Two Americas, two Italies

by Carlo Odello *

Consumer Reports, operating in the field of mass consumption product assessment in the United States since 1936, have just tested 37 leading coffee blends on offer on the American market. Their report reads:

None of the 37 caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties tested by Consumer Reports coffee experts earned an Excellent or Very Good rating.

And that would be fair, as we know that the American market is accustomed to all sorts of products, mainly of mediocre quality (mind, the same could be said about us). The following statement is less convincing:

However, java lovers can still find at least a few Good cups of coffee. Starbucks House Blend and Green Mountain Signature Nantucket Blend Medium Roast perked to the top of the 14 caffeinated blends that earned a Good rating from Consumer Reports.

At 26 and 23 cents per cup respectively, both the Starbucks House Blend and Green Mountain Signature Nantucket Blend Medium Roast offer a good combination of taste and price. Both have an earthy, woody taste, but Starbucks was found to be a fairly bitter to very bitter darker roast, while the Green Mountain has green/sharp flavor.

In other words, the findings point out that, despite their earthy and woody aroma, Starbucks and Green Mountain lead the ranking of the tested coffees. Which could make sense, as such blends might at any rate be the less unappealing in the ambit of American coffee for mass consumption. But it is surprising to find out that Consumer Reports’ assessment is however positive. That means that two intolerable faults, such as earthy and woody aromas, are tolerated after all.

Such America is absolutely different from the one influenced by the Third Wave (or is it already Fourth Wave?) and by specialty coffee which, leaving aside some twisted principles, pursue total quality. And by no means equal to those Italians who continue proposing high level products, either exported from fatherland or produced in the States by operators of Italian descent.

Yet if, as we love doing, we compare ourselves to the United States we will realise that mediocrity is promoted by many in our country, too. And that such people, forgive me if I sound a little old fashioned, are active in educating the mass to appreciate faulty and disappointing coffee. This time the States do not rank first.

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