the Authentic Italian issue

W hen Luigi Lavazza opened his grocery store in 1895, radio had not yet been invented and Puccini was writing La boh è me . To the west, post-Impressionists seized the art world, and names like Cezanne and Gauguin filled the void left by Van Gogh and Seurat. Bookshops carried the new works by Tolstoy, Kipling, Verne and Salgari. And in his little store, Lavazza began experimenting with imported sacks of coffee and roasting them for his Torinese clientele. Good coffee is as much a part of the Italian culture as linguine or pesto. To survive — let alone define — that culture is a sign of just how good Lavazza’s coffee was, and remains. He pioneered the practice of blending coffee. Like wine, a coffee bean’s natural aroma is drawn from a region’s soil, water, climate and weather. A trip to Brazil confirmed this for him, and Lavazza went on to explore the chemistry of coffee and the happy intersections of regional flavors. Soon the little Lavazza store on Via San Tommaso garnered a following far beyond the town of Turin. Lavazza was a man of his time, elevating coffee into art, and giving the world something it had never before experienced. CAFFÈ by DavidW. Brown

The Family Business In 1927,Luigi Lavazza incorporated his burgeoning coffee company, and the long and lonely journey of the coffee bean — from South America to Europe to Northern Italy — suddenly became one mile too short. It wasn’t enough to reach his shop, where Luigi might test blends and find harmony.The coffee now had somehow to get to the homes of his customers and countrymen. Lavazza learned to carve a corporate path that involved sales, packing, shipping and marketing. It wasn’t enough to build a business. He was building a business that scaled, a business that would last. And last it did.Today, Lavazza dominates the Italian coffee market, and is the seventh-largest roaster in the world. You’ve probably had it while traveling abroad, or plucked it from a local grocery store shelf: ground or whole, espresso or decaf.Twenty-seven billion cups of Lavazza coffee are consumed annually, and it can be found in 90 countries. For a company to cross the century mark and reach those sorts of numbers, it has to have figured a few things out. Part of the coffee’s longevity is the Lavazza name.While Luigi puzzled together first a little market and later a coffee brand, he and his wife raised a family. Adaughter and two sons came into their own alongside the company, and were raised hearing about blends and roasts and learning about the lands where the beans took root. Luigi’s children eventually came to control the family business; then his grandchildren, and then his great-grandchildren. Love has kept the company going, thriving — and daring, where faceless conglomerates might have taken safer roads. There were setbacks along the way, and lessons yet to be learned. Picasso was still painting when the company nearly went bankrupt in the early 1970s. A turn of harsh winters wiped out the Brazilian coffee industry and threatened to take the enterprising importer down with it. Tricky negotiation and a lot of luck kept Lavazza afloat. In the early 2000s, recovered and thriving, the Lavazza family slowed and looked

at the conditions of farm workers abroad who make blends possible. What they found was not always pretty, and the family started the Giuseppe and Pericle Lavazza

Foundation and a coffee project called ¡Tierra!, dedicated to raising the standards of living in developing nations.



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