Thursday afternoon (or at least an hour of it) of last week was spent in Citywest to get a heads up from Mondelez on the Irish launch of their Tassimo brand coffee machine, the intention of which is to bring high street and popular retail coffee brands (your Costa, Cadbury, Kenco, Carte Noir etc.) into the kitchen in disc format (think pods if you’re a Nespresso head) for lovers of and newcomers to on-demand beverages.
I’ve had my much-and-still loved Nespresso machine since Christmas and barring the fact that I’ve yet to collect it from the Mycrofilms office in the aftermath of the Kilkenny Arts Festival (equally fuelled by coffee), it’s been the source of my daily coffee fix, pushing me more towards blending my own coffee, using refillable or third party pods and the likes to enhance the use of the machine for that quick wake-up fix in the morning or afternoon. There’s a bit of work in it, you see.
With the Tassimo, however, the machine seems to be aimed more at those who like their High Street Coffees, as I like to call them, though it would be wrong to refer to it as a coffee machine – it’s a hot beverage system. Even driving up around by the Citywest shopping centre, it seemed like every second person coming out the door was carrying a Costa mug in their hand. We are, as a nation again, seemingly, a lover of luxury coffees. Call it the hangover from the Celtic Tiger or whatever you like but the retail coffee trade in Ireland is up something fierce in the past few years with some people still willing to spend €3-€4 or more on a coffee, daily, from their favourite brand or chain.
The idea now, is to bring that back into the kitchen, using a beverage machines that’s all but self-aware. I say beverage, as it’s not just about the coffee, and it’s also not just about hot drinks either.
Getting Hands On
The hands on side of things is pretty straight forward, if you can manage getting the ‘T-Discs’ or Tassimo Discs, into the machine, it’s smart enough to look after itself thanks to the barcode on the top of the disc. The barcode is scanned once inserted into the machine so it knows what drink to prepare, how hot to heat the milk or water, how much to put in your cup, what pressure to apply to the coffee or tea and all the rest. That point in itself will be an interesting one when it comes to seeing what happens with third party discs. They weren’t long in coming for the Nespresso so I’d imagine people will be out to try them for the Tassimo machines as well.
It’s an interesting one though, the disc goes in upside down, you clamp down the ‘brewer’, push a button and you’re done. If you’re going for a milky option (latte or hot chocolate), then you’ve got a separate milk disc as well, the latte machiato version coming with a caramel flavoured milk.
Tip: Milk first with everything that requires it, then coffee, unless you’re making a hot chocolate, then it’s chocolate first, followed by milk.
While the barcode reading of the discs is very interesting move, so too is the cleaning process. Between takes, the machine steam cleans itself and one cleaning disc should last with your machine. It requires cleaning every 400 cups or so which, if you were a cup-a-day kind of person leaves you having to clean your machine but once a year, technically. Water hardness would be a factor in that but out of the box, it’s all pretty low maintenance.
Walking into the demo I had a caramel latte machiato in my hand in minutes and it’s surprising how much it’s like that ‘high street’ coffee. With the cost per coffee coming down to as little as 36c a coffee, there’s a lot to be said for recreating the flavour and size for that price compared to paying €3-€4 for the same across the counter. It was a bit on the sweet side, not by much, but it’s the equivalent of having a caramel shot added to your favourite hot beverage.
The hot chocolate is Cadbury branded, much like the chocolate you can buy in the jars / sachets and I think that’s where the machine might hold a lot of appeal for folk over the Nespresso given that there’s so many indentifiable brands on board – Twinings, Milka, Costa, Cadbury, Kenco, Carte Noir, and more besides.
A few days on, I’ve worked my way through some of the Carte Noire Expresso (with an X), the Kenco Caffé Crema, Costa Americano and Cadbury Hot Chocolate.
Some interesting stats garnered from the launch…
- Coffee chain stores have grown in Ireland by 412% since 2005
- The value growth is up 752% in the same period
- Irish coffee chains handle over 4.8 million transactions annually
- On Demand coffee (by home machine) shows an EU average penetration of 20%, the UK falling far behind on 5% while Ireland is closer to 2%
- Launching this week in Ireland, the Tassimo is now the #1 On Demand System in the UK
Presentation over, it’s time to have a little fun as we’re challenged to come up with a hot beverage combining whatever ingredients we like from the stock in the showroom – any of the T-Discs, marshmallows, cream, chocolate, sprinkles, whatever you’re into. Up for grabs was a large hamper of Cadbury / Mondelez goodies which will be cramming the fridge in my office for the next few weeks. Victory was sweet, my victory speech certainly drawing a few laughs. My drink, pictured above, didn’t last long either
Early thoughts? From a functionality point of view, the machine is a no-brainer. Turn it on, pop in a disc, push a button and everything else happens. If you’re after a cup for yourself, it’s great. Having seen it in action at a cookery demo at the weekend as well, if you’re after 8-10 cups, or servicing a group, you might have a wait on your hands, particularly if you need to switch between coffees / chocolates / add milk discs etc.
By form and design, it’s really neat. I’m trying out the Fidelia (T42) model, and it’s parked on the corner of the desk in the office, complete with a 2 litre water tank but it takes up less than a foot squared of space. The quality of the finish goes up as the price tag goes up, and you get a few extra features as well (larger tanks, water filters, LED displays), but for form and finish the machine is very neat.
I’m keen on the cleaning / self-cleaning aspect of of it, which saves work and time at the end of each coffee / day if you’re getting a good run out of the machine. For the moment, it’s giving me my morning coffee fix in the office and I’ll come back to it in a few weeks with a final judgement call. But for a full service machine that’s retailing around €120, with access to about 40 beverage products in the range so far, it could be worth the jump if you’re thinking on making an addition to your kitchen or office.
The machines can be picked up online or, as part of the Irish roll out, in Tesco, with other usual retail outlets to follow and, unlike the Nespresso, you’ll also be able to walk into your local supermarket and top up on your preferred beverage.
I was at the event in Citywest by invitation and while I travel myself to many of these events around the country, the coffee machine now sitting in the office along with the first few sample packs, were given to a few of us walking out the door. The hamper, however, was a hard fought win with my secret coffee recipe (tongue firmly in cheek).