Francesco Sanapo about Italian Coffee Culture

The next generation of italian coffee

The Italian barista champion Francesco Sanapo wites on his blog about the Italian coffee culture. Normally we hear Italians that think their coffee is the best in the world. Not for Francesco, who was interviewed by the Australian magazine Bean Scene . In the article “The next generation of italian coffee” Francesco tells us about his father tasting the new way of coffee:

After two or three days of consistently serving him some of my coffee, however, he started to come around. Why? Because it’s easy to recognise quality. Once you’ve tasted quality, when you get that mouthfeel in a cup, you can’t go back.

Excerpt:

Francesco: I think this title might sound a bit provocative, as if I wasn’t paying tribute to Italy’s strong tradition of coffee history.

Let me explain. For me, coffee represents a real life style. I love my job, and I don’t think I could do anything different than this. A barista is not just an elegant guy who pushes a button and then serves an espresso to his customer. A barista is someone who knows the coffee chain, studies the coffee plants and its varieties. He or she must know the harvest times,cultivation and roasting processes. And only as the last step must he or she know how to prepare a good cappuccino and latte art. I would use the word barista only for a professional who knows all these aspects of the job. I think that Italy’s strong espresso tradition has actually been a handicap in bringing our profession to this next level.

Italians have been deluding themselves for too long about their glorious past

Because we have such a long-standing tradition, we’ve been consistently exposed to baristas all our lives. It’s nothing foreign to us, so we wouldn’t think twice of stepping behind a machine. In countries that have only taken up espresso-culture in the last decade or so, the workings of an espresso machine was something very foreign. In northern Europe and the United Kingdom, they put a lot of work into studying how to make an espresso. And I think that now their professional standards are better as a result. Italians have been deluding themselves for too long about their glorious past, and in the meanwhile they have not stepped forward to keep up with modern trends in specialty coffee.

What I would like to do now is bring this enthusiasm from my experience abroad, and this fresh view of coffee, back to Italy. In the countries I’ve visited so far, the coffee culture is more connected with young people. I would like to see coffee companies engage in more lively communication and see the most updated extraction techniques implemented in our renowned coffee houses. People in Italy are starting to change.

I’m seeing first-hand that Italians want more information, when they learn about new coffee, they start to open their eyes to the modern ways. Take my father, for instance. I have drunk coffee with my father my entire life. Here I am now, an Italian Barista Champion, and when I gave my father some of my best coffee, he told me he didn’t like it. His palate, like many Italians, was accustomed to the old way of tasting coffee. After two or three days of consistently serving him some of my coffee, however, he started to come around. Why? Because it’s easy to recognise quality. Once you’ve tasted quality, when you get that mouthfeel in a cup, you can’t go back.

I believe that in Italy 40 years ago, we had much better coffee than we do today. If you think about it, micro-roasting – which has now emerged as a major trend in specialty coffee – was the norm inItaly half a century ago. All the roasters were micro-roasters. People who worked in coffee back then did so because they loved it. Today, I don’t believe many Italians enter the coffee industry because they love it. Today, coffee has become too much of a business.

For this community, roasters produce coffee merely as a business product, and others open up a caffetteria(Italian café) only to see how much money they can make from the shop. 

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