Lavazza ”¡Tierra! Bio-organic”—At first: No. Then: YES!

Next up in my series of Italian grocery store coffees: Lavazza ¡Tierra! Bio-organic. This is a blend of 100% ”sustainably grown” Arabicas, ”roasted using authentic and traditional Italian roasting techniques” (6/10). The company describes the blend as ”[f]ull-bodied aromatic” with ”peculiar floral and fruity notes”. In my bag, the coffee was pre-ground in order for it to be ”[s]uitable for all filter coffee brewers”.

In all honesty, I did not think much of it at first.

The grind size was too small for my French press. I also found the flavor to be less than interesting.

The AeroPress succeeded better in bringing out the flavors. Even so, the blend seemed to be little more than a regular grocery store blend. ”Nothing to write home about,” I thought.

Finally, I just had to try ¡Tierra! Bio-organic in the Moka pot. I mean, despite the fact that it was made for filter coffee brewers, the grind size appeared to be perfect for the macchinetta. Lo and behold, my good old Bialetti brought the blend to life.

The mouthfeel was surprisingly creamy for a regular grocery store blend. Also, while the body was pretty full, it did not feel ”heavy” at all.

While the flavor profile was quite uniform, there were two aspects to it. On the one hand, the blend provided big and savory notes, with substantial acidity. It tasted almost salty. On the other hand, however, underneath the umami, the midrange was dominated by a naturally sweet almondy smoothness together with some medium dark cocoa. In my opinion, these two aspects worked together perfectly, with the almond/cocoa thing balancing out the savory upper register.

I enjoyed it quite a bit.

All in all, Lavazza ¡Tierra! Bio-organic must be one of the best ”organic” coffees I have ever found in a supermarket. Obviously, being a mass produced grocery store blend, it is nothing really spectacular. What it does offer you, however, is a solid, Italian coffee experience that you can enjoy at any time of the day. Just remember to brew it in a Moka pot!

First impressions: Segafredo ”Decacrèm”

Let’s be honest. I do not drink coffee for the caffeine. In my 13 years as a regular coffee consumer, I have never managed to develop a ”vitamin C” addiction. (You can read my testimony here.) Having said that, I am of the opinion that caffeine is an integral part of the whole experience of enjoying coffee. That’s why I’ve never been a huge fan of decaf products.

But hey, I don’t want to be narrow-minded! Since I recently found this new (to me) decaf blend, I decided to add it to my list of Italian grocery store coffees. So, without further ado, here are my first impressions of Segafredo Decacrèm.

At first glance, this was exactly like any Italian supermarket espresso. That is to say,

  • it was roasted ”medium”
  • it was pre-ground for macchinetta
  • it came in a small vacuum sealed ”brick”

On the pack, the company gave the following information:

  • Aroma: 3/5
  • Intensity: 3/5
  • Body: 3/5
  • Persistency: 4/5

Sounds about right to me! Flavor-wise, Decacrèm was definitely in the same ballpark with its sibling blends. It was a 100% Arabica blend with a nice acidic edge to it. Even so, the overall experience was quite ”soft” and semi-creamy. The flavor profile was surprisingly reminiscent of Bravo ο Κλασικός, the Greek grocery store blend I enjoyed recently: it had this dryish vibe of medium dark unsweetened cocoa powder, and yet it also reminded me of dried fruits. To me, the longish finish was the best part.

I found it hard to determine whether the decaf process had altered the flavor. I think it had. While Decacrèm was by no means weak in body, it might have felt somewhat ”hollow”. That said, it was not the hollowness of those cheap Bellarom blends people buy from Lidl. The body was just lighter than expected.

It was actually quite nice to have one more cup of Italian coffee after dinner without having to lose my sleep. If that sounds appealing to you, you might want to get some Decacrèm and see for yourself.

Segafredo ”Emozioni 100% Arabica”—surprisingly nice!

One day, I had to quickly get some pre-ground Italian coffee. I walked into my local supermarket and noticed this: Segafredo Emozioni 100% Arabica. Since I hadn’t tried it before, I decided to give it a go.

On the package, Segafredo tells us that Emozioni is (obviously) a ”100% Arabica blend with a vivid fragrance.” We are also told that the roast level is ”medium”. The ”sensory profile” is described thus:

  • Aroma 4/5
  • Intensity 4/5
  • Body 3/5
  • Persistency 5/5

As I always do with Italian blends, I brewed Emozioni using my Bialetti Moka pot.

Both the body and the intesity were medium. The flavor profile was quite simple and straightforward, but not monochromatic. In my opinion, there were two main notes:

  • medium dark, semi-sweet chocolate
  • a sour, cigar-like quality

Both of these aspects worked very well together, with the slightly smoky cigar-like thing taking the lead role.

As expected, Emozioni didn’t exactly knock my socks off. After all, it’s a mass produced grocery store blend. Even so, I found it to be a perfectly enjoyable all day espresso made in the true Italian style. If I ever run out of higher quality coffee, I can see myself buying it again.

Oh, one last note: While I rarely use any additives in my coffee, I must say that Emozioni worked quite well as a foundation for oat milk café au lait. The moderate intensity was subdued nicely by the oat milk, but it was still strong enough not to feel weak or diluted. I imagine that this blend would provide a nice base for a caffè latte as well.

Segafredo ”Intenso”—Intense? Yes, but…

This is Intenso, another Segafredo blend manufactured for the Italian espresso maker by Meira, the big Finnish coffee and spice company.

On the bag, we are told that this ”is an Italian-style, dark roast, organic coffee with a flavour reminiscent of the robust, dark and strong characteristics of Italian coffee.” The roast level is ”3”.

For brewing, I used both my Bialetti Moka pot and the French press.

Either way, the results were less than appealing.

Now, Intenso was pretty intense indeed. There was a healthy dose of acidity, and some bitterness as well. I immediately got the impression that this was going the be a very flavorful blend. Ironically, however, the actual flavors were hard to detect. To be more precise, there seemed to be none to speak of.

Everything in Intenso made me think of those cheap (actually, a lot cheaper) Bellarom blends they sell in Lidl.

If that’s what you like, you might consider trying it. As for me, I would rather get a pack of Lavazza Qualità Oro.

Segafredo ”Pausa”—a reasonably good ”Italian” blend

Here’s another grocery store coffee that I’ve wanted to try: Segafredo Zanetti Pausa. To be precise, this blend is manufactured for Segafredo by Meira, the traditional Finnish coffee and spice company. Since Pausa is not listed on the international Segafredo website, one wonders if it’s only made for a limited (Scandinavian?) market.

On the bag, there is some information on the product:

Segafredo Pausa is an Italian-style, dark roast coffee with a flavour reminiscent of the robust, dark and strong characteristics of Italian coffee.

We are also told that Pausa is ”[s]trong in taste”, and roasted ”very dark” (4). Judging by the images on the bag, the company appears to suggest that the blend is suitable for French press and auto drip machines.

Well, if it’s supposed to be an Italian-style blend, it should be tried in the Moka pot first!

Indeed, Pausa was similar to many Italian Arabica espresso blends. (It appeared to contain no Robusta.) While the mouthfeel was by no means harsh, the flavor profile was on the bitter and acidic side. I also detected the following notes:

  • semi-sweet dark chocolate
  • salted licorice—not unlike Moak Gusto Bar, but not quite as much
  • some smokiness
  • the tiniest hint of vanilla

The French press version was nice, but it offered no real surprises. In my opinion, it was ”just good coffee” with few nuances and little complexity. I definitely preferred the Moka pot version.

In summary, the Finnish made Segafredo Zanetti Pausa is a reasonably good, dark roasted, medium bodied Italian-style grocery store blend. While it is hardly ”gourmet”, there is nothing wrong with it, either. If there is no Lavazza Qualità Oro available, I can see myself buying it again.

Lavazza ”Qualità Oro”—the best grocery store espresso?

This is one of the blends that I have wanted to try for a long time: Qualità Oro from the Italian coffee giant, Lavazza.

According to the company, Qualità Oro is ”[a] unique combination of 6 varieties of Arabica beans from amongst the finest of Central and South America, expertly crafted and perfectly blended. The perfect symphony for a superior taste every time, since 1956.” They also state that the roasting is ”medium”, and the intensity is 5/10. As for ”aromatic notes”, the company gives ”fruit” and ”flowers”.

If I understand correctly, the blend is only available pre-ground. As Lavazza states, it is ”neither too fine nor too coarse, and designed to guarantee a perfect espresso every time.” They also claim that it is ”ideal for the Moka pot.” Oh, yes please! (You don’t have to guess which coffee maker I chose for brewing this blend!)

I found the bouquet to be rich and very pleasant. It made me think of dried fruits, walnuts, chocolate and vanilla.

On the other hand, the mouthfeel was relatively creamy and quite smooth. The rich intensity and the medium full body made themselves manifest a few seconds after the first sip. Nice!

Flavor-wise, Qualità Oro was uniform, but not monochromatic by any means. On the one hand, the blend was pleasantly acidic, medium robust and intense. On the other hand, however, the semi-sweet notes of dried fruits, walnuts, chocolate and vanilla were all there in the flavor as well. I’m not sure I detected the ”flowers”, though, but who cares? For a powerful floral experience, you could always get some Crema e Gusto from the same company!

In my opinion, Lavazza Qualità Oro may be one of the best espresso blends available in a Finnish supermarket. In my opinion, it would be the perfect choice for those occasions when you’re traveling, for instance, and cannot find high quality artisan coffees. I will certainly be getting some more!

Lavazza ”Espresso Italiano Classico”—good enough for the price

So you want to make some Italian coffee, but there are no good coffee shops around? OK, you walk into the local supermarket, and see bags of Lavazza Espresso Italiano Classico. But is it good?

Here’s what I think.

It’s OK. Obviously, it is not the most flavorful espresso on the market. But what can you expect? It’s a mass produced blend that is sold in regular grocery stores. It also costs less than half of the price of better Italian espressos.

Lavazza does not provide much information on Espresso Italiano Classico. They only tell us that it is

  • a straight Arabica blend
  • roasted ”light”
  • aromatic and velvety.

They also say that the intensity is 5/10—whatever that means.

Since we are talking about a ”classic” Italian espresso blend, I just had to try making it in my Bialetti Moka pot.

Initially, it felt very smooth and pleasant in the mouth. Then, after two of three seconds, I was hit by the ”intensity”. It was somewhat acidic, and it had this piercing vibe to it which made me think of Illy espressos. But then, after another three seconds or so, it calmed down considerably. The finish was extremely well-rounded and mild—perhaps you could call it ”velvety”—, almost to the point where I couldn’t really detect the flavors anymore.

So yes, Espresso Italiano Classico seems to do exactly what Lavazza suggests. It is a decent Italian style espresso for anyone on a budget. I probably will not buy it anymore, but I do think that it is good enough for the price.

My top 10 coffees of 2020

In 2020, I got to enjoy at least 73 different coffee blends or single origin coffees from 12 different countries and 33 companies. Now it’s time to wrap up the year by listing the very best products!

While I had the opportunity to try all kinds of coffees, all of the products that made my top 10 list were unflavored high-end coffees. That said, I included one flavored coffee and one grocery store blend into the ”Honorable Mentions” category.

Like last year, the products were so different from each other that it wouldn’t have been fair to compare them with each other. Therefore, instead of ranking the coffees, I organized them into three categories according to the approximate roast level (dark, medium, and light). Of course, the darkness of a roast is a subjective matter. It is also probably not the best way to categorize coffee products. Obviously, there are so many other factors that affect the flavors. However, I wasn’t able to come up with a better way to list the coffees. So, in each of the three categories, I presented the coffees in alphabetical order according to the company name. The resulting list can be thought of as a pool of excellent coffees. You can pick any product you want and end up enjoying a truly memorable experience.

I used two different brewing methods. Espresso coffees were brewed in my three cup Bialetti Moka pot. On the other hand, the coffees that were intended for other brewing methods I prepared in my AeroPress, with my favorite inverted method and a paper filter. I used no additives.

So, here we go. My top 10 coffees of 2020:

Dark roast:

Medium roast:

Light roast:

You could not go wrong with any of these coffees. Unfortunately, some of these products might already be out of stock. If that is the case, you could check out any product from these great roasteries. They really know what they do.

Lastly, there were three blends that did not make the top 10 list but still deserve to be mentioned.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hamwi Café Classic—the best flavored coffee (cardamom) (United Arab Emirates)
  • Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—the best Greek grocery store coffee (Greece)
  • Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—the best Finnish grocery store coffee (Finland)

Special thanks to everyone at Cafetoria Roastery, E’s World Coffee, Kahwe, Mokafina, Muki, and Rob Beans Coffee for making this possible!

Now it’s time for me to take a small break and enjoy some great blends I recently received from the USA. I’ll be back in early January to tell you about them!

Happy New Year!

Revisited: Pascucci ”Golden Sack”—My All-time Favorite Coffee

This has always been my number one favorite coffee blend: Golden Sack by Caffè Pascucci Torrefazione S.p.A (Monte Cerignone, Italy). It is a classic Italian espresso blend of 90% Arabicas and 10% Robusta.

The other day, I wanted to see if I still loved it as much as I have in the past. So I took the 7 minute walk to my favorite coffee shop, the local Ciao! Caffé, and purchased a 1000 g bag.

While Golden Sack is an espresso blend, it obviously works equally well when made using a moka pot. Of course, I am a Bialetti moka pot man through and through.

So, what did I think of it? Briefly, I thought it was fantastic.

I detected

  • dark chocolate
  • almonds
  • a hint of marzipan
  • toasted bitterness
  • a drop of cream

All the flavors were in perfect balance; Golden Sack offered the ideal mélange of the classic flavors one would expect from a high quality Italian espresso. While it was big, strong, and bold, it was also ”medium” enough so as not to punch you in the face. The mouthfeel was quite smooth, but it also had just enough of an edge to make you feel you’re having a true espresso. Exactly the way I like it.

Is Golden Sack the best coffee blend on the planet? Probably not. That said, it is everything I love about coffee. It just hits the spot every time, every day, year after year. It is truly my desert island coffee.

So, here are my instructions for you:

  1. Hurry up to your local Ciao! Caffé or Pascucci coffee shop.
  2. Get a bag of Golden Sack.
  3. Enjoy the true Italian espresso experience!

Arcaffè Meloria—a classic Italian A/R espresso

This time, I’m reviewing Meloria, an honest espresso made in the Italian way by Arcaffè (Livorno, Italy). It is a classic blend, comprising 75% Arabicas, and 25% Robusta.

Again, there’s a description on the bag:

Meloria is named after the shallows of Meloria, made of rocks arising 2 miles in front of Livorno. It’s made of estate coffees only (75% Arabica) and created for those who prefer a strong taste. It produces thick and long-lasting cream. The high percentage of unwashed coffee makes it a full-bodied blend.

The company also states that the blend is ”Strong, Complete”. The familiar graph describes the flavor profile thus:

In my opinion, these statements hold true—for the most part, at least.

As I brewed Meloria in my Bialetti Moka, I immediately detected the familiar Robusta notes: the bouquet was vanilla-y, and slightly floral.

The mouthfeel reminded me of the other Arcaffè blends I’ve had: It was smooth and creamy, but pretty light, almost juicy. Very nice!

What about the flavor profile? Despite the smoothness of the blend, there was a classic ”Italian” bitterness that seemed to ”come from within the blend”. Try to imagine a big, soft (rubber?) ball with a silky smooth surface, and a hard core, and you may get a picture of ”where” the bitterness was ”located” in the blend. (Please bear with me, these things are quite difficult to describe, even in Finnish, my native language!) Anyway, the vanilla flavor was pretty noticeable, but then there was also a deep chocolate note, accompanied with some of that florality. None of these flavors was super dominant. Rather, they were very nicely balanced.

To sum up, out of the four Arcaffè espressos I’ve had, Meloria was probably the most traditional. While it didn’t offer any big suprises, it was very enjoyable, to the point where it made me dream of my next trip to Italy.

In Finland, you can get Arcaffè blends from Crema, Helsinki. I highly recommend you do so!