Today’s International Herald Tribune published an article on Illy’s growth strategy of luxury cafés: Italian coffee company illy looks to expand with luxury – Business – International Herald Tribune. (Ignore the article’s initial, erroneous paragraph for a moment: Francesco Illy clearly did not “invent the espresso.”) Illy’s café chain is called Espressamente. We reviewed a Lisbon Espressamente here last month.

With Starbucks planning to soon infiltrate Italy, Illy executives describe how they plan for growth by appealing to a more distinguishing espresso clientele. More power to them. Given my limited experiences at the Lisbon Espressamente, it makes Starbucks seem a bit like slumming it (and that’s not just the coffee quality).

While Illy won’t ever reach the ubiquity of Starbucks (nor should they ever try, IMO), Illy also runs circles around Starbucks in the area of quality controls. Illy has scientifically perfected the art of consistency, whereas the Starbucks in just S.F. vary wildly in espresso ratings from 2.6 to 6.2. Illy’s strategy may not poise them for world domination. But they seem positioned for a high-quality niche that could be very successful for them.

Illy’s greatest hurdle will likely be replicating the quality level of their coffee — or at least its freshness — in the Americas. Despite all their quality controls, weeks-old coffee shipped from Trieste is still weeks-old coffee.