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The Caffè Umbria coffee-roasting tradition is coming to Chicago. Take one step into any Caffè Umbria café and you’ll know that you have tapped into the true Italian coffee experience, a blend of fine roasted coffee and Italian family tradition. Very soon, you’ll find a Caffè Umbria at 346 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s River North district, the company’s first store outside the Pacific Northwest.
This new foray builds on a strong foundation of coffee roasting that traces its roots to Perugia, Italy. The original “spinta” (spark) that motivated Emanuele Bizzarri’s grandfather, Ornelllo, to open a coffee roasting business right after World War 2 was a connection with an uncle who was a coffee roaster. The thread of Ornello’s original coffee roasting enterprise continues today with Emanuele and his partners.
Caffè Umbria has three stores in the Pacific Northwest and roasts about one million pounds of coffee a year at their Seattle, Washington plant. Their boutique coffees are served in hundreds of cafés and fine dining establishments across North America, and the company recently expanded to service a network of 5-star hotels in the US.
A key factor that distinguishes the Italian style of coffee roasting is the artisan approach that involves the use of a distinctive blend of coffees. By adjusting the formula of the roast to fit the variations across the different beans included in the blend, a higher level of consistency can be achieved over time. In Italy, these unique blends are highly prized and kept as closely guarded secrets.
Of course selling Italian-style coffee in the US is different than selling coffee in Italy. The US market is less interested in tradition and is always looking for the “next new thing”. Caffè Umbria is not simply adapting to the US market, but embracing it, by offering Mono Origine (single origin) coffees from select countries, leveraging their expertise in choosing and roasting coffee, a skill developed over generations.
When asked what drives him to expand his business today, Emanuele replied: “I love coffee. Monday is the best day of the week. I look forward to working, because I am doing what I love”.