The best Italian coffees,
from the best Italian cafés.

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Interview: Dott. Pierluigi Milani


We had the privilege of sitting down and asking (a lot of) questions to Pierluigi Milani,  the owner and CEO of Caffè Milani, Como

What makes the Milani coffees or the Milani company different from the competitors?

Is is the know-how built over more than 70 years. 
To start with, a precise selection of the highest quality raw material. I realise that nowadays such a statement if often empty and abused. For one, I can confirm that I personally select the green coffees for many years and I never ever compromised on my quality standards. Besides that, our modern and flexible roasting lines that are capable of sublimating the complex flavours instead of destroying them. To these two basic elements I am adding my personal touch, which consists in a passion for my profession inherited from my father, and in an experience of over 40 years in coffee roasting. 

What makes Italian coffee different and special?

Two essential elements that, ultimately, are representative of the whole history and also the success of Italy: poverty and fantasy. Alike the most famous Italian cuisine that’s now recognised worldwide, the Italian espresso was born out of these two elements. Espresso represents their perfect union (of poverty and fantasy) because it is a great result that comes out of very little material. 

Where (bar / restaurant / café) did you experience the best coffee(s) of your life? 

I still remember it vividly, as if it happened yesterday: I was in a bar in Milan in 1964 in Piazza Cinque Giornate. The coffee brand was Caffè Haiti, a historical Milanese roaster famous for their quality. I honestly confess that that coffee cup put me in a state of total enthusiasm - to the point that, back in my roasting shop, I spent weeks trying in every possible way to recreate that fantastic blend. 

How do you think Italy's best coffees compare to the 3rd wave roasters from Northern Europe, USA and Australia. 

It depends a lot on the approach of each individual company operating in this business, therefore I don’t think I should make general statements. From a personal point of view, I welcome any “new wave” that is about getting back to true product quality, and that educates the consumers about what is (or isn’t) a good quality coffee. 

What do you consider your greatest professional achievement? 

Definitely having been at the helm of my company until now without ever having significant problems. Looking back at my career, I am proud to say that I’ve navigated over 4 decades through difficult and complicated moments for our industry. 

How different is the taste and quality of Italian espresso today compared to 40-50 years ago? 

No doubt, the average quality has gone down. When I started, Italy was importing almost exclusively Arabica coffees, and the little Robusta that was used was objectively of high quality. Today the situation is very different. 

How was to coffee business different when you started your career compared to today? 

The same differences that one comes across in many industries. I see a significant trend towards more and more industrialisation, from coffee farming to roasting. More industry and less craftsmanship, with the gains and losses that this brings. 

What gives you the motivation to continue at an age where others retire? The passion for my work and the love for coffee. 

My day starts inevitably, as the day of millions of others, with a cup of coffee, and as long as this happens I want to be the first who takes care in person of the whole process that starts with green coffee and ends with my espresso cup. 

Is there any personal secret that you'd like to share with our readers that will help them make better coffee at home / office? 

No secrets really, but I would suggest to explore coffees not only as a blends but as single origins too. From the knowledge of the different origins one can refine one’s own taste when it comes to appreciating different blends. 

How do you judge the quality of a bar / caffetteria? 

The attention to detail. A bar owner who takes care in person of every single detail of his bar gives me confidence that his choice of products is of high quality. Those who don’t pay attention to details are typically rather “approximative” in their choices. 

What do you think Italy needs so that it stays or becomes a global leader in coffee quality production?

This is a difficult question. Maybe we should all remember (in Italy) that we started as coffee artisans. We should never forget our roots. Italy’s success was always due not to the major enterprises, of which we don’t have that many in fact, but to the small and medium companies that have created exceptional products recognised and appreciated around the world.