About // History // Coffee Inside Out

We put the “Cru” in Crucial

In coffee lingo, cru refers to the particular beans selected for the blend. So when you drink our coffee you can be sure that you’re drinking only the finest. Furthermore, through our delicate tasting and re-tasting process we ensure that our beans maintain their original characteristics – the reason we chose them in the first place. In fact, we test them up to eight times before they make the cut to be a part of the illy brand.

This process is no easy feat and is left up to the liquorers – the master blenders and taste experts, equipped with the crucial skills and sensitivities needed in determining and selecting the cru.

Who is a liquorer, exactly?

The liquorer is the alpha and omega of coffee knowledge. Beyond just the coffee, they analyze harvest characteristics to ensure balance and consistency regardless of the harvest variations. After much deliberation and analysis, the liquorer selects the coffee lots worthy of purchase. But their role doesn’t stop there: they repeatedly evaluate the lot to ensure its worthiness of the illy brand. For them, it’s excellence or nothing.

Where it all begins

There’s no mistaking the brilliant white and fragrant flowers of the Arabica plant. These signal the eight to nine month countdown, after the first rains, before the deep red cherry-like fruits come to life, bearing two Arabica seeds beneath their skin. Due to the tropical and equatorial regions in which coffee grows, these evergreen shrubs, classified under the genus Coffea, don’t see too much in terms of season changes. This means it’s the start of the rainy season that actually marks the beginning of their story.

Originating in the highlands of Ethiopia, Arabica today represents 59% of the word’s coffee production. This shrub is naturally sensitive to hot and humid conditions and thrives at altitudes of over 2000m above sea level. The higher it is grown, the higher quality characteristics during roasting. Of the Coffea species, Arabica is the only one with 44 chromosomes, and chemically the caffeine content varies from 0.9% to 1.7% in each bean’s volume.

Talking about beans…

The coffee bean is actually the seed of the coffee plant, found in the red fruit known as the cherry. With a fairly flat and elongated profile with a sinuous groove, each bean is surrounded by a membrane known as the parchment and a layer of sweet pulp. When it comes to harvesting the fruits, great care must be taken since both ripe and unripe fruits may be present, making precision harvesting critical.

What ‘good’ looks and tastes like.

Fully fragrant, sweet and round with a slight and pleasant acidity – often chocolaty – followed by an aftertaste of caramel and a mild whisper of bitterness are key tasting notes to look out for when it comes to a well-prepared espresso borne of exclusively high-quality Arabica. And what does it look like? The quintessential rich, creamy layer known as crema, light reddish brown in hue, consistent and painted with tiger-like stripes.

Thinking About Coffee Inside Out

Coffee is delicate and should be treated so. That’s why we pioneered the first-of-its-kind natural pressurization technology to keep our coffee fresher for longer. 40% of vital aromas are lost after only eight hours of contact with air when it comes to roasted coffee. That goes for common vacuum packed coffee and it’s even worse for soft bags. We had to do something about this.

Coffee is something to overcome all senses, so by packaging illy coffee in cans along with inert nitrogen under pressure, we are able to trap essential aromas and protect them for over a year. Further to this, just by being packaged in this manner helps illy coffee become even rounder than when it was when it was first packaged on account of emerging oils mingling with one another, similar to how a fine wine matures in its bottle.

So next time you open a can of illy, breath in deep the alluring aroma and listen for the signature “whoosh”. That’s the sound of fresh coffee at its freshest.

Oh, and the can is recyclable too.

Coffee is a ritual

Coffee was made to overcome all your senses. illy coffee has all five senses well-and-truly satisfied.


The prelude to taste and coffee’s first impression. At the optimum temperature of 80°C let the first waves of aroma cascade over you as you stir it to life. Notice the light notes of flowers and fruit, marked by jasmine and almond. The next wave comes after you’ve had your first sip, with hints of freshly baked bread and chocolate.


The main event. Best enjoyed at around 65°C, this is when espresso is at its best for tasting. With a tiny sip, there is a bold fullness with an unmistakable balance of sweet, bitter and acidic. Should you opt for a touch of sugar, we recommend you add it after the first sip; after you’ve allowed your palate to experience this masterpiece in its purest form.


Touch and texture play a big part in an espresso’s body. We feel it in its crema where the light-brown top layer laces itself across the tongue in deep, velvety and creamy swathes. This all adds to the culinary journey and experience of espresso.


From the din of a busy coffee shop, with grinders holding assembly, to the morning’s silent sigh at home with the gentle bubbling bubbling bubbling: coffee is all-immersive. As the cup delicately chimes against its saucer and the spoon rings in high-pitched melody with each rotation, coffee is a symphony for the senses.


It’s good to know what good looks like. Cast your eyes over the surface to the crema on top and its sublime textures of brown, streaked by light reddish streaks, akin to those of a tiger.

Remember, if the crema is dark brown, has a white button or black hole at the centre, please send it back. These are telltale signs for lack of care in the espresso ranging from too fine a grind, excessive temperature and pressure, to overly long extraction time. Also beware of light and flimsy crema with its mirror-image issues.

Stand for what’s right, you’ll be glad you did.

Coffee as a ritual // ITALY

It may only be 10th on the world coffee consumption list, but Italy is largely known as the genesis of espresso and plays HQ to a number of major international coffee roasters. Not only that, it is also credited with giving rise to the coffee bar – the first dating back to 1645 in Venice – where an espresso is usually accompanied by a hint (if any) of sugar. Today, Naples is credited with much of coffee’s modern character. Bellissimo.

Coffee as a ritual // FRANCE

With a history and heritage of coffee dating back to the times of Voltaire and Honore de Balzac between 1600 and 1800, Parisian cafés are a rite of passage. For locals, brewed coffee goes best with croissants and baguettes from their local roasteries. Head to the north to enjoy a “long” espresso with a little more volume than the typical 30ml.

Coffee as a ritual // U.S.

Everything is bigger in the USA, and while espresso, cappuccino and latte are familiar favourites, nothing beats brewed coffee in big cups to meet their range in taste and strength preference. Any time of day is a good time for coffee, which makes it understandable that the U.S is the biggest coffee consuming nation in terms of volume. Side note: Brazil is the biggest producer of coffee.

Coffee as a ritual // TURKEY

Coffee has been a staple beverage since the mid 1500s thanks to the Syrian merchants coming to Instanbul. Since then coffee has rooted itself firmly in Turkey’s society, politics, hospitality and even religious life. Times may have changed since young women in harems would judge an artisan’s coffee prep skills, but one thing remains the same; a coffee shared with someone ensures 40 years of friendship to follow.

Coffee as a ritual // AUSTRIA

After the Turkish retreat in 1683, a number of precious bags of coffee were left behind in Vienna: lucky for the Viennese. From then, they made coffee their own and have since invented around 50 different ways to prepare coffee. Serving suggestion: slice of cake and a newspaper.

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