Italy coffee giants try to fend off Starbucks invasion in Milan

illycaffe by Illy, Milan

Starbucks set up shop in the Italian fashion capital just last year.  A backlash is being formed in the shape of two new flagship cafes from Italian giants Illy and Lavazza.

Illycaffe, the flagship from Illy was opened in May of this year and the follow-up from Lavazza opens 19 September.

Both have apparently denied their new openings are a response to the US rival’s arrival.  This is somewhat unlikely given that Starbucks is looking to open 200-300 stores across the country.  A ballsy move by Starbucks considering that coffee is the pride of Italy and a national institution.

It’s also rather confusing since both Illy and Lavazza have existed in Italy since before the second world war.  Why on earth has it taken them so long to capitalise there?

Stale Italian coffee vs. stale American coffee

The Italian chains may lay claim to inventing espresso, but they certainly didn’t invent coffee.  Neither did Starbucks.  What they both do is sell coffee with long shelf life that are stockpiled and blended for maximum profit.  No roasted-on dates here.

And often, the coffee will be roasted dark in order to hide the cheap robusta varieties that are used as part of the blends that all of companies — and even many advocates of them — insist gives the coffee its ‘oomph’, otherwise known as ‘bitterness’.  Or ‘ashiness’.  What is true, however, is that robusta does have more caffeine than its higher quality Arabica sibling.  So I guess for the caffeine fix, this type of coffee does serve a practical purpose for the caffeine hunting commuters on their way to work.

Ultimately then, does it much matter which of these coffee shops you end up buying your coffee from?  Unlikely, since they will likely all be selling the same product, so punters will have to look elsewhere in Milan if they want a real fresh cup of coffee.

Or you know, they could just buy some speciality coffee online and make it themselves. 🙂

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