In Italy, a new way of drinking coffee is taking hold, in “special” cafes that guarantee the quality of the beans, roasting, extraction and the entire supply chain. For a more conscious and ethical consumption

Fruity and floral notes of jasmine, rose, lavender, orange, peach, up to caramel and chocolaty flavors, more full-bodied and balanced from the gustatory point of view. Wine? No, coffee.

Indeed specialty coffee, the special coffee, strictly single origin, that is, coming from a single plantation. A variety of the highest quality that must be cultivated, roasted and finally extracted according to precise methods, to safeguard and enhance all its sensory characteristics.

A new coffee culture that promotes the quality of the beans, their traceability, a short supply chain and support for small farmers. A drink in a cup with extraordinary aromas to enjoy calmly, like a fine wine. For a more conscious, ethical and sustainable consumption.

What is specialty coffee

"The term 'specialty coffee' was coined in 1974 in America by Erna Knutsen, who in an issue of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal writes about a 'special' coffee, of high quality, grown in territories with a particular microclimate, a drink characterized by extraordinary aromatic scents", explains DavideCobelli, national coordinator of Sca Italy.

Today specialty coffee is also a worldwide movement led by Sca (Specialty Coffee Association), an association that provides professional training and dissemination, which tells the public about the quality of coffee and the importance of its traceability and control of the entire supply chain.

The world industry has often exploited coffee producing countries, specialty coffee wants to give a voice to small farmers by promoting conscious consumption. Paying the right price means allowing growers to study, to improve agricultural practices, which is the prerequisite for having an excellent coffee".

Read also: Visit to Mumac, the coffee museum

When specialty coffee arrives in Italy

"In Italy the phenomenon arrived about twenty years ago, at the beginning it was seen as the classic Anglo-Saxon fashion, but in the last decade it has increasingly taken hold on the national territory", continues Davide Cobelli.

"In Sca Italy we are 600 members, but there are also many who follow us but are not registered. The trend is growing, especially among the under 30 who are more sensitive and attentive to the issues. Today there is a return to nature, to wanting to 'take back' the land, and this translates into an interest in specialty coffee, because it is a way of making coffee that is fair and sustainable, respecting environment and farmers".

How to recognize real specialty coffee

"Specialty coffee is a traceable product, has an identity card that tells the country where it is harvested, the altitude, who the farmer is, the manufacturing process, its aromatic notes.

Furthermore, specialty coffee is defined as such only after a tasting test called 'cupping', conducted by Quality-Graders according to standards decided by the Specialty Coffee Association: on a scale of 100 points, to be 'special' roasted coffee beans must take at least 80".

What is brewing and what are the new extraction techniques

" Brewing stands for infusion, and indicates the techniques for preparing coffee alternatives to espresso. It is a method widespread in the Nordic countries, in the United States, in Asia, and is also meeting interest in Italy.

The infusion can take place with filtration systems such as V60, chemex, aeropress, cold brew for cold coffee. One of the most used methods is V60: a paper filter is placed in a funnel-shaped container, freshly ground coffee powder is added and water is poured. hot. The result is a aromatic filtered coffee, with different and extraordinary notes that are released in the cup and in the mouth, to be tasted calmly ".

Bugan, the first specialty coffee café in Italy

"In 2000 I opened my first café in Bergamo , initially making commercial coffee", says Maurizio Valli, founder of Bugan Coffee Lab.

"In 2005 I studied in Pavia at Andrea Lattuada, the only one in Italy who talked about specialty coffee; I understand that there is another way, more fair, honest and of quality, I start to travel the world to learn and know more and more.

In 2012, the turning point: I participate in coffee competitions and become the fourth barista in Italy with a coffee Panamanian. Among the audience there is a lady from Panama who invites me to visit her plantation, a journey that will change my life.

Upon returning, I decide I want to tell everyone what's behind a cup of coffee, and in 2014 I open the first coffee laboratory in Italy: the Bugan Coffee Lab, a place where we do training courses for professionals and amateurs.

Italy is considered the homeland of coffee, but few know that coffee is the seed of a fruit. We try to make culture".

How to taste specialty coffee

"First rule: nothing sugar", warns Maurizio Valli of Bugan Coffee Lab.

"Quality coffee does not need to be masked. I personally go to the fields of South America to choose the coffee, strictly a single origin Arabica, that is, it comes from a single plantation. A variety of the highest quality. which must be processed, toasted and finally extracted according to precise methods, to safeguard and enhance all its sensory characteristics.

Second rule: no rush.

Specialty coffee is not drunk standing up at the counter, but should be tasted calmly, letting the barista guide you in a different sensory experience than usual. You choose the extraction method, between espresso or filter coffee, then you decide the type of coffee, we tend to offer two: Ethiopia, fruity, floral, with an evident acidulous note, and a Central American with notes of caramel, chocolaty, more full-bodied and balanced from the gustatory point of view.

After choosing the coffee, drink the water, which should be sipped before and not after as is usually done, to cleanse the taste buds and prepare for the tasting.

We wait for the extraction, then the glass is swirled, as is done with a glass of wine, in order to 'break' the foam on the surface that traps the underlying aromas.

In Italy there is no specification that certifies the real specialty coffees, so beware of imitations! To understand who the real specialty coffees are you must observe the local, the machinery, the information provided, the packaging that must bear the identity card of the coffee, even the price is an indicator of authenticity: a specialty coffee cannot cost less than three euros".

How to prepare specialty coffee at home

"Just equip yourself with the right equipment, online we sell everything you need , from quality coffee to mocha with a filter designed specifically to improve the extraction and therefore the quality of the drink ", continues Maurizio Valli of Bugan Coffee Lab.

"It is essential to the choice of water , which is the main ingredient for a good coffee: never tap water, it is full of limestone or chlorine, you must use bottled or filtered water".

How to find specialty coffees in Italy

"In 2017, during my three-year degree thesis I mapped specialty coffees in Italy, first in pdf and then digitized", says the designer Leonardo Santetti.

"The Coffee Guide app was born, the site, constantly updated, and the printed guide The Italian Specialty Coffee Guide , of which a second edition will be released in 2023.

The phenomenon has grown a lot: in 2017 I had about 50 specialty coffees, today we are at 200. However, this is a niche reality, because specialty coffees represent less than 0.1 percent of all bars, which in Italy number around 150 thousand.

The highest concentration is recorded in the North, with 'happy islands' scattered throughout the country, such as Florence, where the movement of special coffees arrived in 2013.

The term specialty coffee was coined in 1974 by Erna Knutsen in the United States, but it was in the late nineties that the phenomenon spread to the Anglo-Saxon world, in Seattle, San Francisco, Melbourne, London. In these cities there are cafes that look like wine bars, where there is a very wide choice of coffees, with at least three or four coffee grinders, and where the barista - who is like a sommelier - accompanies you to a truly exciting tailor-made route.

In Italy, the pioneers who first bet on specialty coffee are, for example, Ditta Artigianale di Firenze, Bugan di Bergamo, Caffè Terzi in Bologna".

The reference point in Milan is Cafezal, in viale Premuda 18 and in via Solferino 27, an independent roasting company that since 2017 rigorously selects the plantations and artisanally roasts the best green coffee beans.

Specialty coffees and design

When we talk about specialty coffee we also talk about design, from the warm and welcoming interiors to the comfortable furnishings, from the relaxed atmosphere to the equipment on display, polished and impeccable.

"Among the preparation tools there is the machine chemex, a decanter with filter, a beautiful object that is on permanent display at MoMA in New York, an invention German, but patented in America in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm", continues Leonardo Santetti.

"Another singular object is the aeropress, a 'nomadic' machine, made of plastic, very light, ideal to be taken on a camping trip, an invention of the American Alan Adler, producer of Aerobie, the competitor of the frisbee.

In addition to the quality of the drink, what is striking about the special coffees, and most likely what has decreed their popularity, is the scenographic aspect of the equipment and the premises: on the counter there is a succession of mysterious stills , enchanting clear glass ampoules, pot-bellied jugs, measuring cups for meticulous dosages, 'pierced' cups, copper coffee pots, it seems like entering an alchemist's laboratory".