Man with the £10-million tongue | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

GENNARO Pelliccia showsmasterclass students the proper techniques for coffee cupping.


GENNARO Pelliccia showsmasterclass students the proper techniques for coffee cupping.
GENNARO Pelliccia showsmasterclass students the proper techniques for coffee cupping.




HOW DOES it feel to have your tongue insured for £10 million?” we ask.


“I’ll be very honest with you. It’s a headache,” quips “master of coffee” Gennaro Pelliccia. “It’s hard work. It sets a very high expectation for me. It comes with the job. My job is to primarily safeguard the Mocha Italia Blend together with my team back at the roastery in Lambeth, London. That’s why the insurance exists; my tongue and my ability to perceive different aromas are very important to my work.”


Lloyd’s of London is the only insurance company in the world that insures body parts. “It’s common now for celebrities and star athletes to insure select parts of their body,” says Pelliccia. “It’s important for their work. It just so happens that a lot depends on my tongue. That’s why they insured it.”


Closely guarded coffee blend


The Mocha Italia Blend is the closely guarded coffee blend created by the Costa brothers, founders of popular UK coffee shop brand Costa Coffee. The recipe has been passed down to Pelliccia, and his job is to make sure that every Mocha Italia Blend that comes out of the coffee roastery in London has the same flavor as that of the original Mocha Italia coffee blend that was created in 1971.


Pelliccia recently held a Costa Coffee Masterclass in the Costa Coffee branch at One World Place building in Bonifacio Global City. Apart from ensuring the integrity and uniformity of the iconic Mocha Italia Blend, he also holds coffee masterclass sessions for the Costa Coffee company. He has led sessions in several countries, including United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Singapore and China.


In his first masterclass in the Philippines, Pelliccia showed guests how a coffee master tastes different blends of coffee. He talked about the different coffee beans grown around the world—how their different flavors and characteristics (when blended together in coffee roasteries) contribute to the overall taste of a coffee blend.


Coffee cupping


After his lecture, guests were then showed how master tasters do a coffee cupping session. Coffee cupping is the practice of observing and scrutinizing the different tastes and aromas of coffee. Participants were taught how to sip and slurp their way to a more refined coffee tongue.


“The best part of my job is sharing my passion and know-how of coffee with others,” says Pelliccia. “Seeing the look in people’s eyes when they realize the difference between a good or bad espresso is priceless.”


It’s not every day that a coffee master as renowned as Pelliccia visits the country. Inquirer Lifestyle sat down with the man with the £10-million tongue.


How were you introduced to the world of coffee?


You could argue that I was actually introduced to coffee on the day I was born, because apart from being Italian, I’m actually Neapolitan—from Naples—which is really where espresso coffee came from. Someone before asked me, “When did you have your first cup of coffee?” and I said, “You know what, for me that never really happened.” In Naples, kids have milk in the morning, but growing up, my mom would put a drop of coffee in my milk. So I started to acquire the taste of coffee at a very early age. When you grow up, the amount of milk reduces and the amount of coffee increases.


When did you start working on coffee professionally?


From a professional point of view, I joined Costa Coffee 25 years ago. While I was studying, I became a barista, just to have extra money. It was a weekend job, and there was no intention to do anything more, to be honest.

But my family has been good friends with the Costa family for so long, so after I graduated from my Mechanical Engineering course, my dad told me, “Why not spend a couple more years working for the Costa Coffee company?” And I thought, “Yeah, why not?” I’ll work for Costa until I find a proper job.

Well, 18 years later… I’m no longer looking for a proper job, really. I believe I’ve got a fantastic job.


Does being a mechanical engineer help your job as a master coffee taster?


I believe so, the competency of engineering has really helped me to understand the machinery behind the product… Coffee production is a long chain. And the finished product is only as good as the weakest part of that chain. So the machinery, the extraction, the temperatures, the pressure, the granulometry (the size of the coffee granules)—everything is important and integral to the quality of your coffee.


So yeah, especially in our roastery where all our equipment is located, mechanical engineering has definitely helped me in working with all our equipment.


What are the top mistakes people make in brewing their coffee?


At home, the number one mistake is not buying fresh coffee beans. You want to have fresh coffee beans if you want to have fantastic coffee at home. You need to find an establishment where they roast locally. Don’t buy a pack of coffee today, and then use it six months later. Just buy enough for your daily or weekly needs.


The way you store coffee is important, too. Coffee beans (whether ground or not) should never really come into contact with oxygen. Try to keep it in an airtight container. What we recommend is keeping your coffee in the fridge. Some people even put it in the freezer, which is perfectly fine. You can use it straight out of the freezer.


Then the machinery and the brewing method are obviously important. How you grind the coffee as well is paramount. The consistency of the size of the grind is integral to a good cup of coffee. The grind has to be proportional to what you are brewing.


For example, if you are using a French press, because the coffee is in contact with the water for quite a long period of time, your grind should be more on the coarser side. The grind size should be proportional to the amount of time the coffee comes in contact with the water. In espresso machines, because it’s a very fast extraction, you grind your coffee much finer because you want to increase the surface area that the water will pass through under pressure.


The contact with the water and how long it takes are important, because at the beginning, you extract the desirable flavors—if you leave it too long, you start extracting the undesirable flavors. So, if you have a very fine grind, that period of time when that undesirable flavor will come out becomes much shorter.


Water temperature is also important. It must never be boiling but it should be hot enough. If you don’t use water that is hot enough, you don’t extract the essential compounds from the coffee.


Why is coffee such a universally loved drink? East or West, everybody loves it.


Firstly, I believe that it’s the pick-me-up feeling, which we actually need with our lifestyle today. Because let’s be honest, I don’t know many people who can wake up in the morning and be ready to go without first having a cup of coffee. That’s something that transcends nations and cultures.


Apart from the actual anatomical, physical need, I also think it’s the ritual of making coffee and the smell of coffee. The smell of coffee is just phenomenal; it’s really earthy, enzymatic, fruity. People can universally associate with the floral flavors, sugar browning aromas, caramel and toasty notes of coffee.


Costa Coffee has more than 1,000 shops in the United Kingdom and more than 1,000 coffee shops in 30 overseas markets. Costa Coffee Philippines branches are at Eastwood CityWalk 1, Robinsons Place Manila and One World Place building in Bonifacio Global City.