From the print edition of The Economist, an article on Andrea Illy of Illycaffè: Face value | Head barista | Economist.com. Andrea Illy is the head of Trieste-based Illycaffè. And despite the standards gap between Italian espresso and the chain that made the most riches exporting their own version of it, Mr. Illy has only praise for his Starbucks competition.

The article reviews Illy’s strategy behind their recent opening of Espressamente Illy cafés across Europe and temporary exhibits such as “Beauty has a taste” in New York City — all primarily as advertisements for the Illy brand. It also touches on his skepticism about the Fair Trade movement — which he claims rewards growers for certification rather than quality.

Illy the company still represents something of an anomaly for me. On the one hand, they exhibit some of the most intensive and laudible quality controls in the industry — perfect bean shapes and roasting hues all within minute tolerances. And yet they commit themselves to pod delivery systems with pre-ground beans — and distribution of fresh roasted beans that, despite all vacuum seal precautions, age for weeks on ships leaving Italy.