This has been one intense week for me. In addition to my regular work schedule I needed to make a trip to the American Embassy in Rome. And as it is said in Italy when someone asks, “How was Rome?” The answer is, “Roma è sempre bella!” or “Rome is always beautiful!” My trip to Rome was not only beautiful, it was also an adventure. However, the journey got off to a rough start. During my early morning flight from Turin to Rome, there was an explosion somewhere outside the plane. I remember a big flash of light and then a huge noise. No announcements were made in the cabin and everyone just looked at each other like “what in the world just happened?” Fortunately, everything was okay. When we landed, we could see a hole in a portion of the wing along with some burn marks. Perhaps it was one of the motors? Obviously, it wasn’t my time yet to leave this world. I am and continue to be very thankful.
Beatrice from Gustiamo recommended I get in touch with Raimondo from Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè in Rome to schedule a degustazione or coffee tasting. Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè is located right in front of the Senato della Repubblica palace. It’s also close to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. “The symbol of Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè is a stag which recalls the apparition and conversion to Christianity of the previously pagan Eustace.”
Upon meeting Raimondo he began to tell me how in the different regions of Italy, Italians have variations in their coffee preferences. Generally in the north of Italy, most Italians prefer a coffee/espresso that isn’t too strong. In Rome and its general area, Italians prefer a medium strong coffee and in the south, Italians prefer very strong coffee.
What makes Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè so special? Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè has been in business since 1938. They begin with high-quality coffee beans. They have personal relationships with their coffee farmers not only for quality purposes but to ensure their farmers make a living wage. Social programs are funded and since September 2008 Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè has been donating extra proceeds from the sale of its traditional coffee blend back to Coopfam (a co-op in Minas Gerais, Brazil) to ensure the social programs continue to flourish.
Since 2001, Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè has been using fair trade and organic coffee beans mostly from Central American, South America and the Dominican Republic. Coopfam cooperates with 5 other associations from the surrounding areas in Minas Gerais and together they run educational and charity programs. These programs in turn help to educate farmers about sustainable agricultural methods and this in turn creates a sustainable production system.
The fruit from the coffee plant resembles that of a cherry. The fruit is picked in July and each fruit contains two coffee beans or one seed. The seeds are separated by hand and are then dried in the sun.
Sant’Eustachio blend is made from Arabica beans that are slowly roasted at a relatively low temperature. What makes this product even more intriguing is that the coffee beans are roasted over wood. Raimondo explained to me that coffee beans to be used for American or filtered coffee, are toasted only for 10 minutes. On the contrast, the coffee blends for an espresso require more roasting time.
I couldn’t wait for the degustazione to begin and when I was given a double espresso, I was immediately drawn to the creamy texture of the top layer. This was by far the best espresso I have ever had. I prefer to drink espresso without sugar, (“lo prendo amaro”) because it’s the best way to judge how good the coffee really is. The taste was smooth, light and yet robust all at the same time. It was extremely well-balanced. Later, I was given a sample of what could be called a “Roman-style Bicerin” (espresso base blended with melted chocolate) only it was served with whipped cream or panna montata rather than simple cream. Because of the source of the coffee and knowing some of the history behind what I was drinking, I enjoyed it that much more.
I learned from chocolate master Silvio Bessone that each type of cacao from a particular region has its own aromatics and as Raimondo explained to me, the same holds true for coffee. I wanted to be there while they roasted the coffee beans, but unfortunately I had to catch a plane back to Turin later that night. They were planning to roast them the following day.
After the coffee tasting I caught a taxi to the American Embassy. Once inside the American Embassy I had the pleasure of meeting an older gentleman who was born in Italy and then immigrated to the US. He served in Germany during WWII as a medic and was a part of the infantry. Years later, he returned to his native country to retire. I will always remember Mr. Granata, for he had such a beautiful and gentle smile.
It took me a couple of hours to get all of my paperwork completed but once I did, I headed to Piazza 500 to meet my friend Ania. She took me to Pompi, il Regno del Tiramisù. We had tiramisù al pistachio and it was devine! Ania is Polish and I am also of Polish decent, however we spoke in Italian the entire time. Needless to say, because we are both red heads, we got quite a reaction from most of the men on the street while we were walking around town. Thank you Ania and I hope to visit with you again; next time in Poland!
If you want to buy some of the products from Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè contact Gustiamo via email at email@example.com or 718-860-2949. Gustiamo imports a beautiful array of artisan products from Italy.
Thank you again to Raimondo. It was truly a pleasure to meet you and I wish you all continued success. Tanti auguri da Torino!
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82
00186 – Roma – Italia
Telefono/Fax: 00 39 06 68802048