A perfect cup of coffee

by Srishti Batra

Recently while I was attending European Chemoreception Research Organisation ECRO2019 meeting, I had an opportunity to discover a lot more things about coffee which I dint know otherwise. A short visit to illy’s coffee production house left me awestruck. Illy caffe has only one production house in the world which is situated in beautiful port city of Trieste, Italy and they send all their coffee in different parts of world from this city.

Coffee as we all know is one of the ancient drinks that human have been consuming with its origin dating to Ethopia and reports of coffee as drink dates back to 15th century. It is interesting to note that India which is one of the major producers of coffee had this crop introduced in 17th century. Saint Baba Budan had carried (smuggled in his beard) seven coffee beans on his journey from Mecca and had planted them in Chikmaglur, in a region which is now named after him Baba Budan Giri. There are two major varities of coffee – Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee is highly valued as it is more aromatic, less bitter and more acidic. Robusta coffee on other hand is more bitter and has harsher taste.

Now, with this introduction of coffee, lets go to illy caffe which produces 100% Arabica blends and expresso is their specialty. This Italian company was founded in 1933 by Francesco Illy and is family run business. The most interesting thing which I realised during the visit was that, they get their Arabica beans from all over the world to Trieste, which is the single production house and then distribute roasted coffee all over the world from this port city. I could not get much of the pictures of the production house as photography was prohibited, but manged to get couple of clicks from gallery.

Once we entered the gallery, we were welcomed by the first ever model of espresso machine which was patented by Francesco Illy in 1935. A beautiful small café served us with classic Espresso blend. Walls were dedicated to history of illy, and the places all over the world from where they get their beans shows. At the end of gallery was a small gift shop to buy coffee. It was interesting to see that they also import Arabica beans from India for their classic Illy blend.

This production steps involves sorting of beans, roasting and packaging. Illy has world class machinery for the sorting of finest beans before roasting. The green coffee beans get single sorted depending on color and shape; and if found bad, they are not taken forward for roasting. The roasting time and process differs for different usages and then roasted beans are slowly (1km/hr) moved to packaging section where mechanised packaging happens. Illy makes a unique blend with different types of Arabica beans and their processes are optimised that each batch would taste the same. To take care of this, they have R&D team sitting in this production house, who checks that each time a new batch is roasted, it tastes  and smells the same; and is no different that Illy blend. Indeed, a lot of work goes behind the cup of coffee we sip.

I was also very happy to know that they sponsored a symposia In ECRO meeting which gave me an opportunity to talk about my PhD project under “illy Café Symposia”.

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