Culture nespresso

Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Aeris



AERIS Talks to Nespresso’s Hong Kong Manager, Matthieu Pougin, about the latest coffee trends in China – from soy brews, to coffee-dusted French toast…and why gourmet coffee and fine wine are one in the same across Asia. 

What is Nespresso’s story?

Nespresso is the pioneer and benchmark in the portioned coffee market, combining Grands Crus coffee, smart and stylish machines and personalised service. Our story began with a simple but revolutionary idea: to enable anyone to create the perfect cup of espresso coffee – without being a skilled barista. From its beginning in 1986, Nespresso has revolutionised the way millions of people enjoy their espresso and shaped the global coffee culture.

How is the Nespresso customer different from someone who has a drip coffee or traditional espresso machines at home?

Nespresso targets consumers who appreciate and enjoy excellent quality coffee, smart and simple solutions and who expect the best level of service. These are people who are aware that a good espresso depends on the quality of the coffee, the type of machine and the temperature.

Only an estimated 1-2% of the coffee grown globally meets Nespresso’s taste, aroma and quality controls. This goes from cultivation of the coffee cherry, to the “picking” of the coffee fruit, to the blending, roasting and grinding of the coffee beans. In 2003, Nespresso launched the AAA Sustainable Quality Program to provide support, training and technical assistance to farmers in seven different countries, making the coffee even higher quality and more sustainable.

The interaction between machine and capsule also matters. Only when the machine uses the right pressure with the correct brewing time and ideal water temperature will it unleash the full aromas.

A Nespresso machine has a high-pressure pump that optimizes the extraction of the aromas and taste to create an exquisite, smooth crema (the smooth creamy layer formed on the surface of a fine espresso that locks in the aromas until the coffee is stirred or tasted). Such high pressure is essential to unleash more than 900 coffee aromas, giving the espresso its body and to enhance the smoothness of the crema.

A good espresso must also be prepared at a carefully calibrated temperature. Too hot and the coffee will burn, too cool and the coffee aromas will not be optimally extracted. Nespresso machines feature a thermoblock, controlled by a thermostat to regulate the water temperature to an ideal 86° – 91°.

Nespresso’s recent CCC survey showed the benefits of fresh milk in coffee. Do you think Hong Kong coffee lovers prefer pure espressos, or smoother drinks like lattes and cappuccinos?

Generally speaking, Hong Kong coffee drinkers prefer milk-based coffees like lattes and cappuccinos. When I first moved to Hong Kong in 2009, I spent time exploring the city and visiting various coffeehouses talking to countless coffee drinkers, in order to gain first-hand knowledge of the market. It wasn’t long before I came to a firm conclusion that Hong Kong, like other countries in Asia, is a white coffee market. In France, we drink coffee straight – black coffee. But here in Hong Kong people add milk, cream, and soymilk. Nespresso respects the existing coffee drinking habits of local consumers and continuously strives to come up with innovative ways to match them.

Are there any Grand Crus that are particularly popular in Asia? Is there a noticeable difference of aromatic note preferences in different markets?

Here are some coffee drinking trends that I have noticed in Hong Kong:

Preference for Milk Based Coffee (White coffee): In Hong Kong there is a definite trend and taste preference towards milk-based coffees, which is why there are milk solutions to Nespresso’s machines. We are excited to have recently launched a new machine: Lattissima+ in April this year. This new innovative “one-touch” milk solution machine delivers the perfect fresh milk froth with the optimal temperature, thickness and density with one touch of a button and in less than 60 seconds.

Gourmet Coffee: In Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, there is also a trend towards gourmet coffee, with consumers regarding it in much the same way that sommeliers view wine. They are very interested in the specific taste and aroma profiles of Nespresso’s unique range of 16 Grands Crus that guarantee a perfect coffee with the perfect crema, fresh aromas and a full body, cup after cup.

An increasing Number of Soy Milk Coffee Drinkers: In Hong Kong and Asia there is also a large proportion of soy milk drinkers and coffee enthusiasts who prefer soy milk with their coffee. Eight out of the 12 top soy drink consuming countries worldwide are in Asia, with Hong Kong residents consuming the most at 17 liters each day, followed by Singapore (12 liters), Thailand (10 liters), China (9.5 liters) and Malaysia (9 liters) (data from survey by TetraPak: Source China Beverage News (

How long has Nespresso had a presence in Asia? Were there any challenges breaking into the market and what strategies contributed to your success?

Nespresso first arrived in Asia in 1986, appearing first in the Japanese market.

Whilst the positioning is the same in both Europe and Asia, Nespresso’s approach is completely adapted to each local market where the company places key importance on understanding and adapting the local coffee drinking habits.

For example as mentioned, Hong Kong has the highest consumption of soy worldwide. This summer, Nespresso appointed Hong Kong Top Chef, Esther Sham, and champion Mixologist, Antonio Lai to craft more than 15 soy milk recipes that Nespresso Club Members can easily create at home. All ingredients were chosen to appeal to Hong Kong palates and can be easily purchased from local supermarkets. These soy milk recipe cards are now available in Hong Kong Nespresso boutiques for Club Members.

It could be assumed that because Asia is predominantly seen as a tea drinking culture that this may present challenges in the market. But in reality, coffee in Asia is as much a lifestyle beverage as it is a functional one. Hong Kong coffee drinkers are becoming increasing sophisticated in their choices, regarding coffee much in the same way sommeliers view wine. As a result they are increasingly demanding higher quality, premium coffee.

The U is Nespresso’s newest machine. What was the inspiration behind it and how does it fit in with Nespresso’s smaller designs?

Nespresso’s latest machine innovation – the U machine – was launched in Hong Kong on September 13th, 2012. Perfect for small kitchens, it adjusts its shape to fit your surroundings, interiors and lifestyle.

It features a rounded, adjustable water tank, which slides around seamlessly. Its unique cup support can also be moved and adjusted to fit long or short drinks – so you can configure your machine depending on your mood and your favourite coffee rituals.

The U machine has a sleek shape and a tactile interface, which memorises your favourite cup length and doesn’t require reprogramming. Uniquely it has three buttons allowing you to create Ristretto, Espresso and Lungo sizes.

It features the latest technology, including a quick heat up time of 25 seconds, and automatic brewing… In Hong Kong, we all know time is money!

What’s next for Nespresso?

To surprise our Club Members in Hong Kong, Nespresso Hong Kong decided to create a coffee-inspired recipe book ‘My Nespresso Coffee Cuisine’ specifically for this market (first ever created worldwide within Nespresso).

The book features 30 new coffee-based recipes – including such creative dishes as coffee-infused rice burgers and coffee-sprinkled french toast – that showcase Nespresso gourmet coffee in adventurous new ways, demonstrating that gourmet coffee has a place in gastronomical pleasures too.

The recipes were designed by nine of Hong Kong’s most sought after gastronomic talents, including Alvin Leung, Demon Chef at Bo Innovation and Harlan Goldstein, the Chef and Owner of Gold.

The book will be made available to Nespresso Club Members only from September 1st.

Interview by Adrienne Chiu

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