From 1956, when our father Ernesto Illy took over from our grandfather Francesco, science began to be a very important part of the story of illycaffè of Trieste: our father had a degree in chemistry and had a scientific approach to everything he did.
Over the years scientific research took on increasing importance at the small company "laboratory", which was staffed full time by a chemist, Dr. Ruzzier, and her two assistants in the Sixties. Now we are cable to rely on know-how resulting from various laboratories, each specialised in different areas of research. There is a microscopy laboratory which studies the most intricate meanders of coffee cells under traditional and electronic microscopes. An AromaLab, which concentrates on the mass spectrophotometry with which we can study aromas and their behaviour. A SensoryLab, where we study how coffee is perceived by the taste buds. A TechLab which studies how to translate the information we receive from other laboratories into technology, to constantly improve our blend, for example. The Chemical Laboratory, which studies coffee in general and provides support for the other laboratories. A mechanical workshop and laboratory, in which the machines that we use to produce our coffee, such as the pressurising machines, are designed, developed and often built. Through to the BioLab which, as well as studying the biology of the coffee plant and its adaptability to the environmental impact, carries out scientific research into the biology and agronomy of coffee in various producer countries, monitored by our agronomists and the staff of the various scientific laboratories.
My father was convinced that, in order to make a good coffee it was necessary to know it very well: after over forty years of experience, many of which by his side, I have come to the conclusion that he was right. Of course, the coffee made by our competitors is improving before our eyes, partly (if not especially) thanks to our efforts in the producer countries and with the growers to sensitise the coffee farmers in relation to quality and teach them the techniques necessary to obtain this quality, from plant genetics through to production processes. On one hand, this fact makes us proud of the work done: we know that if we hadn't done it... no one else would have... and coffee would be a commodity of doubtful quality today. On the other, it forces us to teach our consumers more and more about what makes a coffee absolutely perfect: at one time, all it took was a simple comparison between two cups and the smell of defects and of Robusta, which were very common at the time, were immediately evident.
Today we have to teach consumers the innermost defects, those that are less evident but yet always, nevertheless, present in most of the coffees on the market. Those who follow us down this path are able to learn a lot about coffee and about themselves, from how to taste and recognise the coffee to its physiology.