According to the web site Country Facts, there are 20 million coffee purchasing families in Italy and 16 million of them drink Lavazza including most of my Italian family. But what about the other 4 million?
Other Italian top coffee brands like Illy and Segafredo Zanetti (noted to be the leading espresso producer in Italy) always seem to show up in or on my cup. Illy from Trieste, the Adriatic port town where coffee first entered Europe, is certainly favored with stylish coffee bars that serve everything from a cappuccino to a caprese. Illy’s efforts in transforming the simple porcelain coffee cup into a work of art (more than 70 contemporary masters have contributed designs to a series of collections) is branding genius.
With coffee drinking in Italy taking on the status of a national past time, espresso preferences border on sentiments that may be as strong as the Pazzi-Medici rivalry of the Renaissance which I think in retrospect could have been more reasonably settled over a cup of coffee.
I’m off the tourist radar in Italian suburbia visiting my cousins in Sesto San Giovanni near Milan. I order my morning espresso at the local coffee bar in a cup that is branded with a capital red S and the word Segafredo. Knowing un caffe’ in Italia means knowing more than Illy and Lavazza. Although Lavazza may be the most favored coffee in Italy and Illy not far behind Segafredo Zanetti is Italy’s leading food service brand. Founded in the 1970s, the Bologna-based Segafredo Zanetti popular in Italian coffee bars, is now red-hot worldwide with more than 600 Italian International Cafe’s.
A Coffee Review article written up on the Coffee Talk web site gave Segafredo espresso a rating of 93/100 for “a straight shot extraordinarily syrupy and liqueur-like with a sweet aroma that reads as a sort of drunken brandyish chocolate and a complexity that ranges from sweet, pungent, molasses-toned tobacco to an earthy morel mushroom”. Two of Italian’s other premium coffee brands were also reviewed, Oro Premium Bar Blend (92/100) described as being “impressive in milk with a sweet-toned aroma and a musty fruit that suggests bananas, dark chocolate and raisins” and another Bologna-based company, Atibassi whose Espresso Italiano Crema di Oro with a “full slightly rough mouth feel and hints of nuts, cedar and chocolate” was rated 90/100.