Equipment

Schaerer’s quality hits home

It marks a significant change of pace for a country’s coffee industry when it switches from being seen as a producing to a consuming country. Historically, most of Latin America has rarely enjoyed the fruits of its labour, exporting most, and certainly its best, coffee oversees. Starbucks began buying coffee from the region in 1971, and today sources more than half of its coffee from Latin American countries. But Starbucks’ focus on the region has changed in recent years, with an explosion of coffee shops popping up in major urban areas. Today, the chain operates more than 740 stores in 12 Latin American countries. And where Starbucks starts, other chains are sure to follow, as a growing middle class is helping this producing region become a major consumer in its own right. Christoph Oliver, Schaerer’s Sales Manager South Europe and Latin America, has seen this trend develop first hand. He says Starbucks’s move into the country follows a larger trend of Latin American organisations actively looking to increase coffee consumption at home, to add more value to this precious commodity. Following trends in the United States, he says he’s witnessing the first step towards a more sophisticated consuming market in an increased demand for quality coffee. “Coffee associations all over Latin America are pushing coffee consumption pretty hard,” says Oliver. “You have to understand that espresso and quality filter was almost nonexistent in Latin America. Everything was drip and filter. Now these drinks are in the very early stages.” Oliver says a strong sign that quality coffee is catching on is the interest hotels are showing in having fresh, on-demand options for their clients. Mayan Palace is a luxury resort chain with six locations in Mexico. Oliver has worked with the chain to offer on-demand quality breakfast coffee for its guest. He notes that it’s quite revolutionary for a hotel in Latin America to invest so significantly in fully-automatic equipment. “With this hotel, everything started with the coffee,” explains Oliver. Schaerer had partnered with a coffee roaster to distribute its equipment, who introduced Schaerer to the Mayan Palace group. Although Mayan ended up going with another coffee brand, hotel management were so impressed with Schaerer equipment that they fitted out their hotels with the fully-automatic machines. “They were really concerned with improving the quality of their coffee,” says Oliver. He says the move follows major chains in the United States and Canada who have also upped the standards on their coffee offering. In running a major hotel chain, management was naturally worried about a lot more than just quality. Controlling coffee usage is also quite important in keeping costs under control. Oliver points out that this is where the initial investment in on-demand equipment can really pay off, in marrying economic efficiency and quality.  “By only grinding how much you need for each cup, you can really control coffee consumption,” he says. “Because you know exactly how many grams of coffee you’re using per cup, you can keep on top of how much coffee you’re selling. If there’s a gap in what’s being sold to what’s being used, you know there is a problem.” Most hotels in Latin America opt to bulk brew their coffee. Although having large batches of coffee on-hand may appear to save time, Oliver points to how much coffee is wasted in the process.
Oliver says that the aroma of freshly brewed coffee is a nice advantage to using on-demand equipment. “The smell of freshly brewed coffee in the breakfast area can really increase the quality of the breakfast experience,” says Oliver. “And you don’t need to risk guests going to a café next door.” At the Mayan Palace hotel chain, the company opted for two styles of machine. The first is Schaerer’s Coffee Art. The equipment, used by major chains such as Dunkin Donuts, is designed to handle high volumes of coffee, delivering top quality and standards even under high-pressure demands. Although this would be enough to provide guests with quality coffee available for order, Mayan Palace also opted to give its clients self-service coffee. Schaerer’s Prime model is designed exactly for that. The model has a lower capacity, and features a touch-screen with pictures to help guests make their own cups.  Oliver says that by setting up the machine in a lobby, guests can prepare their own coffee and bring it up to their rooms. Or, if they just want a coffee in the morning, they can easily make it themselves. For a hotel considering where they want to take their coffee offering, Oliver warns that there is a lot of planning to consider. With the Mayan Hotel chain, Schaerer worked with managers to identify the most accessible points, while ensuring the machines could be properly plumbed into electricity, water and wastewater pipes. After installing the machines, Schaerer worked with the hotel’s hospitality staff to identify the best coffee recipes to use to cater to guests tastes, and what works best with the coffee chosen by the hotel. Once the recipe is decided – that is extraction time, grams used, pressure, and so on – it can be replicated across every machine at every hotel via a USB stick. Oliver also says that to offer this level of support to a chain of hotels, any machine manufacturer needs strong local partners. “To service this level of technology you need people on the ground where the hotel is based,” says Oliver. Although Schaerer equipment is manufactured in Switzerland, it works through local partner Gourmet Express in distributing and servicing its machines. The next step in technology that Schaerer is looking to introduce to Latin America is the ability to create freshly ground and brewed filter coffee. Currently, the machines can produce a filter-like coffee as a real Americano, by adding hot water to an espresso. He says the company is currently developing technology that would use espresso-style pressure brewing technology to create a full cup of freshly brewed filter coffee. “The result will be something in the middle between drip coffee and espresso,” he says. “It will have all the advantages of no waste, will be integrated into an espresso machine, but will allow on-demand filter coffee.” Bringing the technology one step further, he says Schaerer is looking to use the same technology to create on-demand cold coffee. The machine will brew the coffee hot and then pass it through a refrigeration system, so that the user can serve it directly over ice for an instant refreshing brew. With this kind of technology in the pipeline, Schaerer is poised to help hotels all over Latin America cater to the sophistication of coffee tastes. Oliver says having this level of technology in place will definitely help hotels set themselves apart from the competition. He says many travellers to the land of coffee are dumbfounded when they have to struggle to find a quality cup.  “There are a lot of people travelling to Latin America who are drinking horrible coffee,” he says. “They won’t even eat breakfast at the hotel because the coffee is so terrible.” Oliver says he wouldn’t be so arrogant to say that these machines would pull in extra guests, but he does say they definitely help contribute to a better consumer experience. “Coffee has an influence on the wellbeing of the customers. It’s very important,” he says. “It’s an important element in their stay, but it’s probably not the main reason why they make their [booking] decisions. You won’t have a guest stay at your hotel just for the coffee, but it will help make his or her stay more comfortable.” GCR

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