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Espesso: Turning coffee world upside down?

September 12, 2006

BY JANET RAUSA FULLER Staff Reporter

Espresso is meant to be sipped. Espesso, however, requires a spoon.

Spanish uber-chef Ferran Adria, considered the worlds most innovative chef, has come up with coffee you can eat, and its making its American debut today in Chicago.

Espesso -- a play on the Italian word "spesso," meaning thick -- is essentially "taking coffee and solidifying it," said Joerg Oberschmied, vice president of operations for Lavazza, the 111-year-old Italian coffee company that is offering Adrias coffee creation.

Lavazzas three Chicago stores -- the companys only U.S. locations -- will be pouring or, rather, spraying espessos starting today. A serving costs $2.49.

Espesso consists of espresso and an ingredient the company wont divulge, combined in a pressurized canister and left to set for 12 hours. The result is a mousselike, cold solid sprayed right out of the canister.

"When you first extract it, you can literally hold the cup upside down and it wont move," Oberschmied said.

Customers can order a basic espesso, or one of two souped-up versions -- espesso cappuccino or espesso macchiatto, in which the solidified espresso and solidified milk are served side by side in the same cup. Because of the preparation, each store will have a limited amount of espesso each day.

Europe gets espesso in 02

Considering Adrias other concoctions at El Bulli, his exclusive restaurant outside Barcelona -- liquid ravioli and frozen parmesan air, among them -- spoonable coffee doesnt seem all that strange.

Lavazza approached Adria several years ago to come up with a coffee product. Espesso was introduced in Europe in 2002.

Adria has also developed a Lays potato chip variety sold only in Spain, a line of oils for food company Borges Group and a fast-food chain called Fast Good for the European NH Hotel group.

"For anyone whos interested in the type of foods that Ferran does, this is the closest youll get to hopping on a plane and going to Barcelona," Oberschmied said.

jfuller@suntimes.com