DAY 1 of 2 / Chapter 3 of 7 – Italy
Milan 3,6 km
12:30 – Around the world with a coffee bean – 8, Via Piero della Francesca
Often, people think that Milan is a city that grew because of big industry. But the truth is different. The economic origins of this city are in its many prestigious artisan products.
Milan has, along with other Italian cities, an association of Historic Shops. Its objective is to protect and defend commercial and artisan activity from rapid urbanisation, recognising their cultural value and risk of being wiped out.
Businesses listed as Historic Shops are given a plaque which certifies their value and status as a place of historic interest.
We’re at Hodeidanh, a registered Historic Shop. Since 1946, it has been charcoal roasting the best coffees from every continent in the world.
We meet the owner, Fulvio, who immediately intoxicates us with his words: “Like a warm, intense embrace, the smell of coffee envelopes all those that enter this shop. It’s an aroma with a story to tell: a story of tradition and passion, ancient knowledge and new understanding.”
Before we even begin to explore the shop, Fulvio offers us a coffee – and what a coffee it is! It’s the famous Jamaica Blue Mountain.
Fulvio tells us that it’s known as the champagne of coffees. “It’s produced in limited quantities in the Blue Mountain region, and it’s stored in wooden barrels, like rum. And we find traces of the liqueur as we taste the coffee, together with vanilla, cocoa, almond and butter, which blend perfectly with a pleasant hint of tobacco”.
At Hodeidah, you can travel around the world with a coffee bean.
From the vast plantations of Brazil to the mountains of Guatemala, at over 2000 feet high. From Columbia to San Salvador. From Ethiopia to India to Indonesia. Sacks of strong, raw Arabica coffee arrive at Hodeidah from the plantations of the world in hessian sacks and wooden boxes.
We find classic blends, such as the Gourmet Arabica Blend, a refined mixture of 8 selected varieties, offering an exquisite, aromatic coffee; and rare blends such as the Kopi Luwak from Indonesia, which has a unique, rich and fortified flavour with hints of herbs, bitter orange and a strong rhubarb aftertaste.
The production process for this coffee is incredible. It is made using ripe coffee berries which are eaten and partially digested and then defecated by the Indonesian civet, the Luwak. It’s the digestive enzymes that give the beans their distinctive flavour and make Kopi Luwak coffee inimitable, which is why it costs 500 euros a kilo; although a cup of Kopi Luwak will “only” set you back 5 euros.
Then there are the single-origin coffees, such as the 100% Arabica Guatemala Antigua Pastores, which offers a perfect balance between aromatic intensity and slight bitterness, flavoured with coconut, vanilla, orange, almond, hazelnut, ginseng, chocolate and aniseed.
Finally, the decaffeinated coffee, which is just pure water, steam and an aromatic substance that is naturally present in the coffee.It’s a strong, Arabica blend, and it offers a smooth, rounded flavour that is deliciously natural.
Hodeidah’s coffee roasting process has remained unchanged since the end of the 1940s.
Fulvio takes us to the back of the shop and into the workshop, where he roasts every single coffee bean and blends the coffee following unchanging, time-honoured rules. Vittoria, the old carbon coffee roaster from the 1940s, still works perfectly.
He tells us that this type of coffee roasting business is an artisan activity that is unfortunately dying out. Here, every day includes a ritual of traditional activities that enable Hodeidah to create excellent blends of coffee and an individual quality of Arabica.
Another wonderful thing about Hodeidah is its tea garden, a captivating little world in which guests can relax and choose from over 800 teas, as well as an excellent selection of biscuits, jams and sweets.