In between rounds of World Coffee Champs competitors, we had a chance to explore some of the exciting specialty-coffee cafés during HOST Milano.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Katrina Yentch
The Barista Magazine team has returned from the sunny sights of Florence and Milan, Italy, back to the cozy autumn nooks of Portland, Ore., refreshed and inspired by a week of incredible competitors and quality time with coffee friends. During my time in both Milan and Florence, I wanted to check out what each city had to offer in the world of specialty coffee by visiting some cafés recommended by our friends at FuoriHost.
Italy is known for its long-standing traditions of coffee that are deeply rooted in espresso; many Italy-based espresso manufacturers are responsible for what today’s global coffee industry has standardized for the ideal espresso machine. However, much of today’s guidelines and practices for specialty-coffee brewing have challenged those traditions, and a new generation of Italian coffee is finding pockets of followers in the metropolitan cities.
While in Milan and Florence, I had the opportunity to visit a few spots that are focusing on sourcing light-roasted coffee, providing manual brewing options, and even serving American-style drip coffee to locals and wandering tourists.
NOWHERE – Coffee & Community
In Portland, a majority of our coffee shops are still serving brews in paper cups with takeaway-only options due to the pandemic. So, it was especially refreshing to sit down inside NOWHERE and witness a neighborhood coffee shop come alive. As its name implies, NOWHERE is all about community. In the midst of a NOMAD Coffee Roaster pop-up, I watched friends and baristas gather behind the register sporting brightly colored face masks emblazoned with the tagline “Made in Italy.“ It seemed as if everyone knew each other, and those who were strangers like myself felt welcomed to chat and ask questions about the neighborhood and the coffee.
NOWHERE’s offerings cover basically every café item you could think of within its tiny quarters, from single-origin espressos to wine, beer, tea, and a surprisingly robust food-and-pastry menu. Apart from hosting NOMAD, the business works with their own label to supply espresso, along with the quickly growing Manhattan Roasters for other coffee options.
To be served a filter coffee in glassware alone was a gift; NOWHERE’s thoughtful carafe-and-ceramic presentation made the coffee even more delicious as it oxidized, and the pink walls with pink marble tabling made me feel as though a modern art museum had designed the space. NOWHERE was truly the perfect combination of thoughtful design with a welcoming ambiance.
Cafezal Torrefazione Specialty Coffee
Cafezal is a coffee roaster whose Milan café offers similar aesthetic pleasures as NOWHERE, filling its equally small interior with bright blue zebra-esque wallpaper, marble countertops, and black-speckled tables. Somehow, they managed to squeeze a coffee roaster into the back corner of the space, tucked next to the front counter. After experiencing these two cafés alone, I felt like I was in café design heaven—more than ready to move past the white-walled minimalism of the mid-2000s café scene.
Friendly baristas (one being Radu, a FuoriHost social content creator) guided me through the menu to find the ideal V60 to chug before heading over to HOST to watch the final rounds of the World Barista Championship. Paired with a Basque-burnt cheesecake, I couldn’t help but inhale both my coffee and dessert in less than 10 minutes.
It’s certainly expected within any kind of Italian coffee shop to offer alcohol with caffeine, so understandably there is also a large selection of wine and beer options.
If major metropolitan cities like Rome and Milan are slowly experiencing a rise in specialty options, Florence may be trudging even further behind. However, do not mistake this to mean that the charming Tuscan city has nothing worthy to offer for coffee. You simply have to dig a little deeper to find it.
Visionaries like Francesco Sanapo and La Marzocco have cemented themselves in Florence, and our recently featured Jessica Sartiani has been trail-blazing new paths for specialty coffee here. The people who are here care that much more deeply about the integrity of coffee, providing novel and memorable coffee experiences for one of the most visited cities in the world.
Francesco Sanapo’s beloved Ditta Artigianale cafés have paved the way for specialty coffee to bloom in Florence, and their third and latest café proves to be the most impressive addition yet. Opened in July 2021, this dreamy 3,200-foot space has restored several rooms within a refectory from 1300, modernized yet reminiscent of the ancient history within its walls. It was a constant surprise to find one room after another filled with café-goers lounging on their laptops and munching on Australian-inspired breakfasts. The space also hosts the much-anticipated Scuola del Caffè, which provides a perfect space for events and education by Ditta.
We were welcomed with open arms and a multitude of options for caffeination—in this moment, it seemed appropriate to have both a pourover and an espresso in one go. With milk steamed to perfection and single-origin coffee options shining with complexity, it almost seemed ironic that Ditta also offers sweet treats like pumpkin spice and cookie dough lattes. But with such a large space, it’s easy to have something for everyone here.
Accademia del Caffè Espresso
A vision nearly 10 years in the making, La Marzocco has finally launched their state-of-the-art coffee campus. Housed within the original perimeters of the LM factory, the academy is just 30 minutes away from their headquarters in Scarperia. Accademia is more than a coffee school though, but a lifestyle center too. It encompasses everything affiliated with coffee culture, from cupping and roasting labs to a La Marzocco museum, cafés, a ceramics studio, and even a coffee plant greenhouse.
After a high-energy weekend at HOST, it was a much-needed contrast to be at Accademia del Caffè Espresso. The quiet facility and brightly lit interiors created a peaceful ambiance throughout our time there. Many LM staff members lounged throughout the space, ready to converse, share a coffee, and gush over the realization of this revolutionary space.
It felt invigorating to explore a new city and its coffee once again, after not having traveled abroad since before the pandemic. As a coffee person, the best part of traveling is without a doubt exploring the café scene, because you not only witness a city’s coffee options, you also experience a city’s culture.