Pressing Coffee issues

Pressing Coffee issuesNespresso wades further into the consumer coffee market with help from a local icon

How familiar is this? You get up in the morning and stumble into the kitchen, desperate for a cup of life’s magical elixir — often referred to as coffee. You have two options: fiddle around with an automatic drip and hope you get the water into the reservoir where it belongs or try and screw the top of an espresso maker on tight enough for it to actually percolate. Of course, you could set the timer on an electronic coffee maker and hope the water you put in it the night before doesn’t taste stale. Good morning!

That’s the very scenario that drives most of us to buy overpriced, mass produced mud from coffee chains that are the caffeinated equivalent of McDonald’s (no names). Well, bleary eyes can rejoice: Nespresso is making serious strides into the household market.

Anyone who’s seen one of these machines in action in offices or hotels knows that with the insertion of a little capsule of coffee (strong, medium, mild and 13 other varieties) into a press and the push of a button results in instant hot coffee without the instant taste. Better still there’s no fiddling with milk and steamers you need a PhD to use in the event you want cappuccino.

The Nespresso home machines are compact and fit into almost any kitchen, but starting January 1st, a limited edition coffee maker will be available at its boutiques — and from Shanghai Tang. The Dragon Collection was designed for 2012, the Year of the Dragon, and comprises the CitiZ coffee machine, Ritual Cappuccino Dragon Cup Set and capsule holder stone or silver metal inlay (sold separately). Emblazoned with red and turquoise dragon designs on contrasting sunken saucers, the entire collection serves two purposes: to mark the beginnings of Shanghai Tang’s broadening of its home line and to put a heavier stamp on Nespresso’s position as the world’s premiere premium coffee brand. This is not Nescafe.

Mention Nespresso and the name Nestle will invariably arise, and perhaps with it Nestle’s spotty environmental and labour record, particularly in relation to chocolate. But that’s another issue for another company according to Matthieu Pougin, Nespresso country manager for Hong Kong. “Nespresso has it’s own business model,” he states. Part of that includes its 2003 programme with Rainforest Alliance to ensure bean quality as well as, “the [best] income for coffee farmers and their communities and to minimise social and environmental impact … We deal with 60,000 farmers and we train and help manage the farms to ensure it’s sustainable and environmental,” Pougin states unequivocally, making Nespresso a safe choice for those looking to shop responsibly. That goes for the little capsules as well, which Pougin claims are not as garbage-making as they might seem. “We use the best material possible to maintain the freshness of the coffee. The aluminium we use is infinitely recyclable. In every market we launch a recycling programme, in March this year in Hong Kong, and we invite Nespresso users to bring back their used capsules,” Pougin points out. Nespresso and a local supplier handle the recycling process to make it as easy as possible — for both corporate and consumer users. “In Hong Kong we have 100 percent capacity recycling.”

But ultimately it comes down to the coffee. Is Pougin confident Nespresso’s capsules can match the standards of freshly ground beans in a Bialetti? Yes, because the key word is “fresh”. “By using this system we can maintain freshness. When you buy beans you can’t keep them for more than a month,” he shrugs. And hey, if it’s good enough for George Clooney…