After some months off, the Travelling Delights are restarting their trips seeking the food and wine jewels that Italy conceals.
This time, more than ever, we had to dig deep in order to find the enterprise we’re talking about: Caffè Giamaica, an artisan company situated at the doorway of Verona.
Actually, the word “artisan company” it’s absolutely reducing: Caffè Giamaica is a small world on its own, a realm that moves to the rythm of the philosophical laws that regulate it by nature.
But let’s start from the beginning…
We stop the car in front of an apparently ordinary building from the seventies and we wonder if we are in the right place. Two unmistakable clues confirm that yes, besides the look, this is the coffee roasting plant we are looking for: a dark iron sign, that reads “Caffè Giamaica”, stares at us from the gate and the coffee scent flutters in the air intoxicating us since the first breath.
We get in and a continuous noise of machinery and moving grains welcomes us. Right after it, comes Simone Fumagalli, that we later find out being the son of the wife of Gianni Frasi (the owner of the company) and the latter’s successive. This guy, with a nice face and a patient manner, takes care of the coffee roasting, after watching for years more expert people at work, absorbing the fire art. Or, as we later understand, his first years of “apprenticeship” haven’t done anything else but helping his nature fulfilling itself… apparently no one else, in the little Giamaica realm, has ever been as good as him in roasting coffee.
Simone himself explained and showed us how the roasting plant works, and we had the chance to watch it for a long time completely enchanted.
We learnt that their machine, a Vittoria that comes directly from the fifties, roasts the grains with a direct flame for about 15 minutes, whithin which the specific timing changes not only for different kinds of coffee, but even for every single sack… here the mastery of who roasts the coffee gets in the running, because he has to ensure that in the end every grain reaches a consistent “monk’s robe” color – which means that it’s homogeneously roasted.
Thanks to Simone’s words we start to understand that nothing, in there, is trivialized: the roasting is not just a basic recurring process, but it’s the way with wich they give to the coffee the possibility of expressing itself for what it is. Only at that point, tasting the final result, an expert can recognize its qualities and flaws.
Before arriving to the roasting plant, the coffee is grown in an environment with certain characteristics, then it’s harvested and procesed so that the pulp of the seed of the fruit of the plant – what we commonly call “coffee grains” – is ready to be roasted. All of this obviously influences the coffee and gives it specific characteristics: the already quoted qualities and flaws.
After the roasting, the grains that will be grinded and used to prepare espresso have to rest for 48 hours.
In a week, that coffee reaches the peak of its potentiality and expresses at its best all of its aromatic and physical characteristics. After a month, those characteristics begin to decline… and this is the reason why the Giamaica coffee is not granted to any client that doesn’t pledge to be able to use it within that period of time. Yes, because in this roasting plant they attentively select not only the grains (from those who “seem to be” the best plantations in the world) but also the clients. They are examined and they have to be approved by Gianni Frasi before deserving a part of this precious treasure.
Precious, very precious… both because it’s an inherent quality of coffeee – in the regulation of trade it’s only secondary to oil – and because in this roasting plant everything that wheels around it forms a kind of mystic cult, and finally because you can definitely say that the Giamaica coffee is a limited edition product. Gianni, Simone and their collaborators only work on demand and, just to have a hint on the amount of their production, read this anecdote: last year, record year for what concerns the amount of the coffee production, working 365 days without any interruption, from the Giamaica plant came out as much coffee as the one that gets out of a big industrial plant in 8 working hours.
This is the reason why, when we met Gianni Frasi, one of the first things he said was that Caffè Giamaica shouldn’t exist. Yet there it is, since the 1930s it continues its activity and it has no intention of giving up.
Perhaps, as Gianni himself told us, if he hadn’t received a crucial suggestion from above in a critical moment, it would have disappeared like thousands of other italian roasting plants, on the contrary it resurrected from its ashes and it started to burn even brighter than before.
But who’s Gianni Frasi? It would be reducing to just identify him as “the owner of the Caffè Giamaica company”.
Frasi is a guru that developed a life philosophy that mingles with the cult of coffee, an enigmatic man who inspects the world through his penetrating blue eyes, with which he stares at you as if he wants to understand if you’re worth, if you’re able to get the meaning of his truth facts and to overcome the initiation ritual.
Meeting him smells like coffee and tastes like a university lesson given by that professor that everybody fears and venerates, with an aftertaste of theatre show where nothing is left to chance. Every sentence is weighted, every word has a specific meaning and is a metaphor for the almost esoteric point of view that Frasi has about coffee, his vocation and the whole cosmos.
It would be impossible to report all of the stages of the fascinating journey that we made following him on the paths charted by his words, but there’s a central concept through which it’s possible to grasp the point of view of this “coffee holy man”.
The raw coffee grains only have a potential existence, and they can develop this potential only thanks to the baptism obtained through the “aqueous fire” of roasting. The product, before and after it, has the same nature but it’s not the same thing anymore. In order to take advantage of their nature, then, the roasted grains need “burning water”… so the circle can close: espresso is not just an ordinary espresso, but it’s the result of an opposite way antinomy with a religious-philosophical aftertaste.
Are you curious to try the mystic experience of a coffee that comes from the Giamaica plant?
Don’t fear: we overcame the initiation ritual… not only Frasi allowed us to take the pictures that you can see here, but he also granted Paola to sell his coffee at her shop La Delizia (in Russi, Ravenna).
Step by as soon as you can!