Orso Laboratorio Caffè
If you have the chance to visit Turin, then you will enjoy the architecture, historical places and -of course- the food. Then obviously comes the coffee. In the birthplace of the world-famous espresso, you cannot leave until you have had one, or more.
But in a small street between the Parco del Valentino and the Porta Nuova train station, you can find a place that stands out compared to all the others. In Via Luigi Berthollet, the Orso Coffee Lab will let you taste and discover coffee unlike any other place in Italy.
If you are not looking for any adventurous taste, you will of course be able to enjoy your espresso and cappuccino here. But if you feel like discovering new tastes and learn more about the different blends and single origins that are offered here, then be ready for something truly special.
I stepped into the small shop and was intrigued by what I saw on the walls: behind the bartender were several batches of coffee beans, but all around the place I could see shelves with numbered cups (you want to know why? You will see in a bit). The smell of coffee was strong and the people in there were enjoying their time and were probably regular customers, by the looks of it.
I had the chance to meet Alessandro Minelli, CEO of Giuliano Caffè and Orso Laboratorio. During our meeting, he told me the history of the company and the laboratory, how he took the lead and his amazing vision for them.
The Story behind it
Funded in 1950 by his grandfather, that went to south America and created a blend and started offering it to bars & cafés. His daughter took over and now Alessandro is the third generation. He started 4-5 years ago only as he didn’t like the coffee being treated as a commodity rather than a fruit of the earth. After a good career path, he reflected and had a look again at the family group. That’s when he realized that he could take on the challenge to change the way it would work and its approach to coffee.
He took this challenge on 2 fronts: first by creating Orso Laboratorio, where the customers would be able to explore what coffee is, the difference between their origins and “travel” inside the world of coffee. Then by changing the way Giuliano Caffè was working.
One of the aims was to allow people to discover different drinks rather than the espresso as well as different ways of preparing it (aeropress, filter…) that are not traditionally known in Italy.
Orso means bear and to know the reason why, all you have to do is look at the logo representing a woman with the mask of a bear: A Shaman.
She will accompany the people in their travel to discover coffee alongside the captain that you will find behind the vessel bow-shaped bar. Behind it, a blackboard shows the different countries producing coffees linked by a string according to which single origins are offered at that time. All blends and single origins are ground on the spot and you can discover how they are produced and how they end up here.
The captain and the shaman are going to accompany you through the experience and the latter will read your destiny once you finish the coffee thanks to the number at the bottom of the cup, that you will be able to discover thanks to a painting hanging on the wall.
The main goal of the lab is to change the perception of the coffee, from a simple commodity to an actual fruit of the earth and to educate people and allow them to learn more about it.
The second front was to change the brand identity of the family group Giuliano Caffè, changing the packaging, the imagery, accessories… and recreate it anew, making the brand different from before and link it to the green of the coffee beans and origins, while developing a new cozy and classy atmosphere by redesigning every tool used by the customers: from the cups to the sugar holders, everything is created to make the experience perfect and unique.
Every blend proposed by Giuliano Caffè is represented by different characters playing and balancing with coffee dreg circles of different sizes, hence the company slogan:
Great coffee is a matter of balance.
That is seen in the packaging with the different sizes represented for each blend.
- Virtuosa: 100% Arabica, represented by a big dreg stain
- Adagio: 90% Arabica / 10% Robusta, with a big circle and a small one
- Concerto: 70% Arabica / 30% Robusta
- Vivace: All the same percentage
- Finally, the Single Origins are represented by a unicycle.
Coffee has then become a character that will communicate a message to whoever tastes it.
Alessandro has also been setting up different projects, an example would be the following: a trip around the world within a coffee bean, that consisted in presenting single origins to the professional clients, giving the possibility to their customers to learn more about the product they are drinking.
After explaining all this with a great passion, Alessandro made me try a caffè shakerato with a Brazilian blend and kept on explaining a lot more: how he selects and make sure that every bean he receives is top quality, the first workshops that have taken place in October and all the different processes.
When I asked him how he would place both Giuliano caffè and Orso Laboratorio in the Italian coffee scene, the answer was very straightforward: the first being a company with the mission of offering special coffee of great quality to its customers and the latter being a unique entity that cannot really be placed in the coffee scene yet, offering 9 different coffees at the same time and requiring a peculiar attention.
At the end of this encounter, I had the opportunity to ask a few more questions, but the two that seemed the most important to me are the following:
- What would be your favourite coffee?
Coffee is but a moment, drinking one day one blend will make you live an experience that could be completely different on another day due to several aspects. I usually make my coffee with Aeropress or French press during breakfast due to their sensations, with single origins or a 100% arabica blend with 3 different coffees.
A coffee that really stuck to him was the first sampling of the bio blend that he considered exceptional, the best one he ever had. Otherwise he really appreciates Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia or the Brazilian blend we drank.
- Finally, what would you say to someone that came to Orso Laboratorio and would want to learn more about coffee, but doesn’t know where to start?
You are in the right place here, the best way of learning is to taste the coffee, surrounded by information and in a place where the captains are here to help. There is always a lot to learn.
In the end, this was a very pleasant visit that gave me the chance to learn more from someone who is really passionate about coffee. Not only as a commodity drink, but also how it comes to be and how it is produced from the beginning until it reaches the cup.
I would recommend it without hesitation and don’t be shy to ask questions to the captains: everyone has been of great help and more than willing to answer any question!
And finally, if you were curious about all the numbered cups that were mentioned at the beginning of this article: regular customers can have their own cups that they will use every time they come in. What a better way to make you feel at home than that!