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)

Illy Coffee

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.

Espressamente Illy

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


Health and technology freak. Food and lifestyle blogger with a large appetite for food and travel.

17 Responses

  1. Gigi

    I love coffee!!! I didn’t know it could be this complicated to prepare. Eating tiramisu with coffee is the best! 🙂

  2. Fernando C Lachica

    This competition is really great for people who love to learn about coffee coming from Illy. I used to manage coffee shops before and we used Illy beans for our consumption. The knowledge I’ve got from Illy rep was wonderful.

  3. Fred

    I am not a coffee drinker enough to see why baristas need a competition among themselves. For me even a cup of instant coffee is enough, but I do not drink coffee as a rule.

  4. Mia Foo

    omg that last picture of the tiramisu with espresso is truly worthy of the description “foodporn”. congrats to the winner, that’s a really cute trophy!

  5. Bhushavali

    Tiramisu & expresso??!!! ??? That ought to be my favourite. That’s 2 of my favorites put together!!! The finger food all look yummm…

  6. Lana Slaybell

    Congratulations to the winner! One of our major subjects this semester is Bartending. Sure, most of the drinks we serve are alcoholic, but I want to learn coffee art and be a barista someday.

  7. Franc Ramon

    I’m really fond of coffee and really appreciate the efforts of baristas. It would be really nice to see them do their stuff.

  8. Elizabeth O.

    I have only watched a barista competition once and I really enjoyed watching them make different kinds of coffee. You can’t help but admire them for their skill and also applaud them for their creativity. I’m sure this was an amazing experience!

  9. Shub

    I always admire the way Baristas do that design on coffee! Wish to learn it one day…

  10. Zwitsy

    I haven’t heard about Illy yet but I am sure they offer great foods and coffees! Well, I just hope one day they will expand their business nationwide so that those who leave in the northern part of the country can be able to give them a try!

  11. John Paul Quiambao

    THis looks so i have a new place where i can conduct financial discussions with my clients at rockwell.. i need to try this place soon. hehe 🙂 I hope i’ll enjoy the drink. 🙂

  12. Sarh S

    This sounds like so much fun, I can only imagine the intensity and excitement for all participants. I’d love to sample all of the different drinks made.

  13. Bites for Foodies

    I would have loved this!!! I am a self-professed coffee snob AND Illy is my one and only choice of choice (ok, sometimes Lavazza!!). I can’t get over that Tiramisu..I love how it was served!


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