Thursday, February 7, 2008

Coffee Magnate Dies

Earlier this week, the N.Y. Times reported:

Ernesto Illy, who as chairman of Illycaffè, maker of an expensive brand of coffee, was renowned as a scientific perfectionist of coffee and especially as an evangelist of espresso, died Sunday in Trieste, Italy. He was 82.

. . . “Our coffee is twice as expensive as the run-of-the-mill stuff, at least,” Mr. Illy told The New York Times in 2001. “Our goal is perfect beans, zero defects, and we think we get close to that.”

“Fine espresso paints the tongue,” he said of his favorite drink, which he made a product of precision.

. . . Mr. Illy, a chemist, was chairman of the company from 1963 to 2004. It was founded in 1933 by his father, Francesco, a chocolate maker from Hungary who moved to Trieste after World War I. By then, Trieste, a port city on the Adriatic, had become a coffee hub, the most convenient place to receive beans from Africa and South America and ship them to caffeine-craving European cities.

. . . Every step of the manufacturing process is monitored by (Illy's) computers. There are 114 quality-control checks between the time bags of raw beans arrive on the loading docks to the time roasted beans are shipped in sealed cans.

Every day, Mr. Illy, along with 15 other people he had trained, would taste every lot of beans that the company was considering buying.

Now that's quality control.

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