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Looking for coffee


SwatiC
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Hi,

I'm new to egullet. I was in Italy this summer and I had the most wonderful espresso wherever I went. The coffee was always consistently good, and after downing several espressos at one particular cafe I had to ask the server about the brand he used. It was something called Palombini, and he was generous enough to give me a packet of the beans from their own supply as a gift. My friends back in LA raved about the coffee, and after the beans finished, we've been rather miserable. I haven't had any luck yet in finding the coffee here, and I was wondering if there was someone on the forum who has information on where to find it, preferably in the vicinity of LA.

Failing that, I would be really happy to get recommendations for other good Italian brands. I am only looking for roasted beans and not ground coffee.

Many thanks

Swati

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Well, there's always Illy for starters. It is available everywhere, and is generally considered the best of the big time espresso roasters. It's aforementioned reputation leads to its being often overpriced. If you have the right equipment and technique though, you should be satisfied with its results.

Another cheaper option I have come to like is Kimbo. Firstly I like the fact that it hails from Napoli rather than Trieste because I find espresso better the further south you go. It's not as well known as Illy, but you can find it easily online by searching "Caffe Kimbo".

Recently I have been turned on to a brand called Passalacqua, also from Napoli. The only place I know of in the U.S. to get it is called Caffe Italia Enterprises in Waterbury, CT. You can call them to order, and they have a link to Passalacqua's website on their website. Currently they only stock the "Vesuvius" beans. I was directed to the brand because I was told it is served in a lot of Napoli espresso bars. I have found it to be very good, and would recommend it. It's all I drink now. It goes for $25 for a kilo from Caffe Italia Enterprises, which is a good price.

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Or find a local independent roaster. As always, you're likely to find the best value, best flavoured, most interesting experience at the micro-production level. I don't know LA, but I do know that there's a thriving coffee scene there as elsewhere in the states. Try the coffeegeek forums

bainesy

Sheffield, where I changed,

And ate an awful pie

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Another cheaper option I have come to like is Kimbo.  Firstly I like the fact that it hails from Napoli rather than Trieste because I find espresso better the further south you go.  It's not as well known as Illy, but you can find it easily online by searching "Caffe Kimbo". 

Recently I have been turned on to a brand called Passalacqua, also from Napoli.  The only place I know of in the U.S. to get it is called Caffe Italia Enterprises in Waterbury, CT.  You can call them to order, and they have a link to Passalacqua's website on their website.  Currently they only stock the "Vesuvius" beans.

Kimbo is a good everyday brand and probably the leading one in Naples. It's so popular you can even find fakes on sale in Campania :smile: . But, as much as I'd like to claim the contrary being a Neapolitan myself, I find it's inferior to Illy. In general I agree that Southern Italy has better coffee than the north but Trieste is an exception. There's a very old coffee making tradition there. Passalacqua is better than both Illy and Kimbo but rather than the Vesuvius blend I'd go for the 100% arabica Moana blend or the Harem one, but I like my espresso not too powerful. Both make a fantastic velvety espresso.

It might be difficult to find many Italian brands in the States because most are small producers with little sales outside their local areas. One thing I enjoy doing whenever I go somewhere new in Italy is sampling the local espresso brands: there's always a very good one to pick out.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to bash Illy. They make coffee of admittedly the highest standard. I suppose part of it is the nostalgia of the idea of drinking coffee from a southern producer seeing as I had my best espressos there, and have never made it to Trieste.

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It might be difficult to find many Italian brands in the States because most are small producers with little sales outside their local areas. One thing I enjoy doing whenever I go somewhere new in Italy is sampling the local espresso brands: there's always a very good one to pick out.

Which is a pity, isn't it? I did some online research on Palombini and their website claims that they lead in the Roman market. I didn't see it served in either Napoli or Florence. The coffee in Napoli was fantastic as well, but I didn't note any of the brands, because I was quite happy with Palombini and naively believed that it would be easily available back in the US.

I did locate an Italian market here that sells both Kimbo and Illy, and yes Illy is rather expensive and every coffee forum rants about that. But I wonder if the difference is price (almost double that for a Kimbo pack) is worth it.

Vesnuccia, not being quite the coffee conneisseur, I find it difficult to describe what it tastes like except the fact that it really seemed like the best espresso I've ever had. The French espressos that I had tasted a week before seemed incredibly mediocre in comparison. It was dense, with good crema, didn't smell burnt (a problem with espressos in the US, especially Starbucks, yuck!), and didn't leave a bitter aftertaste. In fact it was the aftertaste that got me, it was such a wonderful lingering flavour.

Failing buying some good beans and making it, I so wish there was an espresso bar here that even partially recreated that taste.

Swati

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It might be difficult to find many Italian brands in the States because most are small producers with little sales outside their local areas. One thing I enjoy doing whenever I go somewhere new in Italy is sampling the local espresso brands: there's always a very good one to pick out.

Which is a pity, isn't it? I did some online research on Palombini and their website claims that they lead in the Roman market. I didn't see it served in either Napoli or Florence. The coffee in Napoli was fantastic as well, but I didn't note any of the brands, because I was quite happy with Palombini and naively believed that it would be easily available back in the US.

Well, depends on how you see it. On one hand it makes many of these products hard to find, on the other it adds to the variety of the offer. I prefer having more to chose from, but that's just me. Consider that many of these producers do a great job with the small quantities they work with but probably couldn't handle a larger market without decreasing quality. If they would be bought off by bigger competitors, like it has happened for some regional brands, the products might become easier available but there would always be a risk of "taste" becoming more uniform between the different brands owned by the same company. It would be cheaper to buy coffee from few sources in bulk instead of having many different ones.

The ideal solution would be that of having a serious coffee trader select and sell these blends for the foreign markets.... Anyone interested in forming a joint venture? I put the idea and you invest the money :biggrin: ?

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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In general I agree that Southern Italy has better coffee than the north but Trieste is an exception.

Far be it for us to enter a South/North debate but a general observation we've made is that plain (espresso) coffee is better in the South and cappuccino tends to be better in the North. Then again it might just be that when colder you would appreciate a cappuccino more :smile:

The sicilian coffee is Moak, which I am becoming more and more attached to, and they have quite a nice website if you have some time to kill.

http://www.caffemoak.com

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It might be difficult to find many Italian brands in the States because most are small producers with little sales outside their local areas. One thing I enjoy doing whenever I go somewhere new in Italy is sampling the local espresso brands: there's always a very good one to pick out.

Which is a pity, isn't it? I did some online research on Palombini and their website claims that they lead in the Roman market. I didn't see it served in either Napoli or Florence. The coffee in Napoli was fantastic as well, but I didn't note any of the brands, because I was quite happy with Palombini and naively believed that it would be easily available back in the US.

I did locate an Italian market here that sells both Kimbo and Illy, and yes Illy is rather expensive and every coffee forum rants about that. But I wonder if the difference is price (almost double that for a Kimbo pack) is worth it.

Vesnuccia, not being quite the coffee conneisseur, I find it difficult to describe what it tastes like except the fact that it really seemed like the best espresso I've ever had. The French espressos that I had tasted a week before seemed incredibly mediocre in comparison. It was dense, with good crema, didn't smell burnt (a problem with espressos in the US, especially Starbucks, yuck!), and didn't leave a bitter aftertaste. In fact it was the aftertaste that got me, it was such a wonderful lingering flavour.

Failing buying some good beans and making it, I so wish there was an espresso bar here that even partially recreated that taste.

Swati

Hi Swati,

So, you've been bitten by the coffee bug, have you?

Well, welcome to the wonderful world of Italian coffee. For us Italians, one of the most difficult things in the world to have to compromise with while travelling, is the coffee.

By and large, we are used to 100% Arabica, with a special roast - and only Italian brands will provide this special flavour. No others will do.

If you can't find Palombini, look for Lavazza. This brand is available world-wide, as is Illy (but this is more expensive). And you'll never look back.

Also, the best (by far) way to make Italian style coffee at home is by using the Moka stove top coffeemaker. The brand is Bialetti, it's wonderful and it will last you for years if properly looked after (for example, do not wash it in the dishwasher!)

By the way, we Italians say that the reason why Naples has the best coffee (and the best pizza) in Italy is because of the quality of the water.

That, I am afraid, I can't help you with.

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