We had heard many positive comments on the recently launched Josephine’s Coffee at the Corinthia Palace Hotel and wanted to obtain some added information from the person who nurtured the concept and gave birth to the finished product, Alexandra Pisani,the hotel’s General Manager. We managed to squeeze in an appointment in her busy schedule, and it was worth every second.
Casual in her approach and very friendly and warm in her manners, she was somewhat moved when she answered our first query: why did she name the Coffee concept, Josephine’s? Her eyes shone with pride: ‘Josephine is my grandmother. She is an icon in the Corinthia story. Josephine was the matriarch and pillar of the family when grandfather died in 1959, barely five months after purchasing Villa Corinthia. She single-handedly raised six children and when it was decided to turn the Villa into a fine dining restaurant, it was Josephine who came up with the name Corinthia, inspired by the Corinthian columns in the building. Her infectious love and warmth were coupled with an adventurous spirit.’ Alexandra smiled gently and added softly: ‘She would have loved this.’
The creative process is such an interesting dynamic progression. One starts with a new clean slate, and slowly a mind-concept takes shape and transmutes into a living reality. How did this process start for Josephine’s? ‘When I returned to Malta in 2020 after many years in the U.S.A and London, I carried within me a strong wish to enhance the elegance of Corinthia Palace with a new concept for our guests. At the same time, I wanted the process to include ethically conscious practices, and use of health-centric creatively crafted food within a unique atmosphere…’
I had to stop her; it was much more than a mouthful, so I asked her to retrace her steps. First of all, ethical. What was ethical about food? ‘We purchase our coffee from sources that respect and maintain good working conditions and do not follow exploitive practices.’
What makes the coffee unique? ‘We serve specialty coffee which is properly brewed and served at the right temperature. We use well-calibrated machines. The difference between commercial coffee and specialty coffee is ocean-wide. Once you taste our coffee you will instantly appreciate the contrast.’
When still in the planning stage to find a first-class coffee brand, the choice fell on Origin, one of the UK’s leading specialty coffee roasters that is B Corp Certified. This certification, which is conferred by B Lab, a global nonprofit organization with offices in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America, establishes that a business meets high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency, evaluating how a company’s operations and business model impact their workers, community, environment, and customers. It interrogates everything from supply chains and input materials to charitable giving and employee benefits.
As an aside, one may add that Malta was perhaps the first European country where coffee was introduced in the 16th century. It is alleged that Turkish slaves had introduced it after they were captured during the 1565 Great Siege. A German traveller Gustav Sommerfeldt noted in 1663: ‘the ability and industriousness with which the Turkish prisoners earn some money, especially by preparing coffee…with water and sugar.” Coffee soon developed into a popular beverage in Maltese high society and the Grand Master of the Order of Malta even employed at his palace a Garzone del Caffè, whose sole job was to prepare and serve him coffee! A 17th century document in Malta’s National Archives explains that for the perfect cup of coffee one needed coffee beans, a special copper coffee pot, and know the Apostles’ Creed. In fact, coffee was to be allowed to brew for as long as it took to recite that prayer. Alexandra laughed when I told her all this and assured me that prayer has been replaced with the attentiveness of our skilled Baristas, outfitted with the right equipment to brew the perfect coffee (the equipment is a category-leader La Marzocco).
And the unique atmosphere? Alexandra showed me the colour scheme chosen for Josephine’s brand: Tiffany mint and pink. ‘We wanted the colour scheme to be genderless. And to keep the whole concept in close harmony, we chose an elegantly simple logo and a simple icon which highlights our ethos; Curious, Crafted and Conscious’
I reminded her about the health-oriented aspect she had referred to. “That is very important. We do not only offer the best specialty coffee but we also have health-oriented food. It is plant-centric, that is consisting largely or solely of vegetables, grains, pulses, or other foods derived from plants, rather than animal products.’
Alexandra gently emphasised all this is becoming increasingly popular for health reasons and eco-friendly purposes.
That led to the conclusion that Josephine’s Coffee’ did not limit itself only to the best specialty coffee in Malta, but also offers a range of light accompanying crafted bakes and sandwiches and salads. “We have a selection of salads, mouth-watering cakes and bakes, exciting sandwiches and smoothies. Stefan Hogan, Corinthia’s Executive Chef is a genius in his work. He and his team regularly come up with something new and enticing.’
So, the ambience and what’s on offer intermingle to form something freshly new. “That’s it! The quality of the coffee is first class, the service is of high standard, food is healthy and plant-centric and…may I add, we offer a very special atmosphere.’ Conscious that the next question would be what is so special, she proceeded to answer that. ‘This is a place where people can linger on; they can make themselves at home in a manner they prefer. One can choose an intimate and cosy corner and read a book, share a few words with friends, or relax and just remain silent. Everyone feels most welcome. We have regulars, and on the first day of Spring, we extended the Coffee service to the garden, so patrons can relax themselves in that idyllic setting.’
The increasing popularity is proved by the fact that Josephine’s has extended its opening hours from 7.30am to 8.00pm.
Covid has strongly boosted take-way service everywhere. Does Josephine’s offer this too? Alexandra was glad to add that most certainly, this is possible for coffee and eats. In fact, it was increasingly used by patrons of the hotel and outside clients.
And the future? Alexandra smiled endearingly. ‘Josephine’s, is the first of many novel concepts, that will unfold during the rest of the year, as the iconic hotel approaches another landmark milestone in its history: its 60th anniversary.’
Insider plus will be following Alexandra Pisani and her team at Corinthia Palace to share further announcements with its readers.