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Waiter, the Bordeaux was OK, but the vintage Illy was great.

Waiter, the Bordeaux was ok, but the vintage Illy was great

Visits to Illycaffe in Trieste are usually educational, sometimes even illuminating. Foremost, this Italian coffee roasting company remains one of the best places to catch up on trends in the coffee industry's gourmet sector. Without doubt the current emphasis at this exuberant, family owned and managed company, is on coping with success.

This past year, the company's export volume increased by 15% while domestic sales volume rose 14%. Illycaffe moved into second place in the Italian bar market. In-home sales of the 2.5 kg tins increased by 500 tons, an impressive gain, given that the Illycaffe home brands are priced at the very top end of the market. All of this has probably been a nightmare for the company's plant manager.

The strain on production comes only two years after initiating a significant volume expansion, which enabled the company to produce up to 3,000 of its famed barrels per shift (the sealed tins containing 2.5 kg of whole bean roast pressurized in inert gas to preserve aroma and flavor, and stored for at least 20 days to give seasoning).

For more than 50 years the company has been selling these barrels, with ever increasing production and packaging sophistication, to a national and international clientele of discriminating coffee drinkers. The barrels of fine aged coffee have given a global ring to the Illy name. Because of this, it is important to know that as of last year, for the first time, Illycaffe saw sales of its espresso pods surpass those for the barrels. Illy pod sales shot up more than 20% in 1989. These pods, by the way, are cakes of Illy's round top-quality espresso, packed in strands of fine filter paper and vacuum packaged - under pressure in inert gas.

The pod boom is based on a number of factors - it provides an easy cup of dependable quality espresso; it has followed well into the exploding home-market for espresso in Europe and the U.S. The boom is also well served by the pod adaptor kit Illycaffe has created to fit the range of standard bar espresso machines; by the gaining popularity of the Illy espresso making machines themselves (which of course use the pods), and by the considerable success of the Krups LEspresso Plus machine in the U.S., with a model featuring a Krups/Illycaffe collaboration for using the pods, and which is sold with a supply of Illycaffe pods included.

There is much about Illycaffe that is undeniably unique to its own special character - the emphasis on technology, on research and development. The company has always marched to its own tune as to creating in-house production machinery and researching its own packaging and product concepts.

Nevertheless, certain elements of an Illycaffe recipe for success can be determined, and these are not necessarily charismatic. Most striking among these perhaps is the company's respect for the coffee drinker's intelligence and its abiding passion for producing an espresso to international standards of cuisine excellence. After all, this is a company that rates itself on how many of the world's best restaurants serve its coffee.

The company always gives the consumer the product's caffeine ceiling, (not more than 1.6%), roasting date and roast description - for example, the roast code can be ICN = light, ICR = medium, ICS = dark. The company goes to considerable lengths to provide educational materials to consumers to help upgrade coffee understanding, preparation and service.

As for excellence, the company's program simply includes trying to buy the best green coffees, and then treating them to the greatest care possible and then obtaining from them as much drinking pleasure as art and science can permit. Yet as specialty roasters everywhere know, such simplicity is a masterwork.
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Title Annotation:Illycafe Espresso
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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