Sex in a Cup

 In the VIP room at Vancouver Fashion eZine this last season, Milano Coffee ( had set up a station and was distributing free samples to media and designers alike.  I had never been a fan of espresso, but Krisztian Katona (Milano's Director of Business Development) drew me in with the promise to make me something special, maybe with a little Bailey's in it.  Yeah right - but sure I'd try a cup.  After a few minutes I realized the next fashion show was getting ready to start.  I leaned in to say, "No time," but a small, beautiful glass cup of java that smelled delightful was placed in my hands.  One sip and I was sold.  I thanked him profusely and told him it was like sex in a cup.  I stand by that description today.

As everyone knows, I LOVE MY COFFEE.  Take away my wine, my junk food, even my buttered toast, but let me have my morning cuppa or the day doesn't seem right.  Now that I try and focus on writing for the first hour or two every morning, sipping coffee has become an ingrained part of the habit.  While I am not fussy (other than I can't stand instant or extremely weak brew), I do know a good cup when I taste it and the one  Katona brewed me at VFW was really exceptional.  I met a friend at Milano Coffee at 156 W. 8th this week to relive the glory.  As soon as I walked in the door, my Sex in a Cup was already being brewed (by Katona himself) and ready by the time I made it to the counter.  I took that first sip.  It was amazing, but not quite the same - not at the sex in a cup level.  After a little arm twisting I discovered the secret.  I did receive a cup of the La Futura blend, but there was a small hint of Baileys added.

Milano Cafe's Espresso Tasting Bar
Katona sat down for a moment and shared with me what made Milano Coffee special - they blend 7 - 12 different beans in every type of Espresso they roast and eight are "on tap" every day.  As I sipped the cooling coffee I could taste all the underlying and unique notes.  What a new experience.  Usually I just taste coffee, here I could taste the blend of flavours.  As well, the Espresso Tasting Bar sports two of the finest espresso machines in the world - a Scharf espresso extractor and Victoria Arduino's 'Adonis.'  "These two machines represent the genius of two completely different espresso technologies, and when combined with our finely tuned Espresso blends allow our baristas to serve you a diversity and range of taste and sensory profiles nothing short of a revelation!"  Owner Linda Turko came over to hear the VFW story and assured me she could create something very special without alcohol that would give me that same taste sensation.   While I still reserve the label Sex in a Cup for this particular espresso blend touched with a hint of Baileys, I am going to challenge her to brew me that interesting cuppa the next time I am in. If the title fits, the blend will wear it. 

The history of Milano Coffee is covered on their website, so just a short synopsis will be presented here.  "In 1981 during a business trip from Italy, Milano founding father, and coffee visionary, Francesco Curatolo saw the wave of the future....But Francesco’s vision was to bring the coffee tradition and trade secrets of Milan, Italy to the budding coffee capital of Canada – Vancouver – which he did in 1984 when starting Milano Coffee."  22 years later he made the difficult decision to leave the business, but left in the hands of his protege Brian Turko, along with wife Linda and Barry and Colleen Henry.  They have continued the tradition of quality Italian espresso while developing new blends and expanding the business.  One new venture slated for a spring opening is a Milano establishment in Gastown that will have live music and offer specialty coffees in the evening with that hint of alcohol.  Live music and specialty coffees in a Gastown setting? I will be first in line.

As I think of all I learned on this recent visit, this clip from an article in the Vancouver Sun I found on their website brings it all home.  It is an interview with Brian Turko who explains about the quality of their blends.  "...Multi-bean blends to Italians are what single-malt whiskies are to Scots and Milano Coffee has at least nine espresso blends that use 11 different beans.  'All coffees have different characters...It's like a band -- it would be pretty boring if you had five bass players.'...Turko considers his niche to be the top one or two per cent of the coffee market -- with premium blends that sell for about $22 a pound."

That about sums it up.  Quality coffee that has not been overroasted burning away the real flavours, well designed unique blends, notes of flavour you can actually taste and a real commitment to what they do.  It's artistry in coffee.