Paris has the Louvre, New York has the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and now Florence has Accademia Del Caffè Espresso, a place dedicated to building a sustainable future for espresso coffee.
Standing in the entrance to Accademia Del Caffè Espresso, visitors to the centre for espresso excellence could liken the establishment to the Peggy Guggenheim museum with its crisp white interior and artistic displays. But Accademia is not a display of 20th-century European and American art. It’s a symbol of the coffee industry’s past, present, and future.
“Welcome to Accademia Del Caffè Espresso,” exclaims Marta Kokosar, General Manager of Accademia del Caffè Espresso at the exclusive media preview following HostMilano 2019.
“This is a magical place for everyone to enjoy, dedicated to research, innovation, and exchange of information. Accademia will create value for the entire coffee industry. It was a concept on paper a long time ago, and now we have completed a special place here in Florence that puts the history of La Marzocco, and the world of coffee, in the spotlight.”
From the outside, the domed building is a visual spectacle, representing the shape of a coffee machine thanks to its arched bow truss. It was La Marzocco’s original industrial factory from 1959 to 2009. Back then, the company’s founding fathers, Giuseppe and Bruno Bambi, managed and designed the so-called “officina” or workshop alongside a small group of craftsmen, later led by Piero Bambi.
Inside the Accademia entrance lies a distinctive green workshop bench, a replica of the original housed in the La Marzocco factory, laden with old tools from the 1950s and the evolution of company logos.
An original Bambi Bar from 1959 is a historical find for the museum. Marta says she fought hard to buy the original piece from an old Italian woman still using the bar in her Tuscan shop.
“This bar tells a very special story. To see it is like seeing a portrait of an era that is Italy after the war,” Marta says.
Here, staff serve guests specially crafted blends reminiscent of Italian espresso from the 1960s and 1970s. “You might want to add a bit of sugar,” says the barista. “This one is 60 per cent arabica, 40 per cent robusta.”
A replica bronze statue of the Marzocco, the heraldic lion and symbol of Florence, sits in the outside courtyard as a symbol of Italy’s republic era in the late 14th century.
To create the sculpture, Marta commissioned a Florence-based artist whose father was a friend of the Bambis’. She later discovered this artist is the only person with the licence to replicate the Marzocco from the original Donatello drawing.
Inside, the museum’s Cluster Centre is devoted to three main areas: technology, history, and culture. A video library displays innovative projects from La Marzocco’s partners and TED Talks, while the components of a La Marzocco mini are turned into wall art.
“It’s important people understand what’s inside a coffee machine and what it means to assemble all of these components by hand,” says Stefano Della Pietra, the only person outside the Bambi family to design a La Marzocco machine – the KB90 – and Accademia Head of the Custom & Innovation Workshop.
Continuing the theme of innovation, a video explains how espresso is brewed and holograms demonstrate how the La Marzocco Leva machine and straight-in portafilter have helped enhance barista ergonomics.
One of the most impressive and magical artistic structures in the museum is a kinetic sculpture created entirely from spare La Marzocco espresso machine parts, thanks to cinétique sculptor Charles Morgan. The mesmerising structure represents the production of La Marzocco coffee machines and the many layers involved in its creation, from factory workers to the classic Bambi delivery bus. Visitors watch in awe as a pin ball darts around the metal masterpiece like a rollercoaster in an amusement park.
In order to stay relevant, Accademia’s Content Curator Eleonora Angela Maria Ignazzi says the Accademia team has worked hard to create a museum that will evolve in time.
“The idea is that every single element can be changed and should change with time. We will aim to have two major exhibitions per year,” she says.
Eleonora points out a historical timeline that maps important dates in La Marzocco’s history of technology and design that are aligned to important world events: the launch of the La Marzocco home range in 2014, the same year Malala Yousafzai won a Nobel Peace Prize, and the launch of the KB90 in 2019, the same year NASA released the first image of a black hole.
A replica of the original Bambi delivery van is also on display to represent the company’s innovation. It was the first instrument the Bambi brothers used to travel through Florence and serve coffee from.
The museum honours the future with a rotating platform to showcase La Marzocco’s latest development, while a live social media tag board brings the museum into the current age of communication.
Massimo Battaglia, Head of Operations, introduces guests to the Coffee Cluster room, a space to learn about the many elements impacting coffee production, such as climate change.
“At this moment if we don’t do anything about climate change, it is possible in just over 10 years we will have 25 per cent less production of coffee. And in 20 years’ time, it’s possible we will have 50 per cent less Arabica production,” Massimo says.
With most consumers geographically removed from coffee production areas, Massimo says the idea of this educational space is to “reduce the gap”. It displays the intricacies of how a coffee farm works, the different soils used in cultivation, and displays a huge family tree of all the Arabica coffee varieties in the world.
The pièce de résistance, better known as “Massimo’s baby”, is the dedicated glasshouse filled with a forest of coffee plants including full-grown red and yellow caturra shrubs, banana trees, and shade plants. Massimo controls the greenhouse’s temperature, humidity, and irrigation. “I can make rain happen at the touch of a button,” he says, demonstrating the mist button.
In the true sense of crop to cup, the tour concludes at the fully equipped Accademia Bar showcasing La Marzocco’s best technology and products. Behind the bar is a striking glass wall with La Marzocco Leva machines stacked three machines high.
Around the parameters are sensory and cupping rooms, and dedicated training spaces for international courses and certifications. Each lab shares views of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-protected hills, the subject of many renaissance paintings, but to fully appreciate the landscape, a visit to the rooftop is a must.
The official opening of Accademia is scheduled for April 2020. Already, Accademia is involved in two lines of research with University of Florence Science Professor Stefano Mancuso. One line is focused on sustainable methods for farming coffee at origin, while the other is in partnership with the Cup of Excellence, which is sending beans and soil samples for analysis.
“There’s already outcomes from our research. We have been invited to present the information to the Accademia dei Georgofili, the most ancient accademia in the world, and share our findings to the Italian citizens,” Marta says.
“Italy has a huge culture around coffee, but Italians think they know best. It’s hard to make them understand there’s a whole world behind it, so if Accademia can help educate the Italians, it will create value for the entire industry.”
The space is already operating as a platform to champion the international coffee community towards a sustainable future. All that’s left is for visitors to enter the Accademia with a little curiosity and an open mind.
“We can’t wait to share this magical masterpiece with the world, which we hope will contribute to the future health and longevity of our industry,” Marta says. “We want Accademia to become a destination because this place is about more than just coffee.”
This article appears in the February 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.