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The World Cup of Coffee

On a recent Thursday morning, nine coffee experts gathered at the Edition Hotel in midtown to drink or sip at 27 cups from nine different countries. The judges were “multidisciplinary” and flown in from all over the world, and thus jet-lagged. The initial vibe was Willy Wonka-esque, with some testers not sure why they got the golden ticket, while others had gone for a quick brushup at one of Illy’s seventeen Università del Caffè branches. Sunalini Menon, of Coffeelab, in Bangalore, is world-renowned and estimates her career intake at north of a million cups. The key to her success was “sipping, slurping, and looking wise thereafter.”

All eyes were on David Brussa, Illy’s chief total-quality and sustainability officer. Brussa told the judges to trust their instincts and not overthink. He also mentioned that sugar could be found, in an emergency. Eighty-one cups of cold-brewed coffee arrived, and spoons were raised, and silence fell.

The company’s illustrious chairman, Andrea Illy, had quietly snuck into a nook at the back of the suite where baristas were grinding and brewing. He wore an arabica-colored Zegna suit whose buttonhole held the same tiny gold cup as Brussa’s. He explained that he had woken that morning and flung off the false luxury of sleep with an American drip coffee. He had his first taste of coffee at two and a half, from his mamma. When a particular cup piqued his curiosity, he would ask his barista for the key to the code.

In the last cup of the espresso round, nine tired and wired cognoscenti. Menon’s expertise was showing, and finally, the last espresso arrived and was jointly degusted. The judges gathered for a photo, Brussa tabulated the results, and the winner was Brazil.

After the U.N. convocation, the traffic, and the photo ops, Illy needed a boost. He brought an Illy espresso in a paper cup to him, and he took in the aroma of dry fruits and chocolate notes. He noted that America was a work in progress, and that education was the key to making the U.S. Italian-level sophistication.

Read More @ The New Yorker

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