Becoming a Coffee Sommelier with Lavazza

November 10, 2014

If you haven't visited the amazing Italian food emporium Eataly yet, what are you waiting for?! I've had the pleasure of attending several food and wine events at Eataly, including educational courses in their cooking school. I had the chance to attend a course to become a coffee sommelier entitled, From Cup to Plate, in collaboration with Lavazza Coffee, Italy's #1 coffee and largest coffee-only company in the world. The crash course included a guided tasting of four different Lavazza blends, as well as tasty pastries and a short cooking demo.

The course was led by Francine Segan, food historian and Lavazza's US ambassador. She guided us along as we sampled a variety of blends, learned about the history of coffee, how to cook with coffee and create a variety of coffee-based drinks.

Our Instructor and Food Historian, Francine Segan
The first sample was Caffe alla Salentina, an iced coffee made with sweet almond milk. The Italian almond milk used is more like a syrup, rather the almond milk we know in the US. I LOVED this coffee and asked for seconds. It was not too sweet and had a nice creaminess to it.

Caffe alla Salentina
Next, we tried all four coffees in Lavazza's specialty coffee line, moving from the lightest to darkest roasts. First was the Gran Aroma, a medium roast with citrus notes. This blend featured Colombian and Brazilian coffees. During the class I learned Lavazza was the first company to create coffee blends, and darker roasts typically contain less caffeine than light or medium roasts.

Gran Aroma Coffee Blend
Next, we tried the Classico blend, a medium roast and blend of Arabica and Robusta beans from Brazil and Africa. According to Lavazza, this blend produces more full-bodied coffees with decisive flavor and chocolaty notes. This blend had dried fruit notes, including apricot, prunes, and cherries and had more body than the first blend.

The third coffee, Gran Selezione was my favorite! This dark roast is 100% Arabica beans from Peru, Brazil, Honduras, and Colombia. It has hints of dark chocolate so it's no surprise it also pairs well with chocolate.

Gran Selezione Coffee Blend
Lastly was the Perfetto variety, an espresso roast and the darkest we tried. This roast also features 100% Arabica beans from Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia. The Perfetto is velvety and dark and finishes with hints of caramel.

To pair with our coffees, we also sampled some of the most amazing Italian pastries. Everything I've ever eaten at Eataly is nothing short of fantastic, and these were no exception. We tried a croissant stuffed with prosciutto di parma (woah!), as well as two Italian donuts filled with custard (double woah!). The coffees paired well with the sweet and buttery pastries.

Italian Pastries
Italian Pastries
As we tasted the coffees, Francine taught us numerous coffee tidbits. For example, I learned that in Italian restaurants, you're typically served coffee last, not with your dessert. This is because Italian coffee is meant to stand alone and be the last impression of the dining experience. She also suggested ways to use coffee in recipes, such as adding it to stews, chili, or meat for depth of flavor.

The last portion of the class included a live demo by Francine who showed us how to make her Torta Fredda di Caffe e Nocciole,  a coffee-hazelnut semifreddo. The recipe features Lavazza espresso, and requires minimal preparation and only a handful of ingredients. The semifreddo was rich, yet light and airy, and the hazelnut crust added a nice crunchy texture.

Check out the recipe below and let me know if you ever cook with coffee--I'd love to know!

Torta Fredda di Caffe e Nocciole
Torta Fredda di Caffe e Nocciole (Coffee-Hazelnut Semifreddo)
Serves 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more as needed
7 ounces blanched hazelnuts
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, plus more for decoration
3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
2 shots prepared espresso, warm
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Lightly butter the ring of a 7-inch spring form pan. Just the outer ring, not the bottom part. You need it just to keep the ingredients together as they firm up in the fridge. Butter a serving platter or cake stand, which is wide enough to hold the ring, and place the ring onto the platter.  

In a food processor combine the hazelnuts and 4 tablespoons of the sugar and process until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and process until combined. Press this mixture firmly and evenly onto the serving plate, within the borders of the spring form pan. Reserve.

Melt the dark and milk chocolates in a bowl, either in a microwave or over gently boiling water. Add the espresso and stir until well combined.  Add the egg and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, beat the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until whipped. Fold into the chocolate mixture.  Spoon the mixture over the hazelnut crust and refrigerate until firm, at least 5 hours. 

When ready to serve, remove the outer spring form ring, and garnish with grated dark chocolate.

Note: I received complimentary admission to this course to facilitate this post; however, all opinions expressed herein are my own.


  1. Iced coffee with sweet almond milk- yum. Haven't tasted it yet but just the words get my imagination going. You had a treat there. The pastries look delicious as well. I'm a fan of combining sweet with savory pastries for breakfast or even lunch.

  2. I wanna try Torta Fredda di Caffe e Nocciole :) it looks yummy.

  3. I read your post when I am hungry. That seems a punishment for me.

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