Lavazza grants Australia special permission

Lavazza Australia

Lavazza explains why the Australian market has been given a leave pass to make history with one of the world’s most precious and original sources of Arabica coffee.

Imagine sitting in the inner sanctum of Lavazza’s decision-making room in Torino, Italy, with Giuseppe Lavazza pondering one of the biggest brand decisions the family company has ever made. 

No country has ever been given permission to alter the roast profile of one Lavazza’s premium coffees outside of Italy, until now. That honour has gone to Australia.

Cristiano Portis, Asia and Pacific Coffee Research and Development Manager and Licensed Q Grader for Lavazza, was the man tasked with the role of testing the ideal roasting profile that would respect the identity of Lavazza’s original Kafa single origin coffee, but also reflect the Australian market’s penchant for delicate roasting.

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“The quality of Kafa is the same as Italy’s, but the roasting process and roasting time is different. I went through many different batches and roasting profiles. We didn’t bother using a small roaster. We went straight in and used a large-scale 120-kilogram roaster to find the perfect blend, roasting 100 kilograms at a time,” Cristiano says.

“I selected five different roasting profiles and after two weeks of maturation, did a blind cupping at the Lavazza Australia training centre. I got a fair amount of judgement, but took my favourites to Italy for a blind cupping with the Lavazza family – the family always has the final say.”

Lavazza Australia
Kafa Forest Coffee is a premium product, best suited to venues wanting to offer customers the ultimate specialty coffee experience.

With a few further tweaks to reduce the acidity in the cup, the outcome was a slow 15-minute roast to preserve Kafa’s organoleptic profile. Cristiano says this is the secret to Kafa’s perfect balance of aroma, taste, and body, and the key to Giuseppe Lavazza asking him for a cup of his “Australian roasted Kafa” each time he returns to Torino.

“The coffee in Melbourne is very fresh so we have chosen to roast a bit lighter and brighter compared to the way we roast Kafa in Italy, which is a bit more rounded. The result is a more aromatic cup profile with fruity, floral tones,” Cristiano says. 

Silvio Zaccareo, Lavazza APAC Business Unit Director and Australia Managing Director, says one of the reasons Australia was given special permission to make history with one of the world’s oldest coffee plantations is in large part due to the consumer’s high level of coffee knowledge and appreciation. 

“Since the beginning, Australia has been a very important market for us. It’s the fifth-largest market outside of Italy,” Silvio says. 

“The level of sophistication from the Australian consumer’s point of view is really high. That was pretty shocking for me to see when I first arrived here. The consumer knows about coffee. They know about quality, and they’re looking for a story, which is what Kafa embraces as the most premium single origin coffee in the Lavazza portfolio.”

Located about 460 kilometres southwest of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa is the Kafa Biosphere Reserve, the birthplace of wild Arabia, dating back around 850AD. The biodiversity hotspot contains close to 5000 wild varieties of wild Arabica, which have grown spontaneously with minimal intervention from the region’s inhabitants for centuries, according to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 

It’s this unspoilt terrain and the region’s low yielding coffee production, however, that makes Kafa Forest coffee one of the most exclusive and premium beans on the market. 

“Coffee has such a beautiful history and Kafa is a true reminder of where it all began. I remember spending time with a local family who invited me to a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony,” Cristiano recalls. 

“They roasted the coffee on a saucepan over a flame, like the way we roast chestnuts in Italy. A mortar and pestle was then used to grind the coffee before putting it into a bunna – a traditional brewing vessel, like an old moka pot. The bunna was put on the fire and we waited for the water to boil before small cups of coffee were served, first to the oldest member of the family. The remaining coffee was then served in rounds. With each round you could taste a deeper, more complex, and developed flavour.”

Lavazza Australia
The birthplace of wild Arabica, Kafa Biosphere Reserve in Ethiopia, dates back around 850AD.

The Italian roaster has demonstrated its commitment to the Ethiopian coffee-producing community for more than 30 years, including the sourcing of its 100 per cent Arabica Kafa Forest Coffee. 

Lavazza says it will continue to support Ethiopia’s agricultural economy and the beauty of the Kafa Forest, which is now under threat from climate change and disease.

“It’s a scary reality how much longer we’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of Kafa coffee. Research is showing that in some countries, changes are already happening, much earlier than what was expected,” Cristiano says.

The quality of Lavazza’s coffee is paramount. The roaster does not use a grading system to assess its coffees. Rather, the company has practised strict quality control measures long before there were mandatory. This ensures Lavazza purchases specialty coffees 80 points and above that naturally do not carry any primary defects, and only allows for a limited number of secondary defects. 

“We buy about four to five containers of fully natural processed, hand-picked Kafa, dried naturally in the sun. You can buy Kafa coffee from other people but it’s not the Kafa we buy. Ours is prepared just for Lavazza. We know it’s good quality. We buy all our coffee against our standards. Then it’s just a question of in-cup quality,” Cristiano says. 

Lavazza’s Kafa Forest coffee is suited to both milk-based and black coffees. However, its low yield is what makes it an exclusive and premium coffee with an intense richness, best reserved for fine dining establishments and venues wanting to offer customers the ultimate specialty coffee experience. 

Visitors to this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March got to experience the beauty of Kafa first hand when it was used to accompany the event’s high-end food experiences.   

 “Kafa has everything the Australia market is looking for: really high quality, heritage, and a story to share,” Silvio says. “Kafa is an authentic, premium, niche product, but we feel that the offering is a unique experience. We’re talking about one of the most rare coffees in the world, and the most luxurious product in our range.”

This article appears in FULL in the April edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.

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