Professional Master of Coffee Science and Sensory Analysis which will be held on next 22-24 September.

I’ll be a barista when I grow up

by Roberto Sala

Barista. His bar, the Mary’s Bar in Costa Masnaga, in the North of Italy, was set up by his great-grandparents in 1928. He was brought up surrounded by machines, bags and cups. Fifteen years ago he started his job behind the counter: from 2001, he is a coffee taster and Espresso Italiano Specialist.In February 2007, he has been appointed to the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. He is the first barista who has been appointed to such a role.

I’m increasingly committed to training. Alongside my job at the coffee shop, I’m frequently asked to teach. Recently I had the opportunity to teach to a group of will-be barista who all started basically from scratch. People of all ages and without any experience. What to do when you find in front of yourself a bunch of pupils who have no idea whatsoever on the work they’re going to do? You start from the basics. This is the reason why I tried to teach them all the basics bearing in mind the fears and difficulties that learning a new job comes with. I taught them the basics of coffee-making, I introduced them to the machines, I told them when and how to use and clean them, and about the preparation of the product. We went, as much as the available time made it possible, into the very details and I tried, above all, to pass on to them my personal experience. I also taught them about aperitifs and cocktails but I preferred focusing on the preparation of coffee, stressing the rules of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters and the Italian Espresso National Institute. I had one thought in my mind: it was fundamental to me that the pupils understood the importance of espresso and especially that they understood that the coffee at the bar must trigger emotions in the client. The pupils had to face up to several difficulties many of them coming mainly from the fact that they had no knowledge of the machines. I also noticed a certain mistrust in their abilities and a bit of fear in facing a product they did not know. Time was against them: they had to learn everything in a few hours only. They were, however, supported by a strong desire to learn which reassured me. Beyond technical doubts, the pupils were all nervous for the start of their new business, some of them were afraid about not being able to face the client. How can you become self-confident in doing your job, how can you make sure that the client will come back? An ages-old question with a similarly ages-old answer: offer high quality products with kind manners.

Spain: the growth of the coffee sector passes through training and the culture of the product

By Carlo Odello

We speak about the Spanish coffee market with Emilio Baqué Delás. Baqué is one of the greatest experts of this market. Indeed, apart from being the vice-president of the Spanish Association of Coffee Roasters, his is managing director of Grupo Café Dromedario – Cafés La Brasileña (approximately €24m turnover with a production of 3000 tons of roasted coffee per year). He is, in addition, president of the Comercial de Materia Primas, the second biggest green coffee importer in Spain, owner of 13 roasters in the country.

Can you describe the Spanish coffee market?

In Spain there are approximately 250-300 coffee roasters of which 130 are members of the Spanish Association of Coffee Roasters and of the Spanish Federation for Coffee. Over the last decade the process of concentration of companies has accelerated and this will carry on in future years. There will be a significant reduction of the number of companies for several reasons: many are family run businesses with the related succession problems, the greater difficulties at an operational commercial level (coffee machines, funding for shops and so on), the fact that some companies are after volume and that some others lack professionalism.

If we want to identify the major brands, we should distinguish between those that operate in the market for both consumption at home and horeca and those that focus on horeca only. The home market is in the hands of three multinationals – Nestlé, Kraft and Sara Lee – and some brands of big distribution chains such as Carrefour, Mercadona, Eroski and others. The multinationals and big distribution chains account for 90% of the market. Then there a  number of roasters that operate at a regional level, however, they are no more than 30. The latter, alongside many other roasters, are present also on the horeca market in which no brand goes any higher than a 10% market share. The regional or local brand is fine for the horeca market.

How about consumers?

The Spanish consumers do not have a real culture of coffee. It is not their fault: the coffee sector in general, from the roasters to the machines manufacturers, has never had a culture of coffee. The explanation for this lack of knowledge is to be found in the history of our country. Till 1977, the State strictly controlled coffee trade. The State was the exporter of green coffee and defined the sale price to the roasters and the price of the roasted product of which there were only three categories: Superior, Corriente, Popular. The criterion applied by the State had more to do with volumes and the price to the end consumer rather than with quality. The roasters roasted what they were given by the State and had no access to the wondrous world of species, origins and blends.

After the liberalisation, at the end of the ‘70s, the change process has been difficult and slow: the roasters learned little by little thank to the generational change in the companies, some of them started to invest in training of the sellers and of the consumers and coffee shops started becoming popular.

Still today, however, many consumers see coffee as simple food and believe that all the coffee comes from Columbia on the back of Juan Valdez’s mule. These are the consumers of coffee with milk served in a crystal glass, those who defend the torrefacto, the coffee roasted with sugar added to it, these are the consumers who still believe in old clichés. In other words, they are those from the past.

There is an increasing number of consumers who have grater knowledge and want to chose, who look for a specific origin or for a blend of coffee with a majority percentage of Arabica, who abandon the torrefacto for naturally roasted coffees, which is to say, simply roasted without adding any sugar. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to come.

Let’s talk about the barista: what is their level of professionalism?

In Spain, there has been a time when the most experienced person at the bar automatically became the barista. This was the person in charge of the coffee machine, of its maintenance and of taking care of it. All this is history which dates back to decades ago. In the years of the economic crisis many sought refuge in the horeca and the average level of professionalism of the barista dropped. Luckily enough the specialised schools have been able to make up in part for this gap over the last few years. The level of professionalism improves as long as the roasters cooperate in the training activity in these schools.

The new problem of the Spanish horeca is that nowadays the country has an unprecedented life style and the horeca workers tend to leave to go in more comfortable sectors. This is the reason why there are increasingly high numbers of immigrants doing this job with very little training and with very high turn-over. Curiously enough, this is happening in a time when the Forum Cultural del Café, a non-profit organisation founded to promote the culture of coffee in Spain, and the member roasters are launching more and more competitions between baristas, training courses and events dedicated to them. The last two winners of the barista championship organised by the Forum Cultural del Café come from Peru and from Morocco. This shows that focusing on training for the barista, despite being difficult, is fruitful.

To conclude: in your view, what is the future of the Spanish market?

Spain is a country which must still come a long way in order to improve its cup of coffee. This is an effort that the sector must make in the next few years. The average coffee consumption in our country is of 4 kg of green per head per year, which means that we are the tail ender in Europe. If we keep working on training consumers, if we keep promoting the culture of the barista in the horeca too, if we keep caring about the offer of the product to the consumer – with more coffee shops, with more specialised shops, with a broader product range – if we do not let go on this and if we do not start looking for a short-term benefit, then we might as well take this market up to higher numbers. This is the incentive for those who do my job.

Japanese baristas: training in Italy for a greater expertise

by Roberto Sala Barista. His bar, the Mary’s Bar in Costa Masnaga, in the North of Italy, was set up by his great-grandparents in 1928. He was brought up surrounded by machines, bags and cups. Fifteen years ago he started his job behind the counter: from 2001, he is a coffee taster and Espresso Italiano Specialist.In February 2007, he has been appointed to the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. He is the first barista who has been appointed to such a role.

Recently, I hosted in my coffee shop some Japanese baristas who were accompanied by the infaillibly efficient Yumiko Momoi – the secretary general of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters for Japan. We spent a few hours together in my coffee shop. This was a great occasion for speaking about espresso and cappuccino and for working together at the espresso machine. Actually, Chihiro Yokoyama – a colleague who won several times the Japanese Barista Championship – was there with the group. First thought: all the baristas had an in-depth and specific knowledge of the entire coffee production process. Put it more clearly: they know what sort of processing the product they use every day went through. They’ve got clear views on the differences between the species, between the various ways of processing green beans and so on. This is not irrelevant: you can make the most of a semi-processed product such as coffee is only with a deep knowledge of how it is processed. This makes it possible to extract its specific sensory characteristics.

Second thought: strong preference for coffee with sharp acidity. The Japanese see a strong connection between this characteristic and the persistence of the espresso. They appreciate the blends from the North of Italy precisely because of their fresh acidity, nonetheless, they demand a highly delicate product. This is mainly due to a cultural reason: Japanese cuisine is a rampart of the delicacy of tastes and aromas. Adding to this point, confirmation of their preference for acid coffees came from the tasting of a pure Guatemala (for this occasion, I used the classic Italian moka because this is a delicate product which could have been ruined by the espresso machine). Anyhow, the Japanese baristas are well aware of the relevance of the blend: the single origins, despite their being interesting, are incomplete even from their point of view. This is an important common point of view with the Italian culture of espresso. Different views, instead, on cappuccino. Let’s say it: the Japanese, just like many foreign consumers adore it. There is, though, a difference between our cappuccino and theirs. The Italian traditional preparation method has no separate phase between the foamed milk and the coffee. The espresso must be blended with the foamed milk with the aim of obtaining a uniform cream. This characteristic, according to Yokoyama, is not fully appreciated by the Japanese consumer. This is the reason why the Japanese cappuccino is a mix of espresso and milk with a final top of foam which is often also decorated. This conveys to the beverage the typical note of tactile softness which comes from the milk foam on top. The point is that this creaminess does not characterise the overall cappuccino. This is a variation to the Italian recipe intended to better satisfy the preferences of the Japanese public. Given the professionalism of their baristas, the Japanese are a very lucky public.

The Professional Barista’s Handbook

by Carlo Odello

The Professional Barista’s Handbook is an interesting attempt by Scott Rao – American consultant in the USA coffee business – to provide a 360° view on the art of being a barista. “When, 14 years ago, I started working in the business I used to read each and every available book on coffee I could find – says Rao in the introduction. After having read all these books, I was left with the impression that I had not learned so much on how to prepare a great coffee”. In a few words: there was no book with the most relevant and down-to-earth hints for a barista. Given that he could not find any, Rao decided to write one himself with the aim of producing the first truly exhaustive manual for a barista. No doubt that this is a book which covers everything and each topic is dealt with in great detail: percolation, dosing, the methods for levelling the ground coffee in the filter-holder, pressing and, it goes without saying, everything which has got to do with preparing an espresso (more than that: there is also a chapter on tea). The author makes a thorough description with continual reference to scientific research, data and numbers. However, sometimes, Rao suffers from excess of zeal and proposes solutions which could be deemed, quite rightly, a bit complicated and the usefulness of which could be legitimately questioned. If we neglect some overdoing here and there, Rao’s book is a good quality guide. Indeed, it is a collection of most of the things a barista should know if s/he wants to define her/himself a real professional barista.

The Professional Barista’s Handbook
Author: Scott Rao
Dimensions: 17,7 x 25,3
Pages: 100
Price: US$ 45,00
ISBN: 978-1-60530-098-6

You can buy it at: