One of the little rituals that has kept me going through the technicolour COVID rules of the last few weeks and months has been sourcing and making really good coffee at home. Sure, nothing will replace the charm of sitting in a Florentine caffè and watching the world go by over a perfectly frothed cappuccino, soaking up the winter rays. But taking the time to prepare proper coffee at home feels like one small thing we can control. When you’re doing it yourself, the experience all comes down to the process of the moka pot and the quality of the beans. There’s far more to Florence’s coffee offering than just café culture.
Aside from the traditional bars and cafes (to which I am devoted – don’t get me wrong!), Florence has a thriving craft coffee scene, with artisanal roasters bringing inspiration from the Antipodeans, London and the US. To get a sense of how speciality coffee has evolved in Florence over the last few years, I spoke to Tommaso Bongini, founder of Gearbox Coffee Roasters in Mugello, a short drive north of Florence. His family also run Mokarico, one of the most established coffee roasteries in the city, with a hundred-year legacy and a reputation for quality. As such, Tommaso has a foot in both camps. He stays involved in Mokarico, but his passion is for the world of craft coffee and for unearthing niche beans from around the world. “The heritage of coffee is linked to our roots and DNA,” Tommaso tells The Florentine. “Now we’re approaching a new trend in coffee. There’s a shift in attitude and a focus on every stage of the process from farmer to customer.” Whole or ground Gearbox beans can be bought at Coffee Mantra near Sant’Ambrogio, who are currently the sole suppliers in Florence. Tommaso roasts the beans every Monday and Thursday to ensure maximum freshness, and each bag of single origin coffee references not only the producer, but the exact region, altitude and variety.
Gearbox drip coffee at Coffee Mantra
Not all players in Florence’s craft coffee game have this long legacy behind them. Melaleuca and Simbiosi, two of the city’s best artisanal coffee shops, serve signature blends from D612 Coffee Roasters. Lucian Trapanese launched the company in 2017 after watching speciality coffee take off in Northern Europe and the US. D612 is the codice catastale (land registry area code) of Florence, a name which reflects the company’s strong connections to the city. Lucian tells The Florentine: “Our coffee is very different to the classic Italian espresso you’ll find elsewhere. We roast at a much lower temperature, so more complex flavours can come out.” Before the pandemic, monthly coffee events and espresso tastings were being held at the snazzy roastery near Porta al Prato, teaching Florentines and tourists what to look for in a good coffee. If you’re looking to stock up, D612 Coffee Roasters’ beans are sold at Melaleuca and Simbiosi, as well as online.
Where to drink quality craft coffee in Florence
Here we take a look at some of the best artisanal cafes in the city, many of whom roast their own coffee.
For all-round coffee shop charm, you can’t beat Simbiosi on via de’ Ginori. The exposed stone arches and vintage furniture are the perfect spot to while away an afternoon, plus freshly baked pastries, organic orange juice and friendly service add to the appeal. The signature espresso from D612 is a Brazilian roast called Fazenda Sao Joao.
Aussie-inspired Melaleuca overlooking the Arno is a late afternoon suntrap and another favourite spot. Proudly homemade cinnamon buns, carrot cake and ginger drinks set this apart as one of Florence’s best-kept secrets. All the coffee comes from D612, which you can buy freshly ground from behind the counter. Order a Magic, two shots of espresso topped with foam, and settle in.
Down the road from Simbiosi and a stone’s throw from the Duomo, La Ménagère serves proper American-style filter coffee in a charmingly curated bistrot, florist and giftshop. They do excellent cocktails too.
A tiny spot by Sant’Ambrogio, Coffee Mantra acts as a flagship for Gearbox Coffee. They use milk from C.BIO grocery store, part of the Cibrèo dynasty, just down the road, where a single farm, single crop and single variety of cow ensures the best possible quality. Indeed, I can’t recall tasting a creamier cappuccino.
Le Vespe was started by a Canadian and a Florentine, and the transatlantic influence is evident in the epic banana bread, organic credentials and Central Perk vibes. They serve drip coffee and are one of the few places to do a really good iced latte.
Ben Café, in via delle Oche
At Ben Café, in via delle Oche, order the daily fresh pasta specials and savour strictly arabica made with a La Marzocco machine or lighter roasted beans prepared with a V60, Chemex or AeroPress.
Last but definitely not least, we can’t forget about Ditta Artigianale, Florence’s original artisan coffee brand. With their own coffee blends, two hugely successful cafes in the city and a solid cake menu, Ditta crosses the boundary between craft and mainstream coffee.
Order your coffee
Founded in 2013 by world-renowned barista and roaster Francesco Sanapo and Patrick Hoffer, Ditta Artigianale brings exquisite coffees to the discerning, with a focus on total transparency and sustainability throughout the supply chain. Ditta Artigianale want to spread their gift to the rest of Italy and the world.
Get 15% off Ditta Artigianale coffee! Using the code “THEFLORENTINE” at the checkout.
This article was published in Issue 275 of The Florentine.