Ditta Artigianale is one example of a nascent trend in Italy: a specialty coffee shop in Italy, a country where coffee is “espresso” by definition and filter brewing methods are almost unknown. Opened a little over six months ago in Florence by Francesco Sanapo, three-time Italian Barista Champion, Ditta Artigianale takes up the challenge of combining the tradition of espresso italiano with a Third Wave approach to specialty coffee roasting and brewing. To be artisans of coffee, but in a modern way.
In this short time Ditta Artigianale has become a popular destination for locals, tourists and expats, so Sanapo's strategy seems to be paying off.
Florence is one of Italy’s most culture-focused cities, each year attracting droves of international students and creative types who decide to make the Tuscan city their home. Why? Because of Florence's beauty, unmatched artistic relevance and historic impact on shaping Italy’s linguistic and cultural heritage. Of course, one also can't forget Tuscany's world-famous food and wine-making industries. Customers who live in a city surrounded by vine estates and who are familiar with the complexities and depths of wine tasting are more likely to understand that coffee requires the same level of care and appreciation. In short, Florentine people were the ideal customers to welcome modern specialty coffee to Italy.
As you can imagine, there are a dozen other bars serving espresso within a short distance from Ditta Artigianale, so what makes Sanapo’s coffee shop different? An espresso in Florence normally costs 1€; at Ditta the house blend espresso costs 1.50€, but the specials can cost up to 8€ a cup. So how do you justify the higher prices and convince your customers that your product is worthy?
The answer is education and introducing your customers to a brand new way of appreciating coffee. All the staff members at Ditta Artigianale are prepared to answer questions about the coffee origin, preparation and quality, or if you meet Sanapo behind the bar, he will tell you the stories of each coffee, of the plantations where the beans were grown and the farmers who worked hard to produce that high quality product. While this may be a level of service and storytelling customers are accustomed to in the US, Australia, and many other European cities, it's part of a new approach to coffee for Italians.
During my visit to Ditta Artigianale I got the chance to sit down for a chat with the cafe’s Head Barista, Lucian Trapanese, former barista at Fred & Fran in London. When asked about the difficulties he encountered working in specialty coffee in Italy, Lucian replied “I didn’t find any, because I have the support of an amazing team of baristas who work hard every day to make great coffee. The daily challenge, so to speak, is explaining to every person that enters Ditta why our coffee is different and prepare them for a new experience.”
In addition to educating customers, Trapans and Sanapo also organise a series of workshops, three or four times a month, for those who want to learn more about how to run a coffee shop, the barista craft, and brewing methods.
Sanapo's main goal with Ditta Artigianale is to communicate to his customers how much work and skills go into preparing a cup of coffee. He hopes to change the Italian perspective of espresso from something that is consumed quickly while standing at the counter, almost like a medicine, to a drink that is savoured slowly and appreciated fully.
Of course, that's not to say that Ditta Artigianale draws no inspiration from Italian cafe culture. Like most any cafe/bar in Italy, Ditta Artigianale offers a wide range of alcohol service, and their menu of simple, quality-ingredient driven food is truly delicious.
In the few hours I spent at Ditta Artigianale I noticed three types of customers: Italians who stop by for an espresso on-the-go; tourists who order over-sized cappuccinos (the “Big Cappuccnio”); and expats (mostly Australians and Americans) who come for the Flat Whites and filter brews.
With such a varied customer base, the key to Ditta Artigianale’s success was finding a way to address the different needs and expectations of the people to drink their coffee. To do that, they diversified their menu between “Italian Style” drinks (espresso-based) and “International Style” ones like filter coffee and cold brew.
Ditta Artigianale also offers a variety of coffees to choose from: their signature Jump espresso blend and rotating single origins (one for espresso and two for filter, changing every week). Customers have the option to choose between three brew methods for filter coffee: syphon, AeroPress, or Hario V60.
Ditta is also a coffee roaster, and the coffee used by Ditta is imported directly through Sanapo's long-standing relationships with coffee producers and his regular trips overseas to visit plantations. The beans are roasted in the Tuscan city of Arezzo using a small Brambati roasting machine (7kg per batch). This way Sanapo can retain the quality control of his coffee every step of the process. In a country like Italy where the majority of the coffee served in cafes has some defects, Sanapo is attempting to enact a higher standard.
His Jump blend is in a classic mode, comprised of: Brazil Fazenda Pantano, Colombia Tolima Planada and Ethiopia Yrgacheffe Kolisha, brewed respecting the Italian parameters of espresso resulting in a low-acidity coffee with a smooth body, jasmine and citrus notes and chocolate and caramel finish. Another notable difference between Ditta Artigianale and any other Italian coffee bar: the counter has been designed to be lower than average to leave the espresso machine in full view (they use a Strada by Florence-based La Marzocco) and encourage the conversation between customers and baristas.
With Ditta Artigianale, Francesco Sanapo has already proven that there is space in the Italian market for a new level of coffee and different brewing methods. Perhaps it won’t be long before we see more coffee shops follow his example.
Giulia Mule is a Sprudge.com contributor based in London. Read more Giulia Mule on Sprudge.
All photos by Giulia Mule for Sprudge.com