If you go to Bangkok or Manila, you will certainly noticed the rows of coffee vendors around busy subway stations serving iced coffee to the young commuters on their way to work. Like many large Southeast Asian cities, the increase of young middle class workers skyrocketed the demand for the world’s most consumed beverage – coffee.
However, we noticed something else: high cost, high maintenance espresso machines. Our favourite espresso based beverage or concentrated milk tea requires an espresso machine to produce on the street. As we further, we discovered that most vendors are leasing expensive industrial coffee bean grinders and espresso machines from suppliers while paying a fixed rent for access to electricity and vending space. Despite the high operational costs, the vendors are expected to serve these beverages at less than 30 Baht a cup, or 0.8 US dollar. We felt the need to provide an espresso system that is not only affordable for the vendors to fully own outright, but also portable, low maintenance and that requires no electricity.
On the consumer side, it was a different story. The demand for high quality coffee in the recent years has not only increased but also matured due to the economic growth among the young middle class. They are no longer satisfied with canned or instant coffee from the supermarket and specialty coffee has become a critical part of their work and social life - cafes have consequently proliferated and the sales of single-served espresso pods have exploded.
This new coffee capsule fever led to millions of tons of aluminium and plastic based coffee pods discarded in the global landfill every day. Even though some are recyclable, general consumers purchase single serve coffee systems for the sake of convenience. Recycling their used coffee pods is far from convenient, at least in South East Asia.
FUSE has a different approach to this growing concern. In line with our modular and portable espresso kit, this team of engineers from Spain, Malaysia and China has re-designed a compatible coffee pod – one that is fully bio-degradable and reusable. The best part of the capsule is not only the high quality coffee it contains, but the seed pod in the eco-friendly enclosure which grows into a tree when discarded – sending a strong message of awareness while adding one tree to the planet.
With this capsule technology we stepped up our plan to work with local coffee growers in Northern Thailand where coffee plantations are slowly being taken over by corporations to produce Robusta – a more resistant, robust and high caffeine variant which goes into low cost instant coffee. We have approached regional coffee growers in the mountainous region of Chiang Rai with our plan: marketing the unique and sought-after single origin Arabica to the world via environmental friendly capsules. This passion and social ambition propelled our team to the finals of Asia-Europe Entrepreneur Summit in Jakarta in October 2016, where our business plan was applauded by judges and enterprises from Europe and Asia alike.
To pursue our objective and face the challenging obstacles ahead, we have turned to the public to validate our latest invention for the consumer – a Portable Espresso Kit on the world’s largest crowd-funding platform. Even though our team is small, we hope to gain enough financial and moral support to take on and disrupt the global coffee industry... one tree at a time.