Rating: Third wave coffee in Rome
If you ever had the chance to walk southwards from Termini’s entrance down the Via Giovanni Giolitti street I’m sure you couldn’t have missed seeing this amazing, and gargantuan closed up hanger-like area of Termini station. It’s a huge, beautiful hall that is at least 5 stories high, decorated by an all open brick work and with an imposing central furnace-like chimney head made out of deep purple-read marble.
I must have imagined to myself hundreds of times what a locale using this space must have felt like- and now, fortunately, you can.
The Northern Italian upscale food establishment of the Mercato Centrale opened it’s doors a little more than a week ago in Rome’s Termini station. There are a good 18 different culinary stands in this massive place offering everything from the coffee we’ll go on to taste, to a butcher, to fish, piazza, burgers and of course, ice-cream and Sicilian sweets. And yeah, even something for vegans that actually didn’t look like crap on a plate. With the arrival of the Mercato Centrale, and it’s very classy and upscale price tag you’re also seeing the gentrification of an area of Rome that is beautiful, but seemingly left to the dumps. Right in the heart of the Mercato Centrale is the La Caffetteria. It takes up the majority of the counter space offered by the marble chimney top, and shares its space with a beer bar on the right hand side. The place has a very nice feel, not geeky, not hipster, not ultra stand off-ish high-end wannaby. It’s well done. When I got there it was busy as Rome always tends to be. There were a good 5 people manning the long bar. Two baristas per machine and a dedicated cashier. The place, all of the Mercato Centrale actually, is furnished by the local Rome-based Mondi Caffè. A friend brought me along to this place so we took advantage of the long menu and ordered three cafes. I took a regular Mondi espresso blend, one of their single origin roasts, and my friend a cappuccino.
This is what I got served:
Presentation: The first cup I ordered was the regular espresso blend. I had to wait a bit as there were simply a good quantity of people at the bar. I like to wait, and a decent coffee should take time. There was a small drip to the cup, but nothing serious, spoon to fit, and yes, a cup without a logo! Nice, no slap in the face marketing. Water wasn’t given to me, I had to ask. But then with the .. .ahem… yes, third espresso I had, it came served automatically.
Temperature of Cup: Very good temperature of cup. It was warm, on the tepid side which I like an felt like I wasn’t going to get a drip of boiling water. Excellent.
Quantity: Solid espresso – nothing less. Not a ristretto maskerating as an espresso, nor a double. One ounce (30ml) or there abouts. We’re off to a good start so far.
Temperature: Ah, the real test. Good temperature! Baristas of the Fascist era who might have worked serving coffee at Termini are rolling in their graves! This coffee was warm, but not scalding. Very good again.
Volume/Consistency: Smooth, soft, malleable, elastic and had a very nice oiliness that wasn’t overwhelming. It was overall not heavy, and not something that will drill straight to your stomach as other espresso here in the Termini area is like.
Crema: Completely uniform. I would say very good, it looked slick like fresh paint, very fine micro-bubbles that has to do with grind, extraction and temperature of the machine. It was lasting, and seemed to contribute to the softness of the drink.
Odor: Very warm, not overpowering, darker roast smell, hints of macademia nuts. We’re off to an excellent drink here!
Taste: The smooth factor of this drink translated into the cup and taste. It was a soft gradual taste in my mouth, nothing bitter, nothing rancid, all coffee and balanced. The cup opened up quickly to a tart brighter caramel taste that then moved quickly to a toffee-like richness. It coated my mouth very well and left a soft smooth bitter taste that begged me to have another espresso.
Overall: For being the espresso blend I must say that it was very good. It was what Roman espresso tends to be: Not very complex taste wise, strong, and with a marked profile. This was all that. However, it was so very well balanced, and the extra of a sweet caramel like taste was a definite positive.
Now let’s see what the single origin was like. While they were selling three different single-origin coffee, they only had the Etheopia Sidamo Washed Typica Gr. 2 beans on their grinder and dialed in. I was curious to see if they’d use the same machine or what. The same machine was used, so the temperature of both the blend and single origin was within the same parameters.
Presentation: Here the cup was the same, yet glass of sparkling water came with it immediately from another barista that saw me sitting there pondering over my coffee.
Temperature of Cup: Excellent, just as last.
Quantity: Again, excellent – this in the US would be a ristretto, but here in Rome, it’s the golden mean of an espresso. Very happy here.
Temperature: Very good. They didn’t have a dedicated group or machine for the single origin. So the calibration of the machines
Volume/Consistency: Nice, nicer than the normal blend. It was lighter, more delicate and definitely lighter. It had a nice silky oiliness that coated my mouth very evenly and helped create a nice lavish subtle texture in my mouth.
Crema: It was very light, reflecting the coffee, and very well executed, uniform and had a visible sheen to it like fresh slick paint. I like this and it was elastic, and lasting about half of the duration of my drinking it.
Odor: Here is the very pleasant aspect, it was floral, fruity and very bright smelling so typical of Sidamo. Nothing of burnt coffee here!
Taste: Here’s the test- it was very good. It wasn’t a very intense taste, but very savory, light, and had notes of citrus and light tea. Very balanced, not astringent nor acidic and very smooth. I had the nice feeling of thinking I had milk and lemon tea by the thickness of it.
Overall: I was really happy. It would have liked a bigger explosion of fruit tastes, but that’s not what the Sidamo is about, instead I got a very well balanced cup that was very good. It was a delicate flavored coffee with nothing of rancid bitterness so typical of run-of-the-mill coffee here in Rome. Bravo and definite worth stopping in by!
The Setup: Now, what about that killer setup? Let’s have a look!
This is the first time in Rome that I see two, yes, two very beautiful Marzocco’s right next to each other. A total of six groups to kick some coffee ass here. They were using what looked like La Marzocco PB line machines.
I don’t know if they were incorporating the newly released integrated cup scale, as I didn’t see and forgot to ask if they were weighing their grinds. At the speed they were kicking out coffee I don’t think they were going more than the timing regulated dosing of coffee grounds. The grinders, they had six total, three at each machine. They had two nice Mahlkönig PEAK models (I believe) that were then complemented with four Vario Home models for the decaf and single origin coffee. Really, so much invested in this fine equipment, I was glad to have it properly used!
Now to the coffee: Here’s the bag of the espresso blend. As you can see it’s Mondi Caffè. They’re one of the few SCAA member / CSC-certified roasters here in Rome that are active in promoting third wave coffee. They’ve hosted some events in the past and their staff are very active in Italy’s international specialty coffee scene and training (UMAMI). I am usually quite disspointed in the way normal Roman bars serve their coffee as it’s usually uber-burt. But here, it was excellent. The blend they were serving was made of the following:
Brazil unwashed ‘Sul de Minas’ Fazenda Capoeirinha, Peru Bio Chanchamayo Alto Palomar, India PB Coorg Raigode Corona, Ethiopia Sidamo G.2 Bagersh, Costa Ricah H.G.A. Finca Santa Rosa.
So quite a mix, that isn’t necessarily all visible in the cup, but with a result here that was very balanced.
The single origin I had, I wasn’t able to photograph a bag of it. I was going to buy it, but some stupid administrative problem with my ATM card kept me from buying it, I will return and do a review of the roast. Either way, it was the Ethiopia Sidamo.
They had two other single-origin coffee up for sale there which I will return to in the future. What makes this place finally, a specialty coffee locale is that it is being curated directly by Mondi Caffè – and it’s not only offering specialty coffee roasts, but has the machines and trained staff to back up the product. Really a great combination, and unique here in Rome.
An interesting thing is that the menu gives the option of ordering Filter coffee, Cold brew, and a whole series of other options. Since they just opened they don’t have all of these available, but I will come back to report on these other options.
And by the way, how many other places in Rome can you get something this nice?
Here is what a double espresso naked porta filter option looks like:
Really a cool locale, excellent coffee, and such a nice thing to finally have at the heart of Rome!
Mercato Centrale Roma Termini S. R.L.
Via Giovanni Giolitti 36