By Larry Dietz,

I came to coffee relatively late in life, since my mother drank a perfunctory cup now and then and my father only had a cup after dinner. What they were drinking was already-ground drip coffee, out of a can that was likely to have been sitting open for months.

I drank my first cup when I was 20. It was offered to me by a young woman. I wasn’t about to say “no, do you have milk?” I figured that drinking the coffee would mark me as more or less sophisticated. It didn’t.

Finally I discovered espresso, a way of getting a coffee hit without all the liquid in a regular cup, and a more sophisticated order than a cup of Yuban or Maxwell House. Then I got an espresso maker at home, a lever-pull from Olympia, in Switzerland. When finally it couldn’t be repaired, I got a succession of relatively low-end electric pump-driven machines.

Machinery is one thing but it’s the beans that are the key. Starbucks has always seemed to me to be over-roasted. Peets is good enough (Espresso Forte). However, I knew there had to be something better.

Then, in Florence, my wife and I had a singularly wonderful espresso experience. We both favor a true Italian macchiato, the coffee just “marked” with a little foam. In this instance the rich flavor had a hint of chocolate in its aftertaste (credit svensson). The barista told us he used Manaresi beans.

There was a store in Florence that sells Manaresi beans – Pegna, on via dello Studio, near the Duomo. Pegna is a food-lover’s wonderland. We found the Manaresi beans vacuum-packed, and brought home a bag.

When we ran out of beans, however, we were stumped – no rational way to order from Pegna. And then, courtesy of the web and search-engines, I found Italian Bean Delight, headquartered in Florida, which carries Manaresi Not only does it carry Manaresi beans, but it is scrupulous in ordering – not overstocking, so the beans it ships have recently been roasted in Italy.

Italian Bean Delight carries other brands (Danesi and Martella), as well as Nuova Simonelli espresso makers that are used in the world barista championships. Even with our lesser machine, though, our Manaresi beans are a constant reminder of how good coffee can be.

(LET US KNOW your coffee preferences and whether you’ve ever tried Manaresi by going to the comments area below. – Thanks)

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