2008 International Coffee Tasting

In November 2008, there will be the second edition of International Coffee Tasting, the only one international competition where coffee is tasted according to the scientific rules of sensory analysis. While for wine there are many competitions and they are now part of its history and tradition, in the coffee sector competitions are often focused on the barista and almost never on the product. Coffee Taster is aimed at promoting a competition between the coffees from all over the world as to highlight the degree of pleasure offered by the product that comes from well renowned areas, that is cultivated with all the necessary attention, thoroughly processed, skilfully selected, properly roasted and, when needed, finely blended. It puts emphasis on the most prestigious products and points out to the consumers the best products available on the market, thus stimulating producers to pursue quality in its most modern sense: customer satisfaction. International Coffee Tasting 2008 will be organised, just as the previous edition, by the International Institute of Coffee Tasters with the technical and scientific support of the Taster Study Center. Single origin coffees or blended, in beans, ground or in single dose for espresso, moka or filter will be admitted to the competition. During the 2006 edition, 81 coffees have been evaluated by three commissions of expert tasters. Medals have been awarded based on threshold scores in full compliance with the competitions rules which established that the coffees which could be awarded a prize had to account for maximum 30% of all participants. It was a very tight competition and some products did not win a medal just for a few tenths of a point. There was a very strict selection that awarded prizes only to high-level products. The announcement of the competition and the application form are available at www.coffeetasters.org. For further information please write to info@coffeetasters.org.

World Report

New plant for Cma (Astoria and Wega) The new Cma, company that produces over 30,000 professional espresso machines – sold with the Astoria and Wega brands – each year, plant has been inaugurated. On its 40,000 square metres surface there are 4 production lines featuring lean manufacturing technologies. This is an industrial philosophy which belongs to the Toyota system and it is aimed at minimising – and actually getting rid of – all forms of wasting. This makes it possible to rationalise work flows and procedures for assembling the machines as well as to considerably increase productivity with a positive impact on overall efficiency.

Pellini partner in the Overland expedition Pellini Caffè took part in the Paris-Beijing expedition, the latest one organised by the Overland team, which will be soon broadcasted by RAI, the Italian national public television. One-hundred years after the competition won by the Prince Scipione Borghese on board of the legendary Itala, Pellini Caffè has accompanied the 4 Iveco lorries used for the expedition right to the heart of the Chinese Republic (the convoy covered in two months time a distance of 14.000 Km and crossed 11 countries). Recently, the Taiwanese importer and supplier of Pellini Caffè, You Chang Trading Co. Ltd, has opened an office in Shanghai.

This is how the nose talks to the brain How is the life-long connection between nose and brain created during the embryonic stage? The answer comes from a Telethon scientific research which also sheds light on the mechanisms of a rare genetic disease, i.e. the Kallmann syndrome, characterised, among other symptoms, loss of the sense of smell (anosmia) and severe reproduction deficits. The nerve endings start in the nose and, in order to go in the brain, must cross a border area which is a sort of barrier. Giorgio Merlo, a researcher from the Telethon Dulbecco Institute and his colleagues from the department of animal and human biology at the University of Turin have found out that some specialised cells act as if they were guards. This means that these cells are able to recognise the approaching signals sent by the nerves and they trigger a lowering of the barrier so that such signals can reach the brain. This takes place during the embryonic stage and creates the connection between the olfactory cells (which detect smells) and the brain (which processes them).

The photo exhibition of Illycaffè “From the beginning” in London The 6th of October was the closing day of the photo exhibition “From the beginning”. The photos by Sebastião Salgado have been taken in Illycaffè plantations in order to describe the culture of coffee in the countries where it is produced and to illustrate the various stages of the processing process. The exhibition has been organised in partnership with Amazonas Images, Contrasto and NBpictures and with the support of the International Coffee Organization and of the Embassy of Brazil in London.

Caffè Mokarico obtains the ethical-social quality certification Caffè Mokarico, from Florence, is the first roaster in the world that can boast three different certifications on environment protection, sustainable development and social accountability. It already had the ISO 9001 and the ISO 14001 certification and now it has received the SA 8000 (Ethical) certification for the company’s commitment to the fight against exploitation of child labour, to guarantying health and safety on the workplace, to the respect of human rights and workers’ rights with the support of all people involved in the production process and sales.

Enquiry of coffee tasters at the coffee shop The enquiry on the quality of coffee at the coffee shop, promoted by the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, has been kicked off. The tasters who are working all around Italy have already handed back several tasting cards. The tasters, apart from evaluating the coffee according to the strict method of the Institute, must fill in a tasting card which focuses on some of the most important aspects of coffee consumption other than the degree of pleasure perceived by the individual. This sort of investigation is complemented by a full-blown sensorial evaluation which is also focused on the analysis of the bar environment. To this purpose, twenty bars in the centre of Rome and Milan have been selected and analysed by judges – coffee experts – qualified in sensorial analysis. This research is supported by Altroconsumo, the first independent consumers association in Italy.

Good or bad, you pay it all the same

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 espresso taken at the coffe shop is one of the few products of the ‘Bel Paese’, Italy, associated with the idea of pleasure that you pay for all the same, be it good or bad. Actually, its price depends more on the geography – in the South of Italy it is cheaper – than on the degree of pleasure it can give.
Hear this out: two coffee shops in the Loreto area in Milan; both nice and rather big in size. The first one is Bar Gatto, with tables outdoors. I step inside an there is a sparkling counter behind which is a shiny Faema positioned in a way that makes it possible for the barista never to turn his back on the clients. I ask for a coffee and promptly the barista prepares it with the machine. I am not able to fully see the operations he is performing but it seems to me that he is doing things professionally. Here comes the first surprise: after having finished his job he comes round to me and says: “Listen, I prepared two cups because I will drink one myself, just choose the one you like most”. Believe me, for a second I thought I was not really in Milan. I give a look at the two espressos, in one of them there is a white spot – the same old story: the two exits of the filter-holder never give you two identical coffees – and so I go for the other one. Nice hazel-shade creamy froth with a fine texture, the smell is flowery. To the palate it is silky, with a fine balance between bitter and acid and then it develops a complex aroma in which you can distinguish the toasted bread, the cocoa, dried fruit and nuts. I ask for the name of the blend because I cannot possibly spot it: Prestige by Covim. I say that the coffee is nice, sit there and chat for a while and then I pay: € 0,80.
I carry on my tour in the various coffee shops looking for the sort of quality in the espresso that has been defined by the International Institute of Coffee Tasters and shortly after I walk in another elegant coffee shops with an attractive name: Bar del Corso. Once again, the staff is polite. I start speaking about the price of a cup of coffee in Milan, a very popular topic at the time. They guarantee they will not increase it till the moment the supplier will increase the price of the blend. I ask for a coffee and immediately the bar tender removes the filter holder from a nice Cimbali, he fills it with a strong stroke, he presses it with energy, he wipes any coffee grounds off the rim of the filter, he fastens it and observes the coffee while it pours in the cup and stops the machine at the right moment. No doubts that he knows what he is doing and he is professional.
He hands the coffee over to me and I observe it. The colour of the creamy froth is right but the texture is rather coarse. The notes of straw, dry grass and wet earth are clear to the nose. To the palate, it is thick and has a good body but as you swallow it the tongue becomes rough and the interior of the cheeks wrinkles. With regard to sensations perceived at the back of the throat, the notes are just the same notes perceived by the nose but even stronger and more annoying. I pay for it: € 0,90. I keep in my mind the name of the blend: Hardy. I then head to the following bar but I am accompanied by an astringent sensation that does not want to leave my mouth. I hope I will be able to find something better but I no longer want to have any more coffee and I am afraid I will not be able to be a fair judge for the sample I will taste.

The Brazil Santos Supreme

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.

Right on the Atlantic Ocean, with more than 180 million inhabitants, Brazil is the world leader in coffee production.
The history of coffee in Brazil dates back to the Eighteenth century when the Botanic Garden of Amsterdam, after having received a plant of Java coffee, only a few years later, sent its seeds to Suriname. The French themselves sent those seeds to the French Guinea in 1718 and from here the coffee reached Brazil.
The Brazilian origins, just like many other origins, are classified according to a set of criteria among which: the botanical species (Arabica and Robusta – or Conillon), the number of defects, the size of the bean (screening), the processing method (dry or wet), the taste, the year of harvest, the geographic origin. With regard to the geographic origin, Santos comprises the origins produced in the States of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and, sometimes, Paranà, i.e. those origins that historically have been exported through the Santos harbour.
The harvesting in Santos begins in June and export starts in July. Based on the classification defined by the NY, the Santos is of the type 2/3 (9 flaws), screen 17/18. It belongs to the group ICO natural Arabica. This coffee is a good match to the Robusta quality.
The strongest aromatic note of this coffee is undoubtedly the cocoa, with its chocolate nuances: the intensity of this smell is almost identical to that of the famous Jamaica Blue Mountain. The difference with the Jamaica Blue Mountain is that it has a stronger – medium intensity – burnt note (ash and coal). The marked merit of this coffee compared to others is in its floral aroma, decidedly clear, with sensations of honey and beeswax. Also the fruity aroma is rather good: fresh and dried fruits, with a peak on the nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), finish off the picture of a nice Arabica – difficult to believe that it is not wet process. Other positive notes can be sensed: the fine herbs, for example, accompanied by sensations of tee, liquorice, tobacco and similar spicy notes, but also all those toasted notes such as caramel, cereals, toasted bread and biscuit. A touch of green (comprising the grassy, the artichoke, the tomato, the cooked vegetables, and the bitter grass) comes in, but with lower levels compared to other origins. The same goes for an almost unperceivable sensation of mouldy. While, more than in others, but very much in the background, there is a bit of a plastic note. This is a coffee characterised by a good range and amplitude of aromas and by an overall low presence of negative odours.

Coffee Taster: our voice

by Sergio Cantoni, chairman of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters

In 2007 the International Institute of Coffee Tasters (Iiac) celebrates its 15th anniversary. Its results are flattering: more than 5.000 registered members from all five continents, more than 500 ‘didactic’ events in most European countries – but also Japan and South America – a book on coffee tasting methods which has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian – and will be soon translated into Japanese and Korean, tens of tasting sessions and at least as many conferences.
All this makes us proud and it is, first and foremost, the reason which lead the Iiac to promote this newsletter: we have important messages that we want to put across to a world that is rapidly changing. Indeed, coffee is no longer a mere commodity for an inattentive consumer. On the contrary, it actually is a beverage that is brilliantly matching knowledge and taste.
We are taking our distance from the idea of the species and the origins seen as generalisations of quality. The values coming from the combination between territory and sensory characteristics of the finished product are now being devoted new attention. Put it in other words, luckily enough, the times when the consumer asks the supplier to know more about the product, where it comes from, its composition and how it is prepared and, afterwards, comes up with a severe verdict by resorting to sensory abilities are now at the horizon. The espresso is no longer only made in Italy; whenever it is called “Italian” it must have specific characteristics, otherwise, it will just be an espresso from Seattle or somewhere else. The moka coffee will no longer be the classic brick that takes you up in paradise (thinking about the ad running on TVs), it will become increasingly a blend qualified by a specific narrative thread. In the wake of this, those who do not keep themselves always up-to-date and at high professional levels will lose their competitiveness. Our ambition, with Coffee Taster, is to make our small contribution to this sort of evolution which involves us directly. Therefore, this newsletter will deal with topical subjects and scientific research with an eye to sensory analysis. As Galileo used to say, there is no knowledge without the sensory experience.