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La Marzocco’s Kent Bakke: An Espresso Icon

La Marzocco Kent Bakke has been selling through it all — from three or four “cappucino machines” per month in the early 1980s, to outfitting Starbucks and Peet’s cafes, to becoming an iconic figure in the coffee world.

The Seattle Times yesterday published a thoroughly enjoyable story on Bakke and his career espousing the virtues of Italian espresso.

“They’d say, ‘Ess-what? Oh, that nasty Italian stuff,’ ” Bakke told the Times of the early days selling espresso makers in the Northwest. “It took about a year to sell the first machine.”

But eventually La Marzokko inked a deal to supply Starbucks. When Starbucks switched to push-button machined, the company entered a new era of independent premium coffee marketing.

“It was hard to survive that financially for a while, but it opened up a real opportunity for the independent [coffeehouses] to differentiate themselves from Starbucks,” Bakke told the paper.

According to the report, La Marzocco is now selling approximately 4,000 machines a year, and is soon to open a new factory in Tuscany. “The real competition is against the vast market of machines out there with mediocre espresso,” Bakke told reporter Melissa Allison. “We’re trying to get people to make the choice to improve their product. Our biggest competition is complacency.”

The full story: Seattle Times

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