Usually served in a tiny cup, espresso tastes strong and powerful. The way to prepare this type of coffee is one of the finickiest. Last June 11, 2016, we were invited to the Barista Competition 2016 hosted by Espressamente Illy at Rockwell, Powerplant Mall in Makati City to see how five well-trained coffee baristas from the five branches of Illy in the Philippines make coffee. There’s so many intricate steps to getting it perfectly from preparation to serving. Each one could make or break the shot.
The parameters a barista might mess with while trying to perfect a cup include coffee-to-water ratio, grind size, brew time, and water temperature, among other things. Adding to the challenge was, of course, the time limit. Every one of the contending baristas had to complete three coffee drinks while telling about the execution in 13 minutes. In this case, “pressure’ is what makes an espresso an espresso, literally and figuratively. No matter what, they have to be consistent; consistency in brewing coffee is the silver bullet in the arsenal of tools needed to improve quality.
Judges gave scores objectively according to the coffee’s sensory feature and the “science” of making it, while we all stood behind as witnesses as to how precision, hands-on care, and love would sum up in drinks that could be savored like never before.
After over an hour of action, the judges decided and proclaimed the winner. Ronel America (from the NAIA T1 cafe) received the Illy trophy as reward and also some bragging rights. Congratulations! 🙂
Barista Competition 2016 at Espressamente Illy (Rockwell, Powerplant Mall, Makati City)
Well-balanced in its constant combination of sour and bitter, the illy taste has an immediately perceived sweet shade. Illy is well known all over the world for its unique blend, made of nine precious varieties of Arabica coffee, always the same, cup after cup. Its rich and fascinating body is felt by the palate with a tactile feeling of pure pleasure. As in a symphony, the announced theme is declined and enriched by the soloists with tones of flowers, fruits, caramel, toasted bread, chocolate, almonds, and honey. All these tones get together smoothly in a sweet final feeling.
The illy blend is available in three different roasting levels. The medium roasting level has a peculiar soft taste, and is sold in a package marked in red. For coffee consumers who like a deeper and stronger taste, the same blend of Arabica is available in a stronger roasting level, in a package marked in black.
The illy blend is available in a decaffeinated version as well, in a package recognizable by its green color. In order to enhance each profile of its blend, and to let everyone appreciate the shades of its taste, in 2010 illy has created the Monoarabica line, that includes the varieties of Arabica coffee that make the traditional illy blend.
At present, Monoarabica offers three coffees with a strong personality, and each of them tells something about its country of origin: Brazil, Guatemala and Ethiopia. Last but not least, an exceptional coffee comes from El Salvador: idillyum is a rare and precious Arabica Laurina (Bourbon variety), extraordinary and exclusive because it has a very natural low level of caffeine and it is available in small quantities, due to the peculiar weather and growing conditions that it requires.
Representing the embodiment of the “Italian coffee,” Espressamente Illy is a franchising network of outlets based on the pursuit of quality in every aspect: in the offer, in the environment, in the service. It started in 2003 and today, it is present in 230 coffee bars in 34 countries, and in the most important cities of the world, such as Rome, Paris, London, Toronto, San Francisco, Miami, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Beijing.
With Espressamente Illy, the bar becomes a “boutique café”: a place to enjoy, whose coffee, food, environment, and culture blend in order to tell worldwide the Illy brand and the Italian style of life. Here, consumers may order a quick excellent espresso prepared by illy baristas, and can take their time, enjoying a lunch break, meeting people and socializing with them, relaxing and even working connected to the Web world by Wi-Fi.
Aside from coffee, we enjoyed the food served by Espressamente Illy:
Spinaci Crostini (PhP 175) – rich and creamy spinach dip derved with crostini
Tomato and Basil Bruschetta (PhP 225) – grilled baguette topped with fresh tomatoes, basil and parmesan cheese
Supremo Pizza (PhP 400) – pizza topped with Italian sausage, pancetta, black olives, onions and capsicum
Wild Mushroom Pizza (PhP 375) – button mushroom, shiitake mushroom, porcini mushroom and fresh spinach
Fettuccini Tartufo (PhP 300) – Italian style comfort food
Tiramisu with Espresso (PhP 290) – layers of lady fingers alternated with layers of cheese and dusted with cocoa powder served with illy espresso