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Nuova Simonelli and Cojaft International help craft coffee culture in Taiwan

From the March 2016 issue.

Taiwanese equipment supplier Cojaft International and Italian espresso machine manufacturer Nuova Simonelli have forged a relationship which has brought more to Taiwanese coffee culture than just great machinery.

With almost 30 years in the coffee business, Taiwanese equipment supplier Cojaft International has been a consistent innovator in the local industry, introducing and promoting some of the key market trends that have helped to make coffee culture the phenomenon it is in Taiwan today.

Established in Taipei 1988 by Frank Tseng, Cojaft International is a family-owned company that focuses on coffee equipment and all the assorted supplies for coffee shops, coffee roasteries, and restaurants.

However, Tseng tells GCR Mag, supplying the equipment is just the beginning of Cojaft International’s relationship with their customers.

“We understand that dealing equipment is not just a one-time business,” Tseng says. “The core values are actually the after-service and maintenance capabilities on machines, and how to deliver the value to the clients. Coffee shops are usually too busy to manage their daily operations, so when they get problems with equipment, they need a reliable partner who can fix the problem for them as quickly as possible.”

In order to do this effectively, Tseng says that Cojaft International must invest heavily in making sure it has a workforce with the right skills and knowledge, a task that requires constant work as the equipment available is constantly changing.

“In reality it’s not that easy, because every year there are new models of espresso machines and grinders,” he says. “To ensure our technicians can catch up, we have invested a lot on technical training, both internal and external.”

In addition to this, Tseng says, Cojaft International must maintain strong relationships with the manufacturers who build the equipment.

“We keep daily communication with our European suppliers so that we can solve the technical issues within the shortest time, and of course also to make sure we have sufficient stock of spare parts on hand.”

But just as important as this, Tseng says, is the need to drive an appreciation of coffee culture in Taiwan and to connect his customers with developments in that culture from overseas.

“Every year our marketing team makes a huge effort to observe the latest trends in the industry, sharing them with our local clients so that they can focus on their business, but also bring in new ideas,” he says. “Our role is like the back office of all our local coffee shops or roasters.”

To this end, Cojaft International has gone to great lengths to create a strong and thriving coffee scene in Taiwan, no mean feat considering they started from scratch.

One of Cojaft International’s key initiatives to this end was its role in the founding of the Taiwan Coffee Association and Taiwan Specialty Coffee Association, and its position as one of the main sponsors for the local coffee competitions.

One of the key catalysts behind these initiatives was Cojaft International’s relationship with Italian espresso machine manufacturer, Nuova Simonelli.

“We have been cooperating with Nuova Simonelli since the early 1990s,” Tseng says. “Back then, coffee was not even popular in Taiwan, but we had started introducing Nuova Simonelli’s espresso machines to the Taiwanese market.”

While the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s stifled the growth of the coffee industry, Tseng says he observed the growth of coffee culture around the world, and was especially impressed by Nuova Simonelli’s promotion of the culture through its involvement in the World Barista Championships (WBC).

“Around 2006, we realised that Nuova Simonelli had invested a huge amount of effort in the WBC competition,” Tseng says. “We were very excited about this project, and we thought that this might be the trend for the next 10 years.”

So Cojaft International started to talk with Nuova Simonelli about the prospect of bringing the competition to Taiwan.

“In the first few years it wasn’t that easy,” he says. “There were many criticisms saying that specialty coffee is just hype, but after years and years of local barista competitions, the younger generation started to fall in love with this new community, just like we had seen happen before in many other countries around the world.”

In order to firmly entrench and be an integral part of this new barista culture in Taiwan, Cojaft International saw the need to invest in the development of local baristas.

“We needed a barista in the company who could be our representative and absorb the knowledge,” Tseng says. “So we sent our head barista Freya for training and education for many years and finally she was qualified as WBC technical judge in 2015.”

Having such a knowledgeable and qualified person on their team made Cojaft International a magnet to Taiwanese coffee companies looking for an entry point into the burgeoning specialty coffee culture.

“With this high quality certification, we indeed attracted more clients who wanted to understand the WBC, or wanted to compete in local competitions,” he says. “In addition, it also helped us improved our barista skills and knowledge, which are key factors in the high-end market segment.”

Another key innovation that has helped to entrench the specialty coffee culture in Taiwan was the introduction of Nuova Simonelli’s T3 technology in 2009, Tseng says.

Nuova Simonelli’s T3 technology was developed by taking advantage of scientific research from universities, experience with the World Barista Championship and work with WBC Baristas.

The T3 technology provides exceptionally advanced performance because on each group there is three-dimensional temperature control, making the reading and operating of the machine extremely accurate. Coupled with a real-time responsiveness of the machine, T3 gives the barista an extraordinary ability to perfectly adapt to the characteristics of each coffee blend.

“We have received very positive feedback from our client about T3’s performance,” Tseng says. “Over the years, also because of its stable quality, it has become one of the most popular espresso machines among specialty coffee shops in Taiwan.”

In addition to this, Tseng says Nuova Simonelli has continued to innovate in other product categories, driving the development of quality coffee along the way.

“The new products, such as Gravitech and the Mythos One grinder, have solved many long existing problems in the market,” he says. “The barista community has now come to trust and rely on the Nuova Simonelli brand, and that means they come to us when they are looking for new solutions.” GCR

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