Brazilian government ready to retire 10 mlns coffee sacks from the market

*from the correspondent Antonello Monardo

The Brazilian coffee market is managing with an excess of offer. To avoid the situation to strike against producers, the minister of agriculture of Brazil, Reinhold Stephanes, argues that it is necessary to retire from the market something like 10 millions of sacks. A measure that will be adopt both this year and next one. It is estimated a sum of a billion of Brazilian reis for this operation (380 million of euro), of which 300 millions  will derived from commercialization and the rest from other sources. *

Antonello Monardo is living in Brasilia since 1992 and he his delegate of the Italian Brazilian chamber of commerce and industry. Working for café gourmet and special, he won the gold medal at the International Coffee Tasting 2008. He works on and manages classes for barmen and barwomen, he takes part to conferences and events in universities, spreading the culture of the quality coffee.

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.

Japan: three license courses in September

IIAC Japan will organize three license courses in September:

  • Tokyo (09)
  • Osaka (10)
  • Fukuoka (11)

More information:, ph. +81 3 54116191.

Costa Coffee donates £150,000 to coffee growing communities to improve education

Profits raised from Costa Coffee’s inaugural National Foundation Day, held over the weekend in its 700 UK stores, were donated to the Costa Foundation. The registered charity was set up by Costa Coffee in 2006 to help to build schools and improve the lives of coffee growing communities around the world. Costa customers helped to raise £150,000 on Saturday 14 June which will now help build three new schools in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Uganda. “We wanted to give something back to the communities where we source our coffee and local farmers have specifically told us that the best way Costa can help is by focusing on education through building schools for their children," David Hutchinson, Costa Coffee Marketing Director and Costa Foundation Trustee, said. Since 2006, the Costa Foundation has improved sanitation, developed land for families to grow crops, built teacher accommodation and built four schools in Colombia, Uganda and Ethiopia.

(Carlo Odello)

80% of UK consumers look for purchasing ethical coffee

Recent YouGov research commissioned by Costa Coffee has revealed that 80 per cent of people in the UK now want the option of purchasing ethical coffee from their regular high street outlets. And surprisingly, Brits are also willing to pay an average of 14p (€ 0,18) more per cup to ensure their coffee is ethical. But despite consumers’ willingness to pay more, Costa will not be charging any extra for an ethical cup of coffee. (Carlo Odello)

IKEA to only serve and sell UTZ certified coffee

The Swedish home furnishing retailer IKEA has decided that all coffee sold and served at IKEA worldwide shall be UTZ CERTIFIED. UTZ Certified is an independent not-for-profit organization that sets a standard for responsible coffee growing and sourcing, taking both people and the environment into consideration.
Annually, around 150 million cups of coffee are served and sold in the restaurants, bistros and Swedish Food Markets in 25 countries. Anders Lennartson – Quality, Social & Environmental Manager IKEA Food Services: “We serve a lot of coffee every day. We want our customers and co-workers to know that the coffee they drink is produced in a sustainable manner. Traceability is also important for a global company like us; an on-line coffee tracer will be available for the IKEA branded coffees”.

(Carlo Odello)

Schultz, Starbucks CEO: Italian baristas are very good, Italian coffee is awful

Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, was in Italy with a group of partners to study the coffee market in the country. In the last months he has been working on the repositioning of Starbucks, trying to face the threats coming from aggressive competitors as McDonald’s. Coffee Taster republishes the letter from Howard Schultz.

* * * *

Dear Partners,

As I write you this note, I’m flying back to Seattle with a small group of Starbucks partners after spending a few days in Italy. No, we were not there to open our first store in Rome, although I’m quite certain that day will surely come. We were there to conduct a market visit to take in “all things coffee,” and to have strategic discussions with leading food and beverage companies.

We tasted and consumed coffee in every coffee bar we encountered. We saw elegant designs, experienced the artistry of baristas, ate fantastic food, and were introduced to new and interesting product ideas for the future. It was exciting for me to, once again, return to where it all began. The Italian people are wonderful. Their passion for life, their love of food and wine, and their coffee, is contagious.

During our visit, I made the following observations:

The Barista — The Barista is highly trained and very skilled. He presents each cup of espresso with great care and pride after intently watching the pour of the shot. He steams the milk as an artisan to produce a velvety foam, and from time to time, truly elevates his work to “art.”

The Coffee — This will probably surprise you (and hopefully you will not view my assessment as arrogant, but rather as honest), but the coffee was not that good. It turns out that most Italian coffee roasters blend their coffee with robusta beans. This is most likely because of a need for increased profit, but as a result of this decision, much is lost in the cup. The coffee leaves you with a strong, acidic, somewhat sour taste on the side of your tongue. This taste was unpleasant and disagreeable, but prominent in almost all the coffee we tasted.

Despite the change in the taste of the coffee, the experience we had was overwhelmingly positive on both a personal and professional level. We all felt a strong sense of pride in our company and in all of you. For many years now, we have been a respectful inheritor of the Italian coffee culture. We have built our business honoring the very things we saw and experienced. And, in some cases, I am humbled to say, we have improved it.

All of you deliver a world class experience to our customers — one that I believe Italians would praise. We have challenges and opportunities ahead of us, but as long as we embrace our heritage and tradition, have faith in our coffee, our values, and our core purpose, we will continue to win the hearts and minds of our customers. As for the coffee, we never have and never will blend our coffee with robusta beans. We will leave that for others. It is important to note that today; we ethically source higher quality arabica coffee than in any other time in our history. And, in my view, we roast it at a quality level that is better than in the past because of new technology.

So, this trip brought me back to where it all began, but at the same time reinforced how good we are and how far we have come. We learned a lot. And, we will utilize much of this learning to keep pushing for innovation, while at the same time embracing our core, our people, and our coffee. All of which I am proud to say would stand tall even in the greatest coffee theatre of them all.

Thank you for all that you do.



Call them, if you wish, details

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.

Every day I pull up and down the shutter of my bar: we do this in my family ever since 1928. It’s now been 15 years since I started working behind the counter and preparing espressos and cappuccinos for those who, stopping by in this small town of mine in the North of Italy, decide to take a break or for the people who live here and regularly come to see me because they see my bar a part, so to say, an extra room, of their own house.

I love this job. And I like to do it thoroughly. Every single detail is important. This is the reason why I want to begin this column by speaking about the importance of details, which, at the end of the day, are not really details in that they make the difference between a skilled barista and a less skilled one.

Let us consider, for example, the resins of the softner. If they are not regenerated, as time goes by, the limestone will damage the mechanical components of the machine. In my bar I have a manual softner. I had an electronic one but I replaced it because I was not satisfied with its results. With the manual one I am using, I must devote at least one hour per week to its maintenance, a reason for which being that if the machine does not work properly, the coffee is less creamy. What sort of espresso is an espresso with a cream that does not deserve that name?

As I already said, details are important. The bell of the coffee grinder is often abandoned to the fat component of the coffee which coats it little by little with an opaque layer. Cleaning it is not simple because it is necessary to be careful and completely remove the oxidised fat otherwise the cup of coffee will be rancid. Normally, I use warm water and smell-less detergent – this is extremely important because I do not want to have in the air aromas other than those of the coffee.

Here is another detail: the steam wand. This is an important message to the client. First of all, at the level of the image you give, it is really annoying to see all those, too many actually, encrusted steam wands. It is also, and especially, important from the sensory point of view: if a wand encrusted with milk from a previous cappuccino is used for a new one how can the milk be whipped without leaving in it unpleasant aromas?

Mere details? Well, preparing an espresso is about details. Here are some other details. When I open a bag of coffee the first thing I do is observe the shape of the beans and sense their aromas. It is best to let it “breathe” for a while and not use it immediately. After one hour, approximately, I can put it in the machine. It goes without saying that I taste it personally to check the quality. The visual characteristics can be monitored for each espresso, while the gustatory sensations, the olfactory ones which are perceived directly and those which are perceived at the back of the mouth must be monitored all throughout the day. Indeed, many conditions can vary and have a negative impact on the sensory effect of the espresso. The basic parameters must, of course, always be kept under control: the pressure of the machine at 9 atmospheres, the water must be injected in the group at 88°C and the 7-gram dose of coffee must give in 25 seconds precisely 25 millimetres of espresso.

Some people might think that it is nothing more than an espresso. Some others might as well believe that the attention devoted to the very details in the preparation of the cappuccino is a gross exaggeration. Nonetheless, it is all about this: it is all the details that make the cup unique for our client. Otherwise, it is just a bit of ground coffee that undergoes a certain pressure. And so much for the pleasure of coffee.

Coffee in future

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

The coffee production cycle is long and, especially, all too often there is no contact between the various stages: whoever harvests the beans in the tropical countries rarely has an idea of how they will be processed and of the expectations of the final consumer.
We want to focus on this last element in that coffee, a successful one, in the future must be able to satisfy the desires of the consumers. It must be said that satisfying expectations is something that goes from the ritual modality to the place where you drink coffee. Having said this, the most important aspect is sensory trends.
Resorting to the ten points identified by the Taster Study Centre, we can try and define the profile of the winning coffee.

Increase in the number of taste-aware people
In future we will have more and more time availability and a part of this will lead to an increase in the number of taste-aware people. The sort of people who attend courses to regain their ability to make autonomous choices through an effective use of sense organs. We can see this trend already: just come to think about the 5.000 people who attended the courses of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. The increase of such people will, as a consequence, bring about a more demanding research for the satisfaction of the pleasure that can come from coffee. Ultimately, this will mean that people will point out to each other the good and bad products available on the market. The quality-minded companies will have a certain alley, all the others will be penalised.

Evolution of the analytical approach to taste
The increasing conviction of the inability to have a role in handling the major social issues will lead individuals to create for themselves some micro cosmos where they can find self-confidence, self-satisfaction and, in general, rewards. The small pleasures in life will become increasingly important and coffee is, undoubtedly, one of these. Greater attention will be devoted to the quality of what we drink and people will want to match taste and knowledge so that they can boast their specific competence.

Decline of gender differences
Males and females will be more and more similar in terms of tastes and, ultimately, of consumption. Coffee will become a way of getting together and the places where to drink it will become a sort of a stage of social life. This will be the background against which new rituals and sensory experiences will be sought for.

Looking for the lost sensory experience
We do not know to what extent this is true but many people say that coffee no longer has the aroma it used to, that intense and varied smell that you could find everywhere inside the bar. The diffusion of consumption systems that pay less attention to the olfactory quality – take automatic machines – and of a certain type of blends for home use – where, when you are lucky, only the aroma of roasted beans dominates – have deprived the consumer of an effective offer to a demand which, probably, has its origins in our genes. Well, the future will be characterised by a wealth of individuals looking for these sensory experiences.

Back to genuine aromas
Power, perfection, deepness: these are the three distinguishing qualities of an excellent cup of coffee. The Italian espresso owes a bit of its international success to these expectations of the consumer, even if they are unconscious. It is a strong sum of aromas and, when these are good, they are at the heart of a sublime moment of sensory satisfaction.
The preparation method is important because it can extract the very best from a blend but there is always the other face of the coin: if the blend is of poor quality, the negative sides of it will be even more noticeable compared with extracting via softer methods (e.g. filter and moka pot).
The return to genuine aromas will also reduce the trend to some experiences, such as aromatisation of coffee, whilst producing an increase of traditional matches, i.e. with milk or, in some cultures, with distillates.

The floral goes universal
Floral is the smell of life itself and is climbing the stairs of appreciation. In the coffee it finds its best expression in the varieties ripened at high altitudes – where the difference in temperature between day and night is sharper – subject to wet processing and then left for fermentation in pure and fresh waters. The not-too-strongly-roasted blends which have high quantities of the floral aroma will benefit from this and the same goes for consumption of pure varieties, single-origins which are becoming increasingly popular in Italy.

Decline of the fruity
The fruity aroma is one of the big favourites in that it is a promise of easily absorbable energy sources. Over time, in the industrial economies, it has been widely used to make products such as drugs more pleasant, hence being associated to negative things. In the coffee it almost always goes hand in hand with the floral and it is less strong than other sensations, consequently it will have no influence on consumption.

Cultural contaminations
Globalisation will produce a parallel and transversal flattening off of different consumption methods. If, till yesterday, Italy drank espresso and the US the filter coffee, already now, but especially tomorrow, the Americans will want espresso and Italians will be looking for other preparation methods. The segmentation between the various types will happen depending on the time of day: a long coffee for the morning, might be a single-origin, an espresso at the mid-morning break, a moka after lunch, for example.
The popularity of machines that are fed with coffee in beans, making it possible to have different preparations, will support this trend. And coffee will become more and more a ritual and always less of a habit.

Looking for softness
The world needs caresses. Therefore, from a tactile point of view, the coffee will be required to be more and more silky and absolutely astringent. The Italian espresso prepared with good-quality blends will be better positioned because it will have body, it will be syrup-like and creamy. Beverages such as cappuccino, which due to their nature have a remarkable tactile tenderness, will be rewarded. And with cream being criticised because of health issues, it will be up to traditional genuine beverages to satisfy the need for softness.

Looking for sensory consistency
Even if the consumer is not an expert taster, her/his subconscious verifies the level of consistency between the perceptions given by the various sense organs or between the perceptions of a different nature given by the same sense. In the coffee, the floral/fruity must keep a certain relationship with the roasted/spicy, the acidity with the bitterness, the bitterness and the roasted note with the colour of the creamy froth. From a coffee prepared with filter or moka, nobody expects neither the creamy froth nor the syrup-like touch, while for an espresso this is of paramount importance. And you name it.

Final observations
To wrap up, the coffee for the future will be the type of coffee capable of satisfying both taste and knowledge, the ritual moments and the needs of the life torn between increasingly hectic working styles and the desire to enjoy leisure time and, especially, through the little pleasures and the time we devote to ourselves. For coffee, if satisfactory from a sensory point of view, we can imagine what follows:

  • a new interest in single-origin varieties;
  • increase in consumption of coffee in beans both at home and at the workplace thanks to the new machines which make it possible to immediately grind coffee and prepare different types of it;
  • greater use of single-dose coffee both at home and at the workplace;
  • survival of traditional methods, e.g. the moka pot in Italy, which leave margins for a remarkable rituality and enable an adequate use of single-origin varieties;
  • growth of Italian espresso in the world.

Innovation, evolution or revolution?

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

In the next few years it will not be easy to keep up with innovation in the coffee sector, but, no doubts, it will be a fascinating time. In this issue of Coffee Taster, we shall deal with sensorial trends and what the big companies say with regard to the methods they use to monitor quality. Not far from now, at EISday2008, the annual conference of the Italian Espresso National Institute on the 24th of February, we will focus on the findings of the biggest ever research which has been conducted into the quality of coffee.
This is precisely what made us think about evolution/innovation in our sector: how many operators are ready to benefit from it? And how many will suffer from heavily negative consequences? The fact is that, outside the micro cosmos of each operator, there is a world which is changing at an unbelievable pace, but many people seem not to realise this.
Many producing country are moving towards a European-type of qualification of their productions. This will lead them to offering a better product and to wanting more money. At home people will increasingly use single-dose coffee or coffee in beans as a result of the existence of new technology machines which are more reliable and effective. People at home will drink a better quality coffee and the same will happen at the workplace. At home, and perhaps even at the restaurant, coffee will be part of a new ritual: single origins coffees will become more and more popular, a pleasure to share with friends, maybe extracted with a moka pot so that you can actually see the coffee coming.
It is, therefore, reasonable to wonder whether roasters and, especially, baristas are ready for this. The former will find themselves dealing with producers of green coffee and with a different style of coffee consumption, both inside communities and at home. Most probably, those who have not done it yet will have to establish direct contacts with the producers of green coffee, meet a new type of demand for home consumption and for serving and take care of their coffee bars – currently suffering from a reduction in consumption which could become even worse in future – in Italy with a different approach. For many Italian roasters, coffee bars are a strategic sector which is being governed by new mechanisms. The methods for attracting clients and handling them will change. The magic word will be training.
The International Institute of Coffee Tasters, which has always adopted this approach, is currently a reference point at an international level – with a tested method and with effective training instruments. Through its research activity, it is also an attentive observer of the evolution of consumption and quality of coffee as well as the relevant machinery. In 2008, in addition, we will have a new edition of “International Coffee Tasting”: could there be a better occasion for monitoring world evolution?