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There’s more to coffee than just the bean!

Illy is well known for its fabulous coffee – both for the flavours and for creating a truly sensorial experience.

With The London Coffee Festival approaching we caught up with Gianluca Simeone, Operations Manager, at illy, who recently put our baristas through their paces at The 2015 Lexington Baristar Competition.

  • What first drew you into the coffee business?

I got into the coffee industry in 1999 while I was in London studying English and met a guy who worked for Illy – he offered me a job as an auditor. At the time being an auditor mainly meant traveling from client to client to try their coffee, so being from Naples where coffee (espresso) is taken quite seriously I thought it would be an interesting challenge. I then met Marco Arrigo, Head of Quality, who passed on his passion for coffee.

  • What are the most valuable lessons you have learned about coffee whilst working with it?​​

There are many lessons I have learnt over the years working with coffee but number one is that coffee, as many believe, isn’t just coffee but it is a precise science and to get it right it takes a large team of experts and a lot of effort.

The illy team have over 120 individual strict controls to be able to offer the end consumer coffee of the quality that only Illy provides.

  • There is lots of competition – how do you ensure you innovate?

illy was established in 1933. It’s always tried to be innovative and ahead of the game, for example illy is the only coffee company to preserve coffee in pressurised containers – this is a patented packaging system, which many competitors have tried to copy over the years without success. illy was also the company that created the E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pod system, a popular pre-packed, single cup coffee-making design, which remains a popular choice for passionate coffee lovers at home. 

  • illy is known for its fabulous training – why do you invest so much in this?

We believe that training key to guaranteeing the quality of the finished cup of coffee; we sell a fantastic product but coffee is a science and if not treated as such the end result could be anything but great.  

  • 91% of employees rank tea/coffee provision as important in an effective workplace. In your opinion are organisations meeting employees’ needs?

Most organisations are trying their best to offer quality products to their employees but premium products come at a premium price and some organisations are not prepared or able to pay.

  • 89% of office workers say a good cup of coffee can make an entire workday better. Why do you think this is the case?

Coffee should be a drink that makes your work break a pleasurable break, it shouldn’t just be a caffeine shot that keeps you going through the day (there are energy drinks for that), in fact illy only has a maximum content of 1.5% caffeine and it enables consumers to enjoy more cups during the day.

  • Coffee culture has really taken off in the UK over the last ten years – where do you see it heading?​

I have worked with illy for 16 years and I have seen a phenomenal growth in coffee sales and a big change in coffee culture. It is very difficult to say what direction it will go but I would like to see the espresso take over the milk based drinks; it’s probably just a dream but I hope it will come true.

  • What is your favourite aspect of the coffee culture?

What I enjoy most about the coffee culture is the socialising aspect of it, something that until now people in the UK would only do in pubs drinking a pint of beer. Once again coffee should be a pleasurable drink that one enjoys with friends or work colleagues.