Rating: Third Wave Coffee in Rome
Well, it’s official, if up until a week ago the Third Wave Specialty Coffee scene in Rome might have been a bit ambiguous, a bit ‘nascent’ and maybe a little weak, well… that phase is officially over now. Third Wave Coffee is definitely here in Rome and boy am I glad to report that it’s here in such a cool way. Just this past Saturday 17th of December the Faro - Luminari del Caffè (or in English, ‘Lighthouse, Luminaries of Coffee’) held it’s gran opening.
The opening of this café has been brewing for quite some time and it’s finally a reality. Spearheaded by veteran Specialty Coffee barista connoisseur Dario Fociani and PR Consultant Dafne Spadavecchia, the Faro Caffè has all the trappings of a really excellent mainstream specialty coffee establishment.
While they don’t serve coffee they roast themselves, their solution to this conundrum is probably better: Their dedicated roaster is non other than Rubens Gardelli, the Italian Coffee Roaster Champion. His brand of coffee Gardelli Specialty Coffees is served non-stop at Faro and it is also available for purchase. In addition to Gardelli coffee, which goes without saying is simply an excellent, if not 'the' top coffee here in Italy, Faro will rotate other brands of Third Wave coffee in its shop. Now for Christmas will be offerings from Berlin’s The Barn Coffee Roasters. Up in store will also be other great hits from Italian Specialty roasters such as Ditta Artigianale and Le Piantagioni del Caffè among others. Yet, what is probably more interesting for locals, and for the broader international community is that Faro will rotate a large variety of premium Continental roasters, one such roaster is Tim Wendelboe which is one of my all time favorites. In addition to this, the coffee they serve in cup can also be purchased in beans to consume at home. They currently have the Gardelli coffee and also The Barn beans up for grabs. And of course, what would be a specialty coffee shop, in the vein of those that we run into outside of Italy all the time, if it were not for a stand to buy all the hipster trappings a drip coffee enthusiast could want. Yup, here you can buy your beans and brew’m too. Really great!
So, without a doubt, this place looks like it’s going to be a trend setter here in Rome and a point of reference for all other specialty coffee joints that will want to open up. And what’s more? The locale, white, sleek yet not cold. It was full of warm wood accents and when you pay attention, really cool wall art in a tucked out corner of the locale. The place just exudes chill, and gives off a feeling that you can – and should – indeed come there to spend some good hours at a table drinking cafes at ease.
So with all of this introduction, let’s finally get to the damned coffee, what’s at the essence of this place!
Presentation: I was given the choice of choosing their day’s specialty coffee selection or the ‘standard’ espresso. I went with the day’s special coffee first. It was a Gardelli of course and it was an Indonesian Sumatra Kelompok Petani. First time I’ve had this, and was curious. Its been years since I’ve had Indonesian coffee, so I was glad! So I got a double espresso. This is what it came in. A rather large latte cup, but this is indeed the norm in non-Italian places such as in the US or UK and Germany. An Italian might raise an eyebrow on seeing this. Water was given after asking. All in order.
Temperature of Cup: Yup, good temperature, warm, not cold, nor dammed hot.
Quantity: Well, I did ask for a double? It was, if I remember correctly, about 32 seconds worth of Java.
Temperature: Yup, perfect. It was smooth to the lips and simply a pleasure to feel in the mouth. It dropped temperature at a good rather quick rate.
Volume/Consistency: It was very silky, lighter in character, but with a smooth oil consistency that coated my mouth very nicely and evenly. It was an elastic thickness that really lingered and spread in my mouth in a very distinct way.
Crema: It was a light towards amber color crema, as these single origin should be, it was nothing yellow as some other blends are. It was persistent, and perfectly executed. It clung to the walls of the cup slightly showing that it had body and elasticity. Dario had given the cup a big swirl before serving it to me to get the espresso aired a bit, I’ll explain in a second. You can see the oil trace on the side of the cup).
Odor: Yup, all there. It was a fruity, perky, complex odor that didn’t stink of rancid coffee, but instead, of sweet and sharp and tart scents, colorful. It wasn’t a single smell that pervaded the cup, but a quite complex kaleidoscope of shades.
Taste: Here was have the test. Before I stuck the brew in my mouth, Dario Fociani explained that he wasn’t particularly confortable with this cup as indeed, it was the penultimate cup of the day. The rest of the beans had been consumed earlier in the day (this was around 5:30pm when I had this coffee). He was concerned the cup would be too tart. Well, that’s up my alley and it was tart but not really overwhelming at all. It was a very welcoming soft tartness, the body of the coffee oils really helped push the taste up to the fore. It was in no way sharp, and the smoothness opened up to fleshy fruit flavors, not citrics, but more fruits with pits, like ripe peaches and plum. The flavor was complex as the scent and I could pick out dried berries, it was as if I had a bouquet of a spectrum of more subtlely flavored fruit coming out from the coffee. Excellent!
Overall: I was a very happy camper. A really well executed cup, even if I was told it would have been even better earlier in the day when the hopper was full and the grinds a bit more even. Good I have something to come back to! It was coffee that really had character, and while some people say this particular coffee is ‘earthy’, it’s a description in a positive sense for this cup. As the temperature of the brew cooled all the flavors started making there presence felt and it was really like having a piece of homemade candy in a cup. Loved it. Simple as that.
The setup: Well, they have a professional setup. Like the coffee they serve, Dario and Dafne haven’t skimped anywhere here. They have a beautiful La Marzocco Linea PB machine, that from the length of the machine is a three group piece. The grinders are also La Marzocco Caffè Lux D on demand beasts. These are revamped Mazzers, and are beautiful.
And we touched on the coffee… all Gardelli, and son in the rotation will be The Barn roasts. But here is the bag of what I had:
But since this is Rome, and yes, Italy where as you’ve read in my older reviews (see here for the old website as I update this one.. Yes Uber slow old website!), coffee has to be sharp as hell and deeply pungent, Dario and Dafne are serving up a more local type of blend, a 1 euro espresso shot to comply with customs. So I was interested to see how this compared to the Sumatra coffee I had just had.
Before having his coffee, the other barista behind the counter was a super nice and extremely knowledgeable guy who’s called Kevin. While I waited for the coffee to brew, he explained that this would be a very different espresso. It was the Cigno Bianco blend (White Swan), which in this instance was a 50/50 of two different Arabica: One a Brazilian Mogiana Yellow Burbon, and the other 50% a Panama Boquete Red Bourbon. This is the first time that I get a barista in Rome explaining to me some of the flavor characteristics I’ll get before I drink my come. Excellent!
Presentation: This is what it came in. It was a smaller single espresso cup. I liked it. The other half of the espresso was used for a latte that a client ordered. Water was given after I asked, and the spoon spanking new. I like the fact that the cups have no label on them.
Temperature of Cup: Yup, good temperature. The cups are face up on the machine, and they don’t catch all the heat rising into it as much. Even though it was the end of the day, it was at a perfect temperature.
Quantity: Short, we’re in Italy again. This would have been a ristretto in the US, but here it’s the lingua franca of an espresso. I was happy.
Temperature: Very good again, nothing to note, only that it really helped to have a lower-temp brewed espresso with the actual task of tasting the dammed thing! Bravo.
Volume/Consistency: It was creamy, smooth, a definitely more thicker consistency than the previous coffee, but in a much more airy mouth-full kind of way. Very nice oils coating my whole mouth as well, but they were much more up front and thicker.
Crema: Darker in color, but not as dark as this photo. A very good elasticity, and the cup was brewed flawlessly.
Odor: The odor was a bit more towards the nutty spectrum, with hints of chocolate, and caramel to the nose. It was so great not to have any of the crap rancidness come out of this cup. I almost drank the thing with my nose!
Taste: It was great. It had no rancidness nor bitterness anywhere. It was bright, but not uber tart nor punchy. It had a soft bite that blended onto a deep chocolate nutty taste that kept on opening up as it sat in your mouth. It was as if you’re having a nice chunk of caramel chocolate in your mouth. So good.
Overall: Very nice, I’d say one of the better espresso blends I’ve tasted here in Rome. I was still quite stout in presence and I think it would change drastically if any Roman sticks their traditional spoonful of sugar into it. Funny enough, and what I liked, is that Kevin does suggest to clients to give their coffee a try without sugar first. He explains that this coffee is quite different and that they’ll appreciate it without the heap-full of sugar dose they do. Nice.
To close this off, I didn’t ask about filter coffee. They have a Japanese Iced coffee on the menu, but I’m sure he’s got something up his sleeve. They sell all the equipment. I had about 10 minutes time when I cam in here so I wasn’t looking to drag out anything longer than two espressos, so next time I go I’ll ask them. The menu also offers something for those that want to eat and not just drink. They have a selection of different salads (that’s my cup of tea there!), sandwiches and soups. And Dario said that in the morning they get a grip full of different pastries. Beautiful.
Enjoy the pix, and DO enjoy this bar! It’s a must!
Faro Luminari del Caffè
Via Piave 55
Tel. 333 225 3665
Tel. 320 854 3535