Wednesday, February 22, 2012

{Travel Size It} Sontuoso Illy Issimo

What does a long weekend mean to me? What else than an opportunity to travel? During the President's Day weekend, I had the privilege to attend an amazing opportunity. I am a member of the executive board of Boston University's chapter of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality. To make a description of an amazing networking, professionalism developing, all-kinds-of-fun packing organization short, we plan and attend site visits to a vast array of hospitality brands, social events, community service opportunities, as well as major annual conferences. Recently, I just returned from NSMH's Nationals Conference which was held at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City near Washington D.C. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life!...But I'll leave it at that, because I want to get to the munchies!
So across the street was the Renaissance and I couldn't help but notice a sign that says "Illy". Illy Issimo cafe isn't something new to me; we serve the coffee at Sweet Cupcakes! But I've never seen a Illy Issimo coffee shop! For those who are unfamiliar, it is basically a luxurious brand of Italian coffee where the packaging is different; "in steel containers pressurized with inert gas rather than air."A friend of mine gave it great remarks so as you all know, I just had to see it for myself. Turns out, the name of the cafe was Espressamente Illy. Walk into a contemporary haven of bright whites, bold reds, and splashes of black. As you greet the knowledgeable barista, you can't avoid the sleek-silver coffee and espresso machines ready to be handled with cafe expertise. Now, I've had Illy Italian drip coffee but I have never had their specialties; espressos, lattes, macchiatos, freddos you name it. My friend got himself a single espresso with a dollop of whipped cream on top; an Espresso con Panna! Served in a mini-espresso coffee cup, just the right amount of bitterness and earthiness to have just about anyone wired for a fully packed day. For me, I wanted to try something that was out of the box; so I went for a single Greco All'Italiana. If the exclusive Illy freddo cup wasn't enough to catch your attention, then the perfect balance between ice, milk, and espresso had to do the trick. You even have a nice dusting of chocolate powder on top! It had the chill of a cappuccino and the energy-inducing power a cold espresso treat should have. I just couldn't get over the freddo glass; how neat! But just to note, you don't want to miss the classy goods the cafe has to offer. There were desserts that resembled a chocolate cake cylinder elegantly garnished with a long chocolate shaving and even pies! Unfortunately, I had to abstain myself but I promise you all, I won't be holding back next time. But as great as the experience for the palette was, there was much more to appreciate.

If it isn't food, then it's art that has me marveling at any coffee shop. It's ordinary for a coffee brand to have art incorporated into its mission and values; almost every one I've been to has showcased a local artist of some sort. Illy's art project is derived from an ancient Greek philosophy called kalokagathia; "what is good cannot but be beautiful, what is beautiful can only be good." When applied to the Illy experience, "taste and beauty are inseparable". So Illy has chosen creativity to express its values and philosophy, "for a complete coffee experience involving the eye and the mind." As you walk around Espressamente Illy, you will notice a series of cups all designed by contemporary artists, all of which are miniature versions of reputable pieces and wholly contribute to the Illy Art Collection. Illy has also given artists the opportunity to design onto their cans, which they call the designer coffee cans. I find it absolutely unique; it adds a different perspective for coffee drinkers. The art on all of these coffee cups just added a cultural element to a very modern place.

It was like a brief moment of perfect pleasure. An hour out of a busy day to just enjoy a small glass of espresso and marvel at each and every single piece of art displayed. And to discover and understand Illy's connection between taste, the cafe experience, and beauty, the art on the coffee cups, made me feel nothing short of appreciation. I love when art is showcased because it shows an appreciation of culture from not only the people purchasing the coffee but also the brand itself.
I think people just enjoy art for various reasons. But when they are displayed in cafes, it adds a different vibe. Why do you like the art in cafes?

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