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Matt Perger tours automation in Asia

From the August 2018 issue.

Champion Barista Matt Perger compares the reactions in different parts of Asia to the Eversys C’2 Cameo super-automatic coffee machine.

Eversys brand ambassador Matt Perger is no stranger to Asia. There has been extensive growth in the coffee industry in the region, he says, and a lot of coffee events are now being held there, especially in South Korea.

Perger, who was the World Brewers Cup Champion for 2012, placed second in 2013 and third in 2011 in the World Barista Championships, and in 2014 was the Coffee in Good Spirits World Champion, has attended many of those events.

“I’ve been to Korea maybe four or five times, Japan twice, China five times, Taiwan twice," he says. 

St Ali, the Melbourne, Australia-based specialty coffee company of which Perger is a partner, also has a franchise partner in Jakarta, Indonesia, so he travels there as well. This year, after Perger and Eversys launched the company’s c’2 Cameo super-automatic at Host Milan in October 2017, he took it on the road to coffee events in Shanghai, China, in Tokyo, Japan, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as well as to Seattle, the United States. The roadshow is also scheduled to travel to World of Coffee Amsterdam, in the Netherlands in June, and the PIR Expo in Russia in September.

The award-winning barista says the reaction to the c’2 Cameo has been quite different in each country. “If you want to compare Vietnam, China, and Japan – they are very different markets,” he says. “In Japan, for instance, everyone was like, ‘Great, it’s a robot. We
love them. They work.’ So there was almost zero friction in terms of how it is possible for a machine to do what humans do.”

That was his favourite response, Perger says, that super-automatics are a “no-brainer” for the majority of coffee to be served in Japan. However, he notes, the Japanese still feel a need for a certain amount of human influence and a pride in craftsmanship, which he sees as perhaps a reaction to the level of automation there is in the country. 

China was interesting for two reasons, he says. A lot of Chinese companies have started up making their own coffee machines, so Eversys was seen as an outsider coming in. “I think there is also a certain level of pride in the coffee industry at the moment in China,” Perger says. “They are successfully emulating what’s been working in other countries in specialty coffee. So there’s a little bit of friction with an automatic machine because everyone has been trying to tell them to do it a certain way, and now we’re coming in with another message.”

There was some scepticism at first from visitors to Hotelex Shanghai, he says, but once they tasted the coffee, they were impressed. “They needed to be convinced. Whereas in Japan, they were ready, in China we had to hold their hands a little and show them it was
indeed high-quality coffee coming from the machine," he says.

In Vietnam, whenever the Eversys team talked to large tourism operators or hotel chains, “they were ready in an instant, because they struggle a lot with training and retaining skilled coffee-making staff”. “It was unbelievable how quickly they were ready to be converted and like the machine.”

For other parts of the coffee business in Vietnam, it has been a slower adoption curve, he says, as they are just starting to learn about specialty coffee, so still favour manual machines. Perger recently signed a contract for another year as Eversys ambassador, and is looking forward to working with the company’s design engineers on improvements to the machines.

He says he is involved in industrial design himself for another of his projects, Barista Hustle, so is able to “speak engineer and speak customer”.

“When I do these kind of ambassadorship deals, and I only ever do one or at the most two at a time, they need to be not just marketing but 50 per cent progressive and developmental. I want to engage with the company and the engineers and help them with things or at least provide them with my thoughts.” GCR

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