The retail world of coffee is really hot right now. In London and New York Starbucks are just everywhere and my preferred, Caffè Nero, is doing really well having extended their brand of coffee shop culture to engage with you on-line even when you are not in store.
So often in the realisation of successful marketing the thing that gets overlooked is that which sits at its core. Even if you ask for several additional shots to raise the flavour many coffee shop’s versions of decaffeinated coffee is simply unpleasant to drink and as an expresso should be avoided.
I have drunk decaffeinated coffee for the best part of twenty years and in that time the product has gone from a poor imitation of “the real thing” to now being much more palatable.
A curious incident occurred in a Spanish bar recently. Having ordered a decaffeinated coffee – the local version being a Cortado strong with a splash of milk – the resulting deliciousness that arrived was wonderfully strong and creamy. So much so that I asked the waiter if a mistake had been made and I was drinking a full caff version. He assured me it wasn’t and, as if to rifle home his point, he raised that catering pack of Lavazza Caffè Decaffeinato (may also be known as “Dek” where you live) that sat next to his Gaggia expresso machine.
I had forgotten just how delicious Lavazza coffee is and set out to find out a little more about this iconic Italian coffee – known by many as “Italy’s Favourite Coffee” – and the process by which they eliminate caffein.
Founded in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza, initially as a small grocery store on Via San Tommasi 10 in Turin, the business of Lavazza S.p.A. is currently run by the third and fourth generation of Luigi’s family.
How does Lavazza manage to preserve such a great flavour whilst eliminating the caffein?
Lavazza’s method – which differs from others but is designed to ensure the retention of the maximum flavour – uses carbon dioxide (CO2) in a “supercritical” or liquified state. The beans are moistened with steam until the humidity level reaches 30-50%. They are then placed in an extraction cylinder in contact with CO2 in a “supercritical”or liquified state. This is achieved when the temperature and pressure reach a level at which the gas becomes both a gas and a liquid. It diffuses like a gas, but has the solvent properties of a liquid and selectively extracts caffeine. The carbon dioxide is then separated from the alkaloid with water, re-pressurised and reused.
Once decaffeinated, the beans go through a second phase, in which they are dried out; the decaffeination process is then complete. This process is used to eliminate the caffein from “green” or unroasted coffee beans. After the second phase the beans may then be roasted in the usual way.
Lavazza imports coffee from all corners of the world including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Uganda. As a responsible importer Lavazza is very involved in local initiatives to ensure good working conditions for the growers and sustainable productions. Indeed The Lavazza Foundation, founded in 2002, focuses on the living conditions of people in coffee producing countries.
Lavazza must be doing something right – they are the retail market leader in Italy with a market share of over 47%!
Image from Lavazza