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The secrets behind a good cup of coffee

We joined Olivia Putman and the sommelier Giuseppe Vaccarini for a ristretto at the Andrée Putman agency in Paris, to find out about the creative journey they experienced in designing the Ritual Collection.


Olivia Putman welcomes us into the tranquillity of the Andrée Putman agency in Paris, away from the commotion of the crowded streets. She has been Creative Director at the agency for the last four years and was responsible for the new collection of accessories designed for every Nespresso “coffee moment”, known as the Ritual Collection. She is accompanied by Giuseppe Vaccarini, Chairman of the Italian Sommeliers Association and winner of the 1978 World’s Best Sommelier competition. Each is an expert in their field. We sat down to have a chat with them both.



HOW DID THIS ADVENTURE BEGIN?

OLIVIA PUTMAN. We received an unexpected telephone call telling us that our agency had been selected to design a coffee service of various sized cups. Inspired by Nespresso’s expertise, we came up with a warm and inviting collection that offers a specific cup for each “coffee moment”. This new thirteen-piece Ritual Collection should defi nitely get people talking! (Laughs)

GIUSEPPE VACCARINI. When I was working on developing a method for tasting highquality coffees, I was asked the following question: “What are the best kinds of cups for enjoying a good coffee?” I thought immediately of wine – great wines should be enjoyed from a special kind of glass, preferably made of crystal, with different shapes and sizes for each variety. I offered these thoughts to the Nespresso Coffee Experts, which were then taken up by Olivia Putman in the Ritual Collection.



“We came up with a collection that offers a specifi c cup for each ‘coffee moment’.”



OLIVIA, WHAT WAS YOUR MAIN INSPIRATION?

O. P. Andrée and I visited the Nespresso Boutique on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. We adored the motionless dance of the meticulously categorised capsules and were enchanted by these paragons of colour, robed in their seasonal garb, with each shade denoting a different Grand Cru. Then, when we visited the Nespresso production centre near Lausanne, the rigour of the coffee selection process and the taste for excellence made us feel very at home! We used the bevelled shape of the capsules as a leitmotif for this thirteen-piece service.



WHERE DID YOU START?

O. P. I used the information given to me by the Nespresso Experts, who were themselves infl uenced by the suggestions and insights of Guiseppe Vaccarini. This gave me a good idea of what a cup needed to be like in order to deliver that perfect coffee taste. It is the depth, capacity and mouth of the cup that enhance the aromas contained in the crema. We also studied professional kitchen tools for the design of the spoon. We deliberately designed two sizes, one for mixing and one for tasting, based on classic kitchen utensils that evoke the gourmet aspect of coffee.

G. V. This spoon has been specially designed to gently move the crema without breaking it. This is vital, because it is the crema that contains all the aromas.



SO THIS IS WHERE DESIGN AND TASTE COME TOGETHER?

G. V.
Having the right tools for coffeetasting is crucial to a proper appreciation of the coffee. The smallest cup is primarily for use with the “Ristretto” capsule among others, and showcases a fairly strong, wellroasted coffee with powerful aromas reminiscent of dried fruit and a hint of spices, with a lingering aftertaste. In addition, the quality and fi nesse of the porcelain retains the heat. The design and shape of a cup improve the coffee-drinking experience. The rounder the bottom of the cup, the thicker the crema. And it is the crema that enhances the coffee aromas. This is what Nespresso is all about.



WHAT DISTINGUISHES THE CUPS FROM ONE ANOTHER?

O. P. Their shape, of course, but also the colour that is hidden on the bottom of each cup. We wanted the cup to interlock with the saucer, just like the capsule fi ts into the machine, so that you can identify the strength of the coffee you are drinking when you lift up the cup! It was about introducing an element of surprise, just like with our furniture or object collections. In this case, a colour palette ranging from light to dark helps identify the strength of the coffee: from black for the “Ristretto” to a delicious shade of beige for the “Cappuccino”. The saucer is very flat to ensure enough room for a stick of sugar, a coffee spoon, a biscuit or a chocolate without it all going everywhere! And the cup itself appears to hover over the saucer.



“The spoon has been designed to gently move the crema without breaking it.”



WHAT SIMILARITIES DO YOU SEE BETWEEN WINE AND COFFEE?

G. V. Coffee and wine clearly have very different tastes, but they are produced in a similar way. The region, the variety of the fruit, the harvest, the vintage and the maturing, mixing and roasting processes all play a part in the production of a wine or coffee. An Arpeggio is created by a careful combination of different coffees, just like a Bordeaux wine is produced from four different varieties of grape...



IS WINE-TASTING LIKE COFFEE-TASTING?

G. V. The tasting principle, according to our method, is the same: it begins with a visual examination, during which you specifically examine the crema. Then you use your nose to explore the various aromas. And fi nally you taste it, describing the structure, the body, and the balance of acidity and bitterness.



HAVE YOU FOUND IT A CHALLENGING PROJECT, OLIVIA?

O. P. Yes, but it has stirred my imagination. We had to completely rethink the Cappuccino cup, for example. We loved drawing this one, because it is different from the rest of the collection in terms of its shape and purpose. The sugar dispenser needed to provide easy access to the long, thin sugar sticks, so we came up with a V-neck cut that adds a touch of femininity to the service.



FEMININITY AND FUNCTIONALITY

O. P. We wanted to showcase the cup in fine white porcelain with a contemporary style. The Recipe glass is used to enjoy delicious hot drinks without burning your fi ngers. If you place it on the two wooden trays that fi t together, the reflected light forms a perfect pattern of little squares. There is also a small water glass, which is essential for that authentic coffee-tasting experience. Is that not right, Mr. Vaccarini?

G. V. As an Italian, I can’t conceive of a cup of coffee without a glass of water!



“We wanted to showcase the cup in fine white porcelain with a contemporary style.”



THE FRENCH TOUCH

Andrée Putman is Queen of the “French Touch”. She shot to fame by inventing the “Boutique Hotel” concept, which made Morgans in New York famous in 1984 (the agency renovated the hotel in 2008). The “Putman” signature of a black and white chessboard pattern coupled with refi ned lines can be found in hotels, shops, restaurants, offi ces or museums around the world, as well as in collections for luxury brands and even on a baby grand piano for Pleyel. The City of Paris will be holding a retrospective exhibition in late 2010-early 2011 to celebrate this timeless style.


Text : Catherine Bézard - Photography : Alain Longeaud



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THE STORY BEHIND OLIVIA PUTMAN

1987 : After studying History of Art, Olivia Putman starts to organise exhibitions, design artistic locations and discovers an interest in nature.
1990 : 1995 She practices "Land Art" and designs temporary gardens with the artist Jean-Paul Ganem.
1995 : 1997 Olivia Putman takes up landscaping and works with Louis Benech, one of the masters of the art.
2000 : She is awarded the "Jardin de rêve" prize at the Saint-Cloud Garden Festival for a design commissioned by the perfumer Caron.
2007 : She becomes Creative Director of her mother's design agency.
2010 : Andrée and Olivia Putman turn their hand to the "Ritual Collection", having worked on, among other things, the design of the Christofle boutique in Paris, celebrating ten years of the "Vertigo" collection.

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