Andrea Illy – Espresso Thinking is my personal blog. I wanted to give form and substance to a way of thinking that is dynamic, creative and social; the way people think when they observe the world with curiosity and are open to innovation.
This space is dedicated to reflections and conversations; it is a place to experiment with new forms of interaction, based on shared interests, experiences, encounters and novelty. Because I believe that ongoing dialogue between people can stimulate the intellect, creativity and – ultimately – economic and social development.
Espresso Thinking is a word game that is meant to amuse but also says a lot about my way of being. This blog is a starting point to inspire positive, productive and happy thoughts – just like a good cup of espresso.
I was born on September 2, 1964 in Trieste.
It is a very special Italian city, which particularly prides itself on its long-standing coffee tradition. This is where my grandfather, Francesco Illy, had founded illycaffè in 1933. Francesco’s son, Ernesto, was my father. I have two brothers, Francesco and Riccardo, and a sister, Anna.
When I was young, I loved high speed and motorcycles. I would diligently and surreptitiously file down the base of my Vespa’s cylinders to make it the fastest bike in town. I also loved sports such as sailing, trekking and skiing. But my greatest passion, since my first tasting in mother’s kitchen at the age of four, has always been coffee.
I was the youngest, and the others didn’t tackle chemistry, my father’s specialization. So it was an almost obligatory choice. I was intrigued by the idea of going far away from home and putting myself to the test, so in 1979, at the age of sixteen I left home and headed to Switzerland.
A while later, however, I heard my family’s call to arms. It was actually nice being told I was supposed to join the company. So, in 1986, I decided to continue my university studies in Trieste. It was a good decision because the city is home to several among Europe’s most important scientific institutions and, above all, because just a few days after returning I met my future wife, Elisabetta, at the café downstairs.
Returning to Trieste and the company was like returning home because I had grown up in the factory: as a child I had roamed it, playing with whatever I found; as an adolescent I had been part of the summer workforce, working in the department that makes coffee canisters in order to earn enough money to buy that Vespa. Plus, to me the family had significance and meaning from an entrepreneurial standpoint, as well.
In 1990, I joined the company in the quality control department, launching the company’s program in the field of total quality. In just a few years, my responsibilities had extended to the entire product area. In 1994, I received my chemistry degree with a thesis on the chemistry behind the quality of espresso, which was later published as “Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality.” My formal education continued at Bocconi University in Milan, where I received an Executive MBA. That same year, on my brother Riccardo’s suggestion, I replaced him as CEO of illycaffè (until April 2016), and started turning it into a global brand, in part by developing the range of coffee products. In 1999, I became President of the ASIC (Association for Science and Information on Coffee) and in 2013, Chairman of the Altagamma Foundation. Always in 2013, I became Chairman of the Promotion and Market Development Committee of the ICO (International Coffee Organization), until 2016 – a role that had been previously held by my father, Ernesto.
Today, I live in Trieste with my wife Elisabetta. We have three daughters, Micaela, Jaqueline and Andrea-Dominique. I still love motorcycles, of course, but I have now also discovered the pleasure of flying, one of the many activities that I love doing surrounded by the beauty of nature.
I love the modern and contemporary arts, as well as reading – mostly scientific, economic and philosophical literature – and writing.
Often, people ask me what my favourite type of coffee is: to me, the most precious and sophisticated is a medium-roasting espresso, no sugar and no milk. That’s my personal way to enjoy coffee – the elixir of dreams – at its best.