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Great Values for Gourmet Coffee at Home

Updated on January 25, 2015

Something French

My girlfriend and I had dinner at a pretty fancy French restaurant in northern VA. Dinner was perfect- fresh fish, herbs de provence, freshly prepared vegetables, and terrific sauces in the authentic French style. We decided, after dinner, to order coffee and a desert. The coffee was just right, not too mild, not too bitter, but pretty dang strong (which is exactly what I wanted after dinner). It was rich, too. I asked the server what the brand of coffee was, and they replied, "something French."

Enter: Lavazza

Well, I'm glad I didn't settle for that answer! They actually were happy to oblige me, heading back in the kitchen to find out that it was Lavazza (it turns out to be Italian, not French, but who's counting?). I had never heard of it before, so I went home and checked out my old reliable friend Amazon Prime. I found out that I could order this stuff from Amazon in freeze dried blocks (so that the coffee was maximally fresh with minimal hassle). After that, I subscribed to the coffee to have it delivered to my gym, where we still drink it today (this was over two years ago).

I was in a fancy French restaurant when I was first served LavAzza coffee. I was astounded at the low price available for ordering this stuff online.


Great value for the money

This coffee is a great bargain for the money. Keep in mind that I was, at the time, at a somewhat expensive French restaurant, and when I looked the coffee up online, I expected to pay as much as $20 a pound. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out the value was far, far greater with ordering Lavazza. Best of all, I could have it delivered to my front door on a recurring basis and save even more. How cool is that?

I love coffee, and I can tell you for sure that this is a reliably consistent coffee, and a heck of a bargain. It can be made to be extremely strong, too, so if you're interested in a much more intense Italian (almost espresso) blend, this is perfect. I use this coffee for just that- drip coffee, and it brews nicely (but measure it carefully - it's really, really strong!).

History of Lavazza

I was curious about the history of this company, so I did a little bit of research. It turns out that Lavazza was founded all the way back in 1895 by a gentleman named Luigi Lavazza, at the village of Via San Tommaso 10, where the coffee was served in a grocery store. Lavazza is now run by the third and fourth generations of the Lavazza family! Talk about tradition.

It's the largest coffee roaster in Italy, and the seventh largest in the world (as of this writing). Per Wikipedia's entry, they pride themselves on the sustainability of the business model, and high ethics:

Among the activities promoted by the Lavazza Foundation, established in 2002, is the Tierra project which, in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance, performs research into achieving the finest end product quality, with a focus on the living conditions of people in coffee producing countries.

I don't know if this makes the coffee taste better, but it definitely makes me feel a little better about drinking so much of it!

Quick alternatives

Here are a few quick alternatives I've had some success with in the past, and all can be delivered:

  • Dunkin Donuts
    Dunkin is sort of the "old standby" in my view - readily available in both the north and the south, a bit acidic, but still pretty good coffee, especially when I'm on the road.
  • Starbucks
    Amazon does deliver it, and it is predictable and consistent. Yes, the beans are burnt to a crisp. Yes, it's easy to call them "Charbucks." Yes, I'm a creature of habit and have trained myself to "enjoy" Starbucks coffee, because I know I can get it when I'm on the road. Also: lots of caffeine.
  • Tim Horton's
    Timmy Ho's is a northern US/Canadian coffee and donut shop franchise named after a hockey player in Canadia. There are 8 times more Tim Horton's in Canada than there are Starbucks. Really.
  • Reggie's Organic Roast
    I've been on a Reggie's kick lately. The coffee isn't really anything special, but it's mild, and I like that it comes in a can, so I can shove a measuring scoop in there (a quarter of a cup).

What coffee have you had success with? I'm all about the community knowledge concept, and I'm always willing to try out coffee others have had success with ordering online (outside of Maxwell House, Folgers, and so forth).

A brief history of coffee

Taking a look at the history of coffee, how we got to the addicted phase of daily life, can be sort of a fun segue (at least for me; I love history nowadays). Prior to reading a Neal Stephenson book a few years ago, I was under the mistaken impression that coffee was a fairly recent innovation, perhaps from the last century or so. It turns out that coffee has been consumed as early as the 1400s, and possibly even earlier than that.

In the middle of the 15th century, Sufi Muslim monasteries in Yemen first roasted and brewed coffee beans. By the time the 1500s arrived, this beverage had not only spread throughout the Middle East, but it had stretched all the way to northern Africa and Persia, soon to be spread from there to India (actually, it was smuggled to India by a trader named Baba Budan, who is apparently depicted as smuggling coffee taped to his chest in paintings!). From there, it was on to Italy and the rest of Europe.

Of course, once in Europe, the trade network that was centered on Italy soon facilitated the spread of the concept of this delicious black beverage, just as many other ideas spread rapidly via Italy's trade networks (like literacy). It wasn't until the Revolutionary War that coffee drinking really took off in North America, and this was partly in response to the Boston Tea Party, where colonists had refused to drink tea, finding instead delight in coffee. Again, due to political relations with Britain after the War of 1812, tea imports were cut off, and coffee's popularity in America grew exponentially once again.

And here we are today, with over 13,000 Starbucks coffee shops, and hundreds of millions of coffee drinkers, myself included.


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