October 30 2011
Caffé Piansa in Florence, says Lori de Mori in her book on Tuscan food, makes “the only coffee I’d drive out my way for”. I quite see her point. Because the coffee that de Mori serves at her café, the Towpath Café in east London, is the only one I’d go out of my way for and it, too, comes courtesy of Caffé Piansa.
For years de Mori lived in Florence, where she discovered the roastery and café run by Pietro Staderini and his wife Anna. The coffee beans the couple were roasting in their small torrefazione were a mixture of arabica and robusta beans in a proportion of 80 per cent to 20 per cent respectively, hailing from Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela, Jamaica, São Tomé and Tanzania. The production process was artisan and hands-on, the beans being roasted in batches of no more than 60 kilos at a time in old-fashioned rattling metal drums. And the coffee the Staderinis served in the caffetteria out front, whether it came as a creamy cappuccino, a rich ristretto or mellifluous macchiato, was renowned as one of the best in a city that knows and cares deeply about its caffè.
So when Lori de Mori opened the Towpath, her funky little café/restaurant on the canalside in happening Hoxton, there was little doubt in her mind about the coffee she would serve. Caffe Piansa is therefore the Towpath’s default coffee, and de Mori has trained up a team of young baristas to do it justice. If during a recent stay in London the Towpath became my obligatory breakfast spot, it was mainly the fault of the cappuccino here, a thing of considerable beauty as well as having a smooth, aromatic and perfectly balanced flavour which comes complete with the spoon drawn across the steaming, creamy surface to create an attractive motif.
And so it was that Tuscany’s finest blend came to be as big a hit among the bicycle-toting groovers of east London as it ever was in its homeland.