Coffee around the world: Congo Kivu

We are in deep love with Italian Espresso, but from time to time it is nice to take a look at the way people choose and drink coffee in the world. We are glad to publish this short contribution by Andrea Gersi, an Italian-American coffee roaster that blends its Italian roots with the new American trends.

Congo Kivu

Beautiful notes of citrus, dark fruits and hibiscus awesome. 18 g shot for 25 seconds at 93°C temperature . Nice body for a single origin, very silky. The crema holds very well and the aftertaste is so pleasant: a very delicate cup . By the way, a very surprisingly cup.

UK customers looking for better coffee

What’s the state of art of the coffee market in the UK? We interviewed Simon Speed Andrews, Head of Training of Miko Coffee.

What’s the situation of the coffee market in the UK?

The coffee market is not precise, we have always been led by the culture of Italy, but serve what is more akin to America with a new lead from Australia and NL. The ‘Starbucks’ phenomenon in the early 90’s has capitulated the spread and expansion of the coffee shop. The problem lies with the fact that we drink milky style drinks and the coffee has not always been the main criteria for good coffee. The culture is now changing and the customer is seeking good quality coffee and the espresso element is becoming very important.

What is the general culture about espresso in the UK?

Espresso Culture per se is not evident, however this I think is in part due to the ‘Starbucks’ phenomenon, again with the high level of antipodeans arriving and working in the coffee industry this has changed the outlook for more artisan roasted quality blends and the focus is on the espresso but regrettably still more single origin 100% Arabica coffees rather than good blends.

What is the future of the espresso market in the UK and what do you think should be done?

The future for the espresso is very positive, however to change the culture we need to focus more on the espresso and educate not only the coffee companies but also the general public, in terms of the benefits of a quality blend and how to prepare correctly the espresso. Unfortunately little care is given to the beans by the coffee house or those that serve it and a lack of knowledge in how to prepare good espresso has led to what I can only describe, as at best a mediocre experience, to at worst nothing more than a flavourless poor experience.

The return of the blend: for love or for money?

by Carlo Odello *

The blend seems to be regaining ground in several countries where for many years the espresso has been seen as a single origin product. We are actually receiving signs of interest in the blend from the United States, and the same can be said for Japan.

This situation often leads to a double interpretation. Some rejoice saying that the rediscovery of the blend is a clear sign of more complex aromatic research. Others however, perhaps the more pessimistic, see it from a different light: the carefully selected single origins, particularly some washed Central American origins, have become very expensive in their pure form. Laws: the profit margin has fallen drastically compared to the past.

However the fact remains that for money or for love, the blend seems to catch on again. Not a bad thing for the Italian espresso which has always cherished the blend.

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

There is a market for the single origin. Or maybe not

By Carlo Odello and Giorgia Lavaroni 

Blend or single origin in the future of coffee? Which is to say: do consumers perceive the difference or a single origin market will never exist? This is an interesting question which involves the entire process, from production to roasting and to HoReCa. A pilot study conducted by the Tasters Study Centre in collaboration with the University of Padova made an attempt to provide the first-ever scientific answer to the question.

In order to test whether or not consumers perceive the difference between a blend and a single origin, 350 tastings have been made in Padova according to the methodology defined by the International Institute of Coffee tasters. On the tasting table there was a blend of pure Arabica with seven components and four pure origins (Santo Domingo Barahona Toral AA, Ethiopia Sidamo, Colombia Armenia Supremo and Haiti XXXXX). The group that did the tastings was evenly distributed between males and females with an age comprised between 18 and 64. Two thirds had a senior high school diploma or a university degree. In terms of jobs, 23% of them were self-employed, 21% employees, 15% students, 14% pensioners, 11% blue collars, 8% housewives and then other categories. The consumers-judges have been able to distinguish the blend from the single origin, in a statistically relevant way, preferring it to the single origin. They, however, demonstrated a considerable interest in “pure” coffees.

According to the study, there has been a remarkable evolution of the coffee consumer, more and more unfaithful and at the same time increasingly focused on taste to the extent that we can assume a considerable success of innovative consumption: the coffee menu at the restaurant, new niches in the bar sector, selection of the type of coffee based on your own sensory pleasure and on the time of the day and even new rituals in the family.

Operators from the sector were too extremely interested in the research. Even several roasters point out that there has been an evolution of the consumer who is increasingly more attentive and curious. The direction in which it is moving is not definable yet, however it is true that, in a society in which there is an increasing number of people who have a knowledge about taste, the quest for new sensory experiences involves also coffee. «We live in an era in which the consumers are increasingly more attentive, selective, aware and difficult to be conquered – says Roberto Morelli, director of the Università del Caffè – and their not being faithful, quite rightly highlighted by the study, is a challenge for those who make a bacon of quality and look for their loyalty through it». This is also a nice opportunity for those who are involved in training on coffee and on qualitative excellence. «There already is an audience interested in and motivated by these issues – Morelli carries on saying – Also from this point of view, I believe that single origins will generate in future more of a cultural interest, even curiosity, rather than a real consumption trend».

Some attempts to introduce single origin coffees in bars and restaurants have started been made some time ago. Caffè River has installed in some bar san additional coffee grinder in order to give the consumer the opportunity to ask for a single origin espresso, with a choice – varying on a monthly bases – between Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica and other Arabicas. «At the beginning, there was a certain interest, mainly driven by curiosity. This was detrimental for the standard blend which was cannibalised by a product which was perceived as being alternative to ordinary consumption – says Marco Dalla Ragione from Caffè River – In a short while, months if not even weeks, the interest in single origins weakened significantly without having even created a consumption niche alongside ordinary consumption ».

To support to what extent the market of single origins is still a controversial one, there is the extremely different experience of Evancaffè that introduced a menu of coffees in top notch restaurants. At first, clients were a bit wary, after which, the interest in single origins grew as years went by. It should be said that the enthusiasm and the desire to propose the single origins of the maîtres and of those who ran the restaurants played a crucial role in this. However, sometimes there is a lack of enthusiasm. «Based on my experience, Italian consumers are interested in single origins while, when it comes to coffee shops and restaurants, what you see is a complete lack of this sort of interest – claims Alessandro Borea de La Genovese – the single origins need to be ‘explained’ to the consumer».

Even for the large scale retail there are extremely different experiences. «Our interest in single origins is not recently born, we have a range of them which are having big success also in large scale retail– says Marco Comellini, marketing manager of Segafredo Zanetti – This is the sort of product you can sell without having to resort to the habitual promotional process». According to Comellini the consumers, rather than preferring blends to single origins, prefer having the opportunity to choose, on the coffee menu, the sort of product they want to drink in that very moment. So, while Segafredo Zanetti had a very positive experience, Vergnano is more prudent. «Distribution is very attentive to sales profitability so it’s extremely unlikely for it to afford to keep among its range products that do not attaint a certain level of sales volume – replies Francesca Panucci, marketing manager of Vergnano – Single origins will just carry on being a niche product which will give the opportunity to train consumers and to make the market evolve».

A very peculiar market, both in the HoReCa and in large scale retail. «Consumers are more attentive nowadays, they check and compare several brands and blends – says Fabrizio Polojaz of Primo Aroma – The curious consumers are fascinated by the single origins, more for the ideas they are connected with, rather than for a genuine desire to satisfy their needs». The key to this special market can be precisely these sensory needs. Only those who will be able to identify them will be able to enter or successfully stay in this market.

The Ethiopia Sidamo

by Manuela Violoni

Head of R&D and trainer of the Taster Study Center, she is specialised in semiotics and in synaesthesia of marketing. She is the panel leader of the sensory analysis laboratory of the Center and trainer at the International Institute of Coffee Tasters.

The Ethiopian coffee origins, coming from Eastern Africa, are possibly the authentic origin of coffee. According to a certain theory, all the Arabicas of the world come from an area in the west of the country, Kaffa, where the Islamic culture supported the consumption of this non alcoholic and brain-stimulating beverage. Nonetheless, the legend has it that the use and growing of coffee, as we intend it nowadays, have been started by monks from Addis Abeba, who used this beverage to stay awake during the long watches of the night.

The Ethiopia Sidamo derives its name from the area in the south of the country where it is cultivated at an altitude comprised between 1,500 and 1,800 metres. It comes in two varieties, i.e. natural and washed. For the former, the harvest is between October and March; for the latter, between July and December. Export is in different moments of the entire year. Both origins are a blend of small and medium round beans.

The washed Ethiopia Sidamo we tasted is characterised by well-defined and strong positive aromatic notes. The high level of cocoa, similar to the level of the Brazil Santos or the famous Jamaica Blue Mountain, goes hand in hand with a very strong flower and honey note followed by a pleasant touch of dried fruit (chestnut, almond, walnut and pistachio). The spicy notes of tea, liquorice, tobacco, and rhubarb can be sensed alongside the sensations of fine herbs. There is also a nice sensation of toasted, caramel and cereals as well as a slight balsamic note of mint, anise and alpine herbs. The burnt sensation is quite soft and, positive note, the negative odours which stand for a poor processing and stocking are very soft. The only exception is a touch of animal – in the area of the sweating horse, wet hair, leather and sweat – which gives that wild something. Even more in the background, there is just a smell of lime and, almost unperceivable, of mould. This coffee offers several pleasant and unexpected surprises.