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Illy, Lavazza and Starbucks Espresso Coffee Cups

Updated on July 8, 2013
Great espresso coffee from Cafe Calabria in San Diego
Great espresso coffee from Cafe Calabria in San Diego

“Be a coffee drinking individual, espresso yourself!” Author Anonymous.

A cup of espresso is special. In the USA, the espresso crowd is passionate about their coffee. Bean selection, roasting and blending are researched. Ideally, espresso is meticulously prepared requiring a special espresso grind from a technically efficient coffee bean grinder. The espresso machine is primed. The espresso cup is warmed. The grounds are tamped. Making a great cup of espresso even in a coffee house requires a longer preparation time. “Brewing espresso, unlike other methods of brewing coffee IS rocket science!” (Knox and Huffaker in Coffee Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide.)

The Espresso Crowd

Espresso aficionados are constantly on the quest for an excellent cup of coffee. The passion to enjoy espresso often requires a perfect cup. Many prefer cups made of porcelain; others, ceramic, stoneware or glass. Some think that cups should be white to show off the rich crema of espresso; others prefer colors that complement and set off the browns, ambers, and reds of the crema. Others like to see the espresso profile of crema and coffee through glass.

Through the years and throughout the world, espresso cups ranged from the utilitarian to opulent to artistic. Bought for everyday drinking, the espresso crowd, however, includes an assertion of personal identity and romance in their choice. And then there are those who could never have enough – to enhance their china cabinets, cupboards, or collections.

The passionate espresso crowd has staunch loyalties to their favorite coffee beans. Loyalties often extend to the cups that coffee suppliers have added to their product lines. This article presents espresso cups from three major coffee suppliers-Starbucks, Lavazza and illy.

Size of Cups

Espresso cups are small designed to accommodate a shot or a single which is usually a 1 fluid-ounce drink or, a 2 fluid-ounce dopio or a double. It is fairly common to see espresso served in a 3 fluid-ounce cup also.



Starbucks started operations in 1971 as a roaster and retailer of whole bean and ground coffee, tea, and spices in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Starbucks as we know it, however, began with the purchase of the original company by Howard Schultz in 1987. Starbucks Coffee Company is now the largest coffee company in the world having nearly 18,000 retail outlets in 60 countries.

The company name was culled from a character in the book, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. The character, Starbuck, is the first mate at the Pequod, the Nantucket whaleship of Captain Ahab. The company’s logo features a twin-tailed siren from Greek mythology; the company's mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Starbucks offers an espresso cup as part of its Modern Classic line of coffee cups. This cup is made of ceramic. It has a creamy white color with a 3 DEMI in a light gray color printed on its side. Its handle is roomy to accommodate a hold comfortably.


Lavazza Espresso Coffee Cup


Lavazza branded as "Italy's Favourite Coffee" was founded by Luigi Lavazza in Turin. Luigi Lavazza opened a grocery in 1885. His interest in coffee and chemistry made him experiment with different coffee bean blends which earned him more business. To accommodate this increase in coffee activity, Luigi Lavazza moved to Via San Tomasso 10 In the early 1990s. To celebrate Luigi Lavazza’s launch of his business a 100 years ago, the original warehouse on Via San Tomasso 10 reopened in 1995 as a restaurant and coffee shop. The company, Luigi Lavazza, S.p.A., with main offices still in Turin, continues to be owned and managed by the Lavazza family.

Lavazza became Italy’s biggest coffee roaster through the use of the innovative “gravity” system which is a vertical process that can handle over 40,000 kg of coffee daily. The company’s plant in Turin is still the largest single-product plant in Europe. With a strong belief in the growth of Italian espresso in other countries, Lavazza opened its first branch in Paris, France in 1982. Lavazza coffee has expanded to over 90 countries.

The Lavazza espresso coffee cup is made of white porcelain. It's shape evokes the "A" shape from the company name.


In 1935, Francesco Illy, while engaged in the coffee and cocoa business in Trieste, Italy, invented the Iletta, the first automatic coffee machine and the predecessor of today's espresso machines. He also invented a packaging system that preserved coffee efficiently allowing the company to distribute Illy coffee all over the country. Currently, the company, illycaffe S.p.A., sells coffee and coffee related products worldwide.

The illy espresso cup

The signature white porcelain illy espresso cup was introduced in 1992 and designed by Mattheo Thun. The iconic white brushstroke on the red square illy logo was created by James Rosenquist

The artist, Anish Kapoor, designed a cup and saucer set which has a platinum saucer with a hole in the centre that sits on top of the cup. As described in illy website literature, "the flickering reflections become form and touch on themes such as do
The artist, Anish Kapoor, designed a cup and saucer set which has a platinum saucer with a hole in the centre that sits on top of the cup. As described in illy website literature, "the flickering reflections become form and touch on themes such as do

Illy Art Collection

The company considered how an everyday coffee cup can be elevated to “meld the sensory pleasures of coffee and art”. (Source: illy website) The company’s deep interest in the arts stems from its embrace of the ancient Greek concept of kalokagathia, a union of beauty and goodness that defines the scope of human perfection. Using the company’s signature cup as a medium, Jeff Koons, James Rosenquist, Julian Schnabel, Robert Rauschenberg, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Haim Steimback, Julian Schnabel, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramovic are just some of the more than 70 contemporary masters who have contributed to the illy Art Collection, along with emerging talent from around the globe.

The latest addition to the illy Art Collection was designed by Daniel Burren drawing on a visual pattern of alternating white and colored stripes inspired by a pattern for drapery popular in the 1960s and seen in awnings, deck chairs and pillows. The collection has four black espresso cups and four saucers of increasing size. Three saucers are black and white; and, one, black. The underside of the saucers are red, blue, yellow and green.

The company’s website has great pictures of their cups and saucers and also offers a company website store that makes their products available for purchase. The signature white illy espresso cup is available from the company website store as well as the cups in the illy Art Collection.

Illy Art Collection Available at

Some sets of cups and saucers from the illy Art Collection are available directly from as well as books that showcase the collection.

“Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality" by Andrea Illy

"Espresso consumption is an aesthetic experience, like tasting a vintage wine or admiring a painting. It is a search for beauty and goodness and improving the quality of our life. As it offers such subjectively ineffable ‘goodness’, devoid of defects, the only adequate reaction to it is astonishment – astonishment that can give birth to enthusiasm, and therefore intellectual and spiritual enrichment."

Smell The Coffee

Roasting Coffee Beans at Cafe Calabria
Roasting Coffee Beans at Cafe Calabria

Enjoy the coffee. . .

In your favorite cup!


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    • irvinetraveller profile image

      irvinetraveller 4 years ago from California

      I love the look of espresso cups and I do enjoy espresso very much. If I was a collector, I would have espresso cups in prominent racks in my kitchen, but I also get that extra feeling of warmth and excitement just using them. So, I'm kinda alerting you to the possibility that you may start looking for them everywhere especially when you travel and needing special racks in your kitchen. Cheers, vespawoolf.