Sacred grounds

Hi, I’m Steve Manfredi and I have a caffeine addiction. Sure, I can kick it. Like a couple of months ago, when I had that horrible ‘flu and everything tasted foul. I stopped drinking coffee for a week. I couldn’t tell if feeling like crap was bug related or whether I was experiencing caffeine withdrawals.

But the first coffee I had after a week was like falling in love all over again. My morning espresso is one of the most important rituals in my life. I love the smell, the taste and most of all the way a great coffee focuses not only the mind but also all the senses. A poor coffee, on the other hand, is disappointing on all those levels.

There is a lot of marketing hype dressed up as “fact” about this little roasted berry. For example that 100% Arabica coffee is better. Not necessarily. There are two families of beans, Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora).

Arabica grows at higher altitudes and contains around half the caffeine of the lower grown Robusta. Arabica is responsible for all those complex notes in a good coffee but there are also some wonderful high quality Robustas that can add body and kick to a blend.

Another myth is that organic and fair-trade coffees are better quality. They might be good for the planet and growers but these certifications do not guarantee superior quality.

A great espresso depends on three factors: high quality beans, a well-maintained espresso machine and the person who makes it.



Savoiardi biscuits are also called ladyfingers, sponge fingers, trifle sponges or boudoir biscuits. They are readily available in shops and supermarkets. If you can find Pavesini biscuits, a much lighter version of Savoiardi, they’re even better.

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 300g mascarpone
  • 30 Savoiardi or Pavesini biscuits
  • 750ml strong espresso coffee
  • 75ml rum
  • Cocoa powder

Beat egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture becomes pale. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form fluffy peaks. Mix the yolk and sugar mixture together with the mascarpone, and then fold the whites in gradually. Soak the biscuits in a mixture of the coffee and rum. Arrange a layer of 10 (soaked) biscuits on the bottom of a small rectangular ceramic or glass container. Spread on a layer of mascarpone mixture, repeating the process until all the biscuits and mascarpone have been used up and finishing with mascarpone on top. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder and refrigerate for 4-5 hours before serving. Serves 10 as dessert.

Wine: Tawny Port



  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 70g freshly ground coffee
  • half tsp sea salt

Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment. Beat in vanilla then on low speed mix in flour, espresso and salt until well combined. Flatten the dough and shape into a rough rectangle a couple of centimetres thick. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll dough between two sheets of wax paper to half a centimeter thickness. This may be more manageable if dough is divided in 2 or 3 pieces. Cut into fingers 2cm wide and 8cm long. Place fingers on a baking sheet at least 3cm from each other and chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated 160C oven. Remove biscuits from tray and place on a cooling rack. Makes about 30 biscuits. Serve with caffè latte.

Wine: Good quality rum, grappa or Armagnac