The History of Coffee is steeped in legends

President: Mario CERUTTI - Luigi LAVAZZA S.p.A. Secretary: Gianni FORNI

Coffee is a drink obtained from the roasted and ground beans of a few species of the genus Coffea that belong to the family Rubiaceae, which consists of over 66 species of tropical plants. Two of these are universally known, cultivated and commercialised: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora, commonly known as Robusta coffee. Many basic ingredients are needed to make a good cup of coffee, but the first is of course the quality of the chosen blend. Arabica and Robusta – in different percentages – determine the character and flavour. Blending is the art of creating a harmonious product, the process of combining different types of coffee to create pleasing flavours and strength, while maintaining consistent quality.

  • In a cup of coffee
  • Decaffeination
  • Roasting
  • Blending
  • Grinding
  • A bit of history
  • Coffe by numbers
  • Find out more
  • What's in a cup of coffee?

    A cup of coffee mostly consists of water, has a negligible number of calories and – if not decaffeinated – contains a molecule that contributes to its characteristic bitter note, but which above all is responsible for its stimulating effects: caffeine. Other components include polysaccharides (soluble fibre), acids (chlorogenic, quinic and citric), minerals (potassium and magnesium) and small amounts of lipids, proteins and trigonelline. Furthermore, it contains – albeit in small amounts – the very important volatile aromatic compounds, while the rest is made up of the so-called “unidentified constituents” (bitter compounds, melanoidins). It should be noted that the composition of the drink varies according to the blend, the degree of roasting and the production process.


    The first coffee decaffeination process was invented in the early twentieth century by the German coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius, who then patented it. To produce decaffeinated coffee, the caffeine is removed from the green coffee beans, after which they undergo similar processes to those used for regular coffee. There are three different methods for decaffeinating coffee (see the website, all of which ensure highly selective extraction and do not affect the other substances that contribute to the quality of the coffee. All three methods guarantee the removal of 99.9% of the caffeine (the maximum level of caffeine allowed for decaffeinated coffee in the European Union is 0.1%). The decaffeinated coffee is then dried.


    Coffee roasting is a process by which heat is applied to the coffee beans. A vital factor is creating the correct temperatures and being able to control them at the right time, then stopping the process when the aroma has fully developed and the coffee beans have a uniform colour. During the roasting process the green coffee beans gradually turn darker until they are brown, and they also become very crumbly. The aromatic character of a coffee is largely a result of the roasting process, and is determined by hundreds of chemical compounds belonging to various different classes.


    Blending is a process that optimises the aroma, body, structure and flavour of the coffee, while delivering a consistent flavour profile. Most espresso blends are based on high-quality Brazilian Arabica coffee. This can be blended with African coffee beans to impart a winy or fruity component, or high-altitude Central American coffee to balance the acidity. Robusta coffee is used to add body and produce more crema in espresso coffees. Blending requires specialised expertise, in-depth knowledge of each coffee that is to be blended, and understanding of the flavour profile of the coffee being produced. There is a wide choice of ready-made blends on the market, in order to satisfy all consumer preferences and tastes.


    Once the coffee has been roasted and blended, it is ready to be ground. The main objective of grinding is to increase how much of the coffee is actually in contact with the water in order to facilitate extraction, that is, the transfer of soluble and emulsifiable substances into the coffee. Depending on the extraction method, the grind can be fine, medium or coarse. The size of the particles in fact affects the extraction speed and, consequently, the final organoleptic characteristics of the beverage in the cup. The blends for espresso coffee must be ground very finely, thereby allowing the water to capture the maximum amount of aroma in just a few seconds. A medium grind is the most suitable for making coffee in a moka pot, while an Americano coffee requires a coarser grind that is able to retain the water for the amount of time necessary for the infusion.

    Coffee by numbers

    The 2021 turnover of the Italian coffee industry is equal to 3.8 million euros. The volume of green coffee processed by companies in our country amounts to about 10.1 million bags.
    In Italy, the annual per capita consumption of coffee is 5.3 kg

    A bit of history

    The history of coffee is steeped in numerous legends. Its stimulating effect on the human body was discovered by chance, just like the therapeutic virtues of tea, but over a thousand years later. According to legend, it all began in the 9th century, in Abyssinia, today's Ethiopia. A pastor living in Kaffa province was surprised that his goats could not sleep at night. Not knowing what to do, he turned to the religious of a nearby monastery, who unveiled the arcane: goats liked to eat the cherry-like fruits of a strange plant – the coffee shrub. Driven by scientific curiosity, the monks prepared an infusion with these berries and after drinking the drink they felt pervaded with energy. Even today the Ethiopic plateau is considered the cradle of coffee. From there the coffee berries reached Arabia over the Red Sea. Coffee cultivation began in Yemen in the mid-15th century. From the cities of Mecca and Medina, a destination for many pilgrims, coffee quickly spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The port town of Mokka remained the center of the world coffee trade until 1720. For this reason, until the 18th century in cafes all over Europe, "mokka" was drunk, a tremendously expensive drink that only nobles could afford. With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century coffee spread to Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and southeastern Europe. The entire Islamic world was conquered by the "sober intoxication" of the black drink, whose name today derives from the Arabic word "qahwah" meaning "wine", while the Turks called it "kahweh". Since Muslims were not allowed to consume alcohol, coffee became the "wine of Islam". Italy has been the gateway to coffee in the Western World. Venice was the first port where the first coffee matches in Europe arrived in 1570; it was still Venice that inaugurated in the seventeenth century the era of coffee shops, which then spread over the following centuries to the main European cities. In the Italian sense, the term "coffee" is not only about identifying the product, but also the place where it is consumed: the first "cafes" were elite places, where intellectuals of the time met and where politics, art and gossip were discussed. The story of what is now unanimously known as Italian coffee, begins with the invention and then the spread of espresso machines. The honor of the first patent of a machine that can be identified as a real device for making espresso must be recognized to the Turiner Angelo Moriondo, who on the occasion of the General Exposition of 1884 designed and made some examples of coffee machine for the premises he managed.