Whether I’m traveling the world or staying put at home, there’s one thing that always brings me comfort. Coffee. No matter how foreign a country can feel, there’s always a sense of familiarity and comfort when I find a local coffee shop. In fact, that’s one of the one things I always search for when exploring a new city. Hunting down a coffee spot that represents the flavors of that destination. Within a simple cup lays a wealth of information about this city. Whether it’s the type of beans they use, the method of brewing, or even the type of milk that’s offered— each offers a glimpse into the culture that fostered it.
illy caffè is no different. You may have spotted this coffee shop in cities around the world, with its signature red logo and carefully designed cups. Despite having 140 markets around the world, illy caffè is still family-owned and stays true to their mission to “provide the best coffee in the world.” Today, I’m sharing the story of illy caffè with you, and why their passion for coffee resonate so strongly for me.
The story of illy caffè began in the early 1930s in Italy, when Francesco Illy began to produce and market coffee and chocolate under the Francesco Illy brand. As they grew, the mission stayed the same, but technology changed. As a result, Francesco began to focus on innovation. He patented the Illetta, the first espresso machine that featured automatic water dosing. After that, he invented pressurization, a way to store the coffee beans so that they retained their aromas when being shipped. In the late 70s, Ernesto Illy (Francesco’s son), invented the first-ever portioned system for espresso. Those little coffee pods that are now commonly in everyday households? It began with Ernesto. As you can see, the Illy family takes their coffee seriously.
IT’S MORE THAN JUST COFFEE. IT’S ART
However, what really distinguishes them from other coffee brands is not just their dedication to the taste of coffee, but also the entire sensory coffee experience. With their slogan being “The Art and Science of Espresso,” it is no surprise that the design is a key differentiating factor for illy caffe. In addition to carefully curating the look of the actual espresso itself— from the creamy, nut-brown color to the art within the foam, illy has also focused on the design and tactile experience of the cup itself. Like couture fashion, illy knew that they had to find the right “haute couture dress” for their cup, and in 1990, called on Matteo Thun, a celebrated designer that was part of the world renowned Ettore Sottsass Memphis Group. Matteo then designed the signature illy espresso cup, one with a distinct style that’s also highly functional.
The focus of art and design doesn’t stop there. In 1992, they started the illy Art Collection, where they partner with hundreds of famous contemporary artists to design a custom cup. From Marina Abramović to Jeff Koons to Yoko Ono, each contemporary artist has “painted” the signature illy cup to embody their celebrated style of art as well as the spirit of illy caffè. The quest for beauty expands beyond just the cup as well. Each illy caffè is designed intentionally to not only embody their mission and slogan, but retains a positive influence of the local culture where it is located.
They recently opened their flagship San Francisco store, a large, open space in the Financial District. Not only is it a coffee shop, it’s also a retail space where you can see all the art cups in person. Moreover, it will soon have an education arm to bring together the community around coffee. I love that they focus on the quality of coffee, the sensory experience of the cafe, and also community in each location!
To celebrate the recent opening of their San Francisco Flagship, I’m partnering with them to give YOU one of their brand new Y3.2 Espresso & Coffee Machine!! What I love most about this is that unlike other at-home espresso machines, this packs a lot of power in a small machine. Perfect for city-dwellers like me! To enter, head to Instagram and follow the instructions in the post. Contest ends Oct 6!
Cultural Chromatics has teamed up with illy caffè for this post. However, all opinions are our own, (and always will be). Thanks for supporting content that keeps the lights on here at Cultural Chromatics.