Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Coffee in Italy


Italy. One country that is venerated to a true place of honor in coffee contributions. Espresso, though only one manner of coffee infusion, pretty much began from popular Italian culture and the art of Italian espresso has helped sculpt the modern quality coffee world.

But despite the inspiration, the current coffee culture of Italy seems to differ from that of the many other countries it could claim to have inspired. I had heard it from many firsthand sources, such as from The Shot's wisdom and from World Barista Champion
Giorgio Milos per a coffee class I covered (which also featured the knowledge of Illy man Moreno Faina) as well as from his diagnosis on American coffee (which is an article made into a great discussion by the comments). All in all it seems that some would say the non-Italian culture is inferior (this seems to be mostly Italians) and others would say it's just different.

So I decided to check out Italy myself. I recently had an opportunity to travel through Rome and Tuscany, so I had decided from the beginning to make some cafe stops and write up some reviews on the coffee. I scored some great recommendations (many from The Shot as well as some from internet research) and planned to make several cafes a must on the tours of the day (I even marked up my maps!).

Yet after going through a couple cafes, the differences in their product really seemed pronounced. My research told me that there were many cafes doing decent espresso but few serving great. This might sound blasphemous to some but of all the espresso I had in Italy, not one shot really stood out as amazing. I deduce that this seems to come down to the fact that espresso in Italy (traditionally) requires either sugar (straight espresso) or milk (cappuccinos) and I was drinking straight "cafe." As for taste, the espresso I had, at best turned out balanced (little bitter or sour notes) with flecks of citrus, tobacco and cocoa, or at worst bitter and lacking in other flavors.

And believe me when I say I sought out numerous cafes. I hit a bunch of big-name cafes, such as Sant'Eustachio (with the added sugar part of the initial espresso preparation) and Tazza D'Oro (with some really dark and oily beans prepared extremely poorly) in Rome as well as some in Florence, like Caffeteria Piansa, Pasticceria Robiglio and Caffe Giacosa Roberta Cavalli. All of these supposedly excellent cafes (according to the Bar d'Italia) but all of them produced only decent espresso. And also true to the earlier statement, the random other cafes I patronized had fairly decent espresso as well.

Thus, after several experiences, I decided not to write up reviews of the cafes I attended.

Why you may inquire? Well, the first reason was that I saw little point. One of my goals is to identify good coffeehouses so people don't have to drink bad coffee, but that proves difficult given that most coffee in Italy hovers around average-to-decent and the cafes exist everywhere (literally, you can't go 500 feet without seeing one in the cities).

The other reason has to do with different standards. An Italian espresso is meant to be consumed with sugar or milk (according to many, including Giorgio) and thus, it would be of little value to measure Italian espresso according to my non-Italian tastes (and my tastes look for an espresso that can bust a move all on its own).

Some would argue that Italy clings to tradition with their espresso and that as a result, many other countries' cafes have made greater strides with it. While I can't claim to know what country is best with espresso, I can say that I have had better espresso in America and the UK than in Italy. Blasphemy? Only if you hate constructive criticism.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Mugged: Verona Blend [Kahve Koffee]


What does "Mugged" mean?

Kahve Koffee
Coffees Mugged:
Verona Blend
3+ [see key]

s sad as it may seem, when I see a coffee with an Italian name, I become slightly trepidatious of its quality. That's not because I hate Italian coffee; it's simply that all of the Italian coffee I've crossed has been either massively over-roasted or extremely stale (too many poor roasters trying to cash in on the rich and reputable coffee history of Italy).

Thus, I freely admit that when I received a pound of Kahve Koffee's Verona Blend (I assumed named for the northern Italian city of old) I almost rolled my eyes. Opening the bag displayed a mixed coffee blend of medium to medium-dark roasts (the website spouts that it mixed light and medium roasts).

But my infusions of drip, french press and siphon disintegrated some of my concerns. The french press did produce a bit of a darkness but it held a lot of complexity. There was bits of granola, peanut butter, light cocoa, garlic pepper and an overall sweetness. The darkness seemed to favor the front, the nuttiness the middle and the sweetness on the end.

The drip produced a cup that had a combination of tastes more similar to Dr. Pepper. The coffee was a little less dark and held tinges of granola, cocoa and garlic pepper. The sweetness was a bit stronger here and overall, this brew was much smoother.

The siphon was akin to the drip, similar in its Dr. Pepper taste and its facets of cocoa and nuttiness. There was some vanilla here and though the darkness was still present, it seemed to move to the back and display more subtlety.

Kahve's Verona overall made a good impression but the bitterness plus a mediocre quality made this coffee only so-so. Thus, I wouldn't go as far as to say that Kahve has reconciled my skepticism of Italian-named coffee blends, but its helped me on the road of hope (note that I have nothing against good Italian coffee...just the bad stuff bringing down Italy).

If you are on the lookout for a decent Italian-dubbed coffee blend, sample Kahve Koffee's Verona Blend.

note: coffee was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

CC: Hausbrandt

What's a Coffee Commentary?


Location visited: 15th St, Philadelphia
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]


This coffeehouse I had not caught wind of until recently, when they were dubbed City Best coffeehouse 2006 in Philly. I decided to give it a whirl even though I am always suspicious of AOL cityguide's "Best of" (in the same "best of" for the coffeehouses, they placed a faux coffeehouse in the top ten...) as well as other "best of" rankings due to the ambiguity of criteria.

Last week, two friends and I embarked to Center City to hang out, and as we were driving we decided to see if Hausbrandt was open. We caught them 5 minutes before closing and they were happy to serve us (fortunately).

Taking a look around, I noticed that they had no formal menu, which I guess means that they have a java-wise clientele. Taking a look at their own beans, imported from Italy (so not as fresh as local-roasted) I decided on an americano (mainly because they had no coffee left 2 minutes before closing). I have to say it was pretty good.

I looked at the tea as well, it was bagged (as apposed to free leaf) and called Kronen. Nothing fancy (I'm pretty sure it was a Hausbrandt product as well).

Overall, I can't say I was "wowed" by this chain from Italy. It was good, but best of? Maybe I missed something...

Update 2/24/08

In retrospect and after a bit more review, it seems like I didn't miss anything. The coffee comes off with an obvious mediocrity and the espresso impresses similarly (a bleh sharpness). I must say that my opinion of the operation has definitely deflated since my original writing of this post. Oh well.

Update 1/3/10

Though this update is long overdue (I keep forgetting to update this), Hausbrandt is no longer an active cafe, but it seems that they are still plugging along with their Academia Del Cafes.