Lucas, the Italian coffee nerd who doesn't care much for espresso | Interview
If there’s something we love as much as a great cup of coffee, it’s spreading the word about specialty coffee and awesome (coffee) images. So we check the occasional Instagram profile of coffee people around the world. There was this guy on Instagram that always gave us the LOL or even the ROFL effect. But when we got to know him, we learned there is so much more to this funny guy than a laugh and a cat.
He is the Italian coffee nerd who could well be the antichrist of the traditional Italian coffee scene. Why? He doesn’t love espresso as much as your every day Italian, especially not the hearty full-bodied traditional dark-roasted type that put Italy on the coffee map of the world.
WHAAAAAT? An Italian who doesn’t share the eternal love for espresso? Something must be wrong in Italy. But on the other hand … there may be something right going on over there. So we asked him to put away his camera and have a little chat with us about his work and the state of coffee in Italy.
His name is Federico Lucas Pezzetta. Lucas. Photographer, filmmaker, co-director at Romedia Studio, coffee communicator. Author of CoffeeAndLucas Instagram profile that Coffeedesk included in their selection of 10 inspirational coffee social profiles to follow (next to Standart, Europeancoffeetrip, and a few others). And a fun guy who loves coffee and even made a film about the state of coffee in Italy that probably made a lot of Italians angry. Or at least worried.
Hi there Lucas! Had any good coffee today?
Hi! There’s always good coffee here at the office!
OK, so you’re a photographer and filmmaker. How does that connect to coffee?
True, I am a photographer and filmmaker at Romedia Studio. I work with my partner Federica and our team in various fields, ranging from food, real estate, advertising, we also each have personal projects, and so on. And coffee … that’s my passion, but it also became an important part of our job in 2015. That’s when we created Coffees – Italians do it better(?). It is an Italian documentary about specialty coffee and the arrival of Starbucks in Italy. It was possible because of our expertise. We are namely well known as the most important coffee communicators in Italy. And our work it's also recognized outside of Italy.
As an Italian, coffee is part of your culture, right?
Of course, but not quite as you would have imagined it for an Italian. I am in touch with coffee every day in our studio that is located in the center of Rome! We have many brewing methods available over here. Except for an espresso machine!
No espresso machine?
Ah yes, that's the point. I am a very atypical Italian drinker: the less body in my coffee the more I like. Strange for an Italian! But still, Italian espresso comes from an old tradition that I respect. The problem is that companies put very low-quality coffee beans in their blends. But on a more general level, I believe it is important to give people a choice! Taste is personal but what I miss in Italy is a good selection of cafès that serve specialty coffee. But things are changing.
Yes! The average quality of coffee in Italy is not that bad. What I miss is an established specialty coffee movement. In Rome, we only have a few spots, especially when compared to Berlin, London, Amsterdam, and other cities in the world, where the specialty movement is already strong. We missed the beginning of this movement but I think we are catching up! The last two years have brought many changes in Italy and in Romedia Studio we are following the development of the movement and how the audience reacts to this new way of enjoying coffee. Hopefully, we can help this movement take off even stronger.
Who are the leaders in third-wave coffee in Italy?
When talking about coffee roasters I would say that Gardelli (Rubens Gardelli claimed the world roasting champion title this year) and Ditta Artigianale were among the first to believe in specialty coffee. But more roasters are appearing now. I lately had the opportunity to try coffees from pretty new coffee roasters such as Young Cup Coffee and Peacocks Coffee and I was very impressed by the level these new players have reached! As for coffee shops, here’s a few I visited personally and enjoyed them. If you want to drink a good espresso or filter coffee I suggest you try Faro (Rome) Orsonero (Milan) Tazze Pazze (Genova) and Ditta Artigianale (Florence). That’s just a few, with many other places that would deserve to be mentioned.
What was the best cup of coffee you ever had?
One of the best cups of coffee I ever had was a natural Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Gedeb Asasa that was roasted by Rubens Gardelli. It completely blew my mind. Especially because it was one of the first 90+ coffee I had never tried. But it wasn’t just the coffee itself. Sure, it was good, but the whole experience that came along with it was what I remember vividly!
In 2015 you co-produced a film about specialty coffee in Italy. Was that a shock for the Italian coffee tradition?
"Coffees - Italians Do It Better (?)" was a point of no return from what was before and what will be in the future. Nothing similar was done before and we are proud to be a part of the most successful independent Italian documentary about coffee. In Italy, the film has encouraged a polite debate about specialty coffee thanks to the point of view behind it. The tone of the film was very approachable. I think this is the right way to communicate a message.
Where did you show the documentary?
"Coffees - Italians Do It Better (?)" reached 70K views on Facebook alone and the film was screened in Auckland, Gent, London and on the Berlin Coffee festival 2017 where we were invited by La Marzocco for a Q&A after the film and by The Barn as the most popular Italian experts in coffee communication. I still remember all the kind words about our film from people such as Kiduk Reus (co-owner of Bonanza), Tim Wendelboe, and Scott Rao just to mention a few of them.
There was also that cool project at the London Coffee Festival ...
Yes, later we adopted the same approach when we shot a short film at the London Coffee Festival 2017. It’s called #WeAllMakeCoffee. If you haven’t watched this video, take 4 minutes of your time and do it. You won’t regret it!
How do you see the coffee industry in Italy in the next few years? Could Italy become a leader in the third wave of coffee or is the dark roast espresso tradition too strong?
The dark roast espresso tradition is here to stay for many years to come. Not just in Italy, but in many other countries. But I think there will be great development of the situation. Talking about this I'm sure that the arrival of Starbucks in Italy, especially the magnificent Reserve Roastery they are going to open in Milan at the beginning of autumn 2018, will be another turning point or a second wake up call for the Italian coffee scene. Something similar, with all the difference of the case, with what happened in the United States between the ’80s and the ’90s!
Let’s talk a bit about your social media work. We daily enjoy the mix of professionalism and fun in your Instagram feed. Do you work alone or do you have some help with your social media?
Sometimes I get some help from Federica, but mostly the amount of work that CoffeeAndLucas takes lets me manage it for myself. Besides - it would seem fake to have a social account of a single person, but have a whole team manage it, right? The fun part of the channel is me and this my most honest way to communicate. And I love beautiful pictures. I am a professional photographer and videomaker so who, if not me, can love them? At the same time I find some Instagram accounts very boring when they “try to be liked” or when I think their communication is not natural. Life is not a straight line, sometimes it is wonderful to surprise your audience and to be surprised by what happens in life! It's like brewing a coffee without following the guidelines and rules. The result can be a delicious and tasty cup of coffee!
Lucas, thanks for sharing your coffee thoughts with our community!
You can follow Lucas on his Instagram and Facebook channels.