To most Italians, coffee is like a religion that nurtures the mind, body and spirit. To the family who founded illycaffè, it’s also an art and a science. Andrea Illy, current Chairman and grandson of the original founder, is a chemist like his father before him. His grandfather, though, was an inventor. “My grandfather was Austro-Hungarian and he fell completely in love with coffee in Vienna,” says Andrea. “When he was a soldier in the First World War, he came to Trieste and decided to settle there. Then as a consequence of the end of the war, Trieste became part of Italy.

“At that time Trieste was also famous for coffee — it was, and still is, the main port in the Mediterranean for coffee beans. He fell in love with coffee, and also with the quality of life in Trieste, the beauty of the place, and that’s why he decided to settle down and pursue his dream of offering the greatest coffee to the world by founding illycaffè. That was the dream, and it’s still the dream of the family — it became a mission, a passion, and an obsession for everybody.”

When his grandfather founded the company, he invented a high-pressure espresso machine, explains Andrea.

There were already espresso machines, but they were low pressure. Andrea’s grandfather thought of bigger things and actually invented the technique of espresso making that most people around the world now use.

“The second radical innovation that my grandfather did was packaging pressurisation that we still use as a core technology today,” says Andrea. “It preserves the fragrance of coffee for longer and enhances the aroma, to create a richer profile. So with these 2 innovations in hand, my grandfather started operating the company and when my father finished secondary school, he said ‘now you must go and study chemistry, because this is what we need to have — technology plus chemistry to make our quality better’.”