Italy celebrates a powerful and dedicated entrepreneur. Paola Campana has been the first woman to spread coffee quality culture in Campania and Naples.
Paola Campana’s story is one of tradition, values, family, and passion. Slipping into the world of coffee by following in her parents’ footsteps, her story takes place along the Napolitan coast of Italy. A dreamy backdrop, we invite you to imagine the sounds of waves crashing and busy piazzas in summer as we share her story with you.
In 1930, Paola’s family opened a roastery in the heart of Naples. Founded by her grandfather, Sabino Campana, it started off as a pastry shop and began roasting coffee ten years after opening. From then on, her family has always pursued the selection and roasting of high-quality coffee. Spending her days alongside her parents, Paola Campana learned the ins and outs of the coffee world. Experiencing this passion first-hand with her father, she notes that the first Ethiopian coffee roast she tried was one that he brewed.
“The place that inspired me the most is my father’s roastery, when I was little I used to sit on the sacks and observe with admiration my dad roasting coffee. He did it with passion. Today this passion has passed on to me and my brother.”
Coffee is weaved into the fabric of Italian culture, to the point where some consider it to be in their DNA. Italians know coffee as more than just a routine – it is a way to show appreciation and to enjoy intimate moments with the people they love. However, according to Paola, despite the central role of coffee in their lives, most Italians don’t have deep or accurate knowledge about it. Paola felt influenced by her upbringing and took it upon herself to learn more about coffee, embarking on a mission to educate others too.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Politics, a Masters degree in Business Administration, and a diverse work experience, she returned to Naples and integrated the family business. Spreading her wings and hoping to learn more about specialty coffees, she opened a coffee shop in Pompeii on her own.
Her biggest challenge today, as she told us, is to sway those who are bound by tradition and stuck on a classic espresso. Paola further struggled as a pioneer in the specialty coffee market as a woman. Defying traditional gender norms, she found that some clients were skeptical of her knowledge and abilities. In her words, “They are wary of trusting me and my competencies”.
Nonetheless, this did not stop her and only fueled her resilience. When asked how she handled this stress and how she kept her determination, she replied that:
“ You need to keep being passionate, constant, strong enough to never give up, and have a lot of knowledge on the raw material you are presenting”.
Paola continued to work relentlessly, driven by her passion for coffee and for learning. Thirsty for knowledge, her hard work finally paid off as her coffee shop was named one of the top ten in Italy. She was also individually recognized, elected as one of Italy’s top ten baristas thanks to her craft and dedication. Today, her favorite part of her job is making filtered coffee for her clients and learning different methods of extraction every day.
“The most satisfying part of my job is when new clients fall in love with specialty coffee so much that we arrive at a point where we start having a conversation about it like real professionals.”
She loves being creative, and trying new coffee beverages, especially combining different roasts with salty or sweet meals. Beyond being a barista, Paola loves telling people the story behind every type of coffee. She attributes importance to sharing the origins of her products to her clientele, ensuring that it becomes an experience for them.
“The coffee I serve is strong, complex, sweet, with strong sour notes. It mirrors my personality.”
Sharing new or lesser-known blends with her customers has encouraged her to take a step into the world of coffee, seeking to add certifications from the Specialty Coffee Association under her belt. She continues to experiment with different extraction systems besides espresso, notably Ibrik, Napoletana, V60, Chemex, Syphon, and Aeropress. Paving the way for women in the Italian coffee industry, she is the first woman to have opened a micro-roastery in Campania (the Italian region in the heart of the south which includes Naples), bringing new products to the scene and being the first to offer these kinds of coffees.
After a lot of hard work, today she tells us that her success feels brilliant and is extremely fulfilling, because she has managed to pursue a career centered around what she loves: her family and coffee. Crediting her grandfather and parents as her biggest inspirations, she says that they have always taught her to do and be her best that she can.
It is so inspiring to us to meet people like Paola Campana, whose dedication is readable in her eyes and her words. We hope you will enjoy her story as much as we did.