Caffè Florian Venezia: coffee is serious business
There are many legends about the origin of coffee.
The most famous legend is about Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder who, on a day when he was out to pasture with his goats, realized how the usually calm animals got all fidgety and frantic if they ate berries and chewed leaves from a particular plant. Kaldi decided to bring some of those berries to the dervish, the dervish threw them into the fire, and they smelled amazing. The dervish then brewed a beverage out of them, an infusion of the berries. Soon enough, coffee drinking became popular among dervishes – coffee’s properties as a stimulant were appreciated during nighttime vigils. In the fifteenth century, coffee became popular in the Middle East, and later on, in Europe and the Americas. Today, it is a commodity that everyone trades all over the world.
News about coffee appeared in Venice in the late sixteenth century, thanks to Venetian legates who saw in coffee trade a business opportunity. In 1630, the first shipment of green coffee arrived at Punta della Dogana, in Venice. In 1683, in Piazza San Marco, the first coffee shop opened for business. It was named All’arabo, or the Arab’s.
Floriano Francesconi opened the Caffè Florian on December 29, 1720, right after the beginning of Carnival (back then, it started on December 26). Certainly a time conducive to good business. Originally, the Florian occupied a mere two rooms, though the key to its success was certainly Floriano’s personality. He was an intelligent, capable, cunning man who attracted a refined clientele, turning his establishment into a hotspot for intellectuals and famous people of his time
The coffee shop, Pietro Longhi, around 1750-1770
Floriano’s nephew, Valentino, inherited the coffee house and followed in his uncle’s footsteps. He went after an important, diverse clientele and expanded the café close to the size that it stands at today.
In 1750, playwright Carlo Goldoni wrote La bottega del caffè, (lit. ‘the coffee shop’), one of his few titled after a place, and not a person, showing just how popular coffee houses were at the time. The coffee shop owner is openly inspirated to the figure of Floriano Francesconi.
The notoriety of Caffè Florian never waned: it always had a great reputation, it was never associated with any scandals, and its patrons were the city’s best. Throughout the nineteenth century, it maintained its place as the most famous literary café in Europe. All famous authors visited regularly. Open day and night, it is said it served over three hundred cups of coffee in twenty-four hours. It had a diverse, international clientele and was noted for the quality of its offering and the kindness of the staff..
The painter Francesco Guardi selling his pictures in front of Caffè Florian, Giuseppe Bertini, 1892
At Caffe Florian Venice, Friedrich Nerly, XIX century
The earliest coffee pots come from Africa (jabena) and Turkey (ibriq). In Europe, there was no specific tool to brew coffee. The earliest brewing method was just boiling ground coffee, and the difficulty in separating grounds and beverage was a problem until the 1800s, when the samovar was invented in Russia, and then popularized in affluent French houses.
In the mid-1800s, the Vacuum, or depression-based coffee maker, was invented in Berlin. It was used both for coffee and for other hot beverages.
Also around the same time, the predecessor of what is known today as the napoletana was invented. It was popular all over Italy.
In 1884, the first patent for an espresso coffee machine was filed. It was invented by Angelo Moriondo, and it revolutionized the way coffee was brewed. From that moment on, coffee would be filtered through the grounds, with pressure pushing it forward. A different tool, the moka pot, was invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti.
The Florian blend
Three things need to be good to make excellent coffee: water, the machine, and above all, the blend. The Florian Blend is the combination of the best Arabica coffee from Central America and Brazil, with a touch of precious Mysore Robusta from India that gives notes of cocoa and Oriental spice. A miscela tailored to the taste of real espresso connoisseurs.
Caffe Florian Venezia © Carlos Alkmin
Florian’s special coffees
True to tradition, though always working on innovation, Florian offers special recipes that make use of their exclusive Florian Blend.