Italian Espresso & Cappuccino
Travel inspires me in a myriad of ways. Each trip, whether foreign or domestic, leaves me altered in some way that is reflected in my home, my cooking, my writing, and my way of life. In the past, I've only written about my journeys. For this sporadic series, I am going to write topics such as what I've brought back from my travels, what has made my travels easier, and even a recipe now and then. To be clear, no one is sponsoring me or paying me to recommend any products I may mention.
My first subject is Italian espresso. I am a coffee perfectionist. I never drink from the office coffee pot,nor do I order coffee when I'm out unless I know exactly what kind it is. At home, coffee is made exclusively in my own espresso machine. I do however love boutique coffee places, such as Porto Rico Importing Co.. They have two locations in Manhattan and one in Williamsburg. There, bags and bags of beans cast off intoxicating scents that surround my brain, leaving me drunk with desire for freshly ground, freshly brewed Columbian coffee.
But I digress. While other blogs can tell you about the glorious scenery and foods of Italy, this post is about espresso. On my first trip to Italy one of my first stops was the enchanting city of Siena. Certain travel moments remain frozen in time and one of my favorite memories is the first morning I stood at a bar and ordered uno cappuccino et uno brioche con marmelade. The small thrill of being understood when I spoke Italian was immediately overshadowed by the taste of the beverage and the flaky freshness of the croissant, followed by the explosion when I bit into the center of the pastry and the orange jam exploded in my mouth. As soon as I scooped the foam from the bottom of the cup with my tiny spoon, I ordered my second cappuccino. I went back every morning. This is still my routine every time I come to Siena.
In Italy, cappuccino is only appropriate at breakfast. Period. No exceptions. You drink it standing, not seated at a cafe table. If you are seated, you might as well wear a sign around your neck stating: TOURISTA. Depending on how late in the morning it is, you may see others at the bar indulging in alcohol, a "spritz," which is considered a mid-morning pick me up. It's usually made with Campari, prosecco, seltzer, and served over ice. At lunch, there is wine. No wonder Italians siesta in the afternoon. When they awake, there is a need for an espresso to revive them.
Italian espresso changed my life. Specifically illy brand espresso. Every time I left Italy, I cried as I drank my final airport illy. Then, I had an epiphany. No matter the cost, I would order illy at home. If I couldn't live in Italy, I could drink Italy. I was over the moon to discover that my favorite Italian beverage had a subscription service and would deliver my beloved espresso to my doorstep every month. After extensive research, I purchased my espresso machine, one that can also make cappuccino and steam milk. In the interest of saving my bit of the planet, I did not want plastic capsules which are available to fit certain machines. I decided to try the ground espresso as well as pods.
I discovered that not only did I love the product, I was thrilled with the company. There is a family who owns the company and Andrea Illy is a conscientious man who strives to keep his coffee high quality. As a regular subscriber, I have been rewarded each year with a gift. One year, it was sweet porcelain cups. Another, it was a thermos. But the best reward of all is the continued quality of the product as well as the responsive customer service. If you call, you get a human!
Every morning I make espresso. The mere thought of my Italian, indulgent coffee bliss gets me out of bed every morning. It's not just me. The first thing family and friends who visit ask is if I would mind making them an espresso. With pleasure.
As if I wasn't impressed enough by their coffee, illy recently sent me the below email explaining their continued commitment to sustainable coffee:
"On May 18, 2018 Illy was in Colombia to celebrate an important moment for the country, and our company: A victory that's helping integrate the ex‑revolutionary armed forces of Colombia (FARC) into the nation's economy through the production of high quality, sustainable coffee.
For four decades, much of the project farmland had been used to cultivate ingredients for the illegal drug trade that financed the FARC group's operations. Now this land represents an investment in peace, following the end of the violent insurgency in the area.
We are proud to share that our chairman, Andrea Illy, met with representatives in Colombia to sign an agreement of understanding that established, among other things, a system to help share illy's best agronomical practices with as many as 600 former FARC guerilla fighters.
We agreed to purchase coffee lots that meet our standards
directly from the group.
Words From Our Chairman:
“We want to tangibly contribute to the complex peace process, working alongside the people and the organizations that are joining forces to make this happen.”
- Andrea Illy
Although the coffee is imported from many places such as Columbia, the tradition feels Italian to me. Every morning when I sip my espresso, I am transported back to an early morning in Siena. Cerulean blue skies contrast against the dusty red of the brick and clay that built the city. Vendors are outside washing their sidewalks, opening their shops, and preparing for their day. Windows are open and the clatter of breakfast dishes and morning chatter float above the narrow street as I walk to my favorite cafe to stand and drink my lovely breakfast cappuccino. Ciao!
Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think! www.illy.com