How happy am I that most days I’m never too far from a delicious coffee. Today’s New York Times round-up got me thinking that it wasn’t always this way. Each year while I was co-teaching my course on Italian food culture and the Mediterranean Diet in Italy for NYU, I couldn’t wait to be back in Florence so I could count on every cappuccino or espresso being good, and often great. (I only started teaching there in 2002!) Now, the coffee I drink most of the time in NYC—at Stumptown, at Abraçao, at Grumpy, at Everyman Espresso—is often better than anything I can remember having in Italy.
The beautiful cappuccino and espresso macchiato in this photo were pulled by Gwilym Davies, the 2009 world champion barista from Wales, who happened to be visiting the La Marzocco espresso machine factory in Florence—just up the road from NYU in Florence’s Villa La Pietra campus—the day we were touring with our students in June 2009. Visually, his coffees were beautiful, as you can see. Looking at these pictures I can recall the rich, complex taste and the creamy texture of his exemplary extractions. (The coffee itself came from local Florentine roaster Oke Caffè.)
One thing left out of the Times article was the wait that seems to be required for a good espresso in New York. (Note to NYC baristas: the name “espresso” is not meant to be ironic). Florentine baristas have speed all over their New York counterparts. At one of my favorite cafes, Caffè Libertà on Piazza Libertà, your coffee arrives on the counter before you finish your order, the baristas tuning their ears to the conversation over the cash register to stay on top of their game. Not sure what accounts for the wait here in this city of speed. Stumptown, which works two stunning La Marzocco machines with three heads each ought to be able to pump out hundreds of coffees an hour. Instead they make them one at a time and there’s always a line. Madonna mia! Luckily the coffee is good enough to wait for.