Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Filtered down: B’lore to get a coffee university

Filtered down: B’lore to get a coffee university
The Economic Times

COFFEE is commonly brewed in universities across the world, especially during exam time. But a university for coffee is not an everyday occurrence, is it? Come January, the Trieste-based Universita del Caffe, which currently trains 2,000 professionals in the hotel and hospitality sector every year on how to make and serve that perfect cup of coffee, will be starting a full-time course in the coffee-growing and consuming capital of India — Bangalore.
The Universita del Caffe was started in ’03 by the Italian company illy, 6m cups of whose illycafe are drunk every day in over 40,000 hotels and restaurants in 144 countries worldwide. This makes it the world’s leading espresso. However, the company’s chairman Andrea Illy says the consumption reflects the quality of his espresso, the consistency of which in cupping profile is derived from a blend of the finest Arabica Parchment (Plantation A) beans from nine of the world’s premier coffee-growing countries.
This is where, he adds, India comes in. India’s Plantation A beans are a key component of the blend in each cup of illycafe. Sourcing from India has doubled over the past five years to an extent where illy has become a leading international buyer of India’s premium Plantation A beans.
“We are the biggest buyer of gourmet Arabica Parchment coffee from India. Last year, we sourced 35,000 bags of 60 kg each from India, aggregating 2,100 tonne of Plantation A beans. Our quality standards are so rigid that each lot of 150 bags has to have zero olfactory defects (aroma defects). In terms of visual defects, our electronic sorters tolerate only one scratched bean for every 150.”
The reason for starting a Universita del Caffe in Bangalore is not just the constantly improving quality of Indian Arabica, a process which, says Mr Illy, has been catalysed by illy’s four-year-old India Coffee Quality Prize for the best growers.
“We see India as not just a sourcing centre but a potentially major
market for illycafe. Today’s per capita consumption may be just over 2.2 gm, but all the ingredients for a coffee consumption revolution are there in India in terms of an annual 8% GDP growth rate, urbanisation, a retail boom and rapidly increasing personal disposable income. India’s domestic coffee consumption has soared by 14% in just a year or two. We will start our Universita del Caffe in India to cash in on the coffee-consumption revolution. In October ’05, we signed a $15-m deal with the Sterling Group to make illycafe available in 5,000 vending machines in five years. illycafe is now being served in 80 of the Sterling Group’s Barista bars,” he said.


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