20 years ago, Jascaffe China started as a small company selling kitchen and cafe equipment. Nowadays, it has over 30 service outlets across the country, and names companies like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and KFC as clients. Jascaffe is also the sole Chinese distributor for Thermoplan, a Swiss company supplying all automatic espresso machines to Starbucks globally. But about three years ago, Jascaffe launched its path into specialty coffee. Not only is it the exclusive distributor of Slayer espresso machines, Ninety Plus Coffee, the Alpha Dominche Steampunk machine and Diedrich Roasters in China, it also offers SCAE– and SCAA-certified trainings, and business consultations. It would appear that when it comes to coffee in China, Jascaffe does it all.
Late March, I arrived at the Jascaffe headquarters in the Jiuting district on the outskirts of Shanghai. It was a Saturday, but the place was as busy as any weekday. Jason Wang (no relation), the founder and director of Jascaffe, runs Jascaffe—in his own words—“like an army.” On site, there were cargo trucks going in and out, while a logistics team was busy dispatching espresso machines and other equipment to clients all over the country. Another team, including Wang himself, was busy setting up the Jascaffe booth for the Hotelex trade show at Shanghai Pudong International Exhibition Centre. Hotelex is one of the biggest, major hospitality trade shows in Asia, and it also played host to the China Barista Championship 2015 (March 30th–April 2nd). I was led inside into their showroom, where I had to tiptoe Brandon King, Global Sales Manager of Slayer Espresso, giving an in-depth talk to the employees and the clients about the machine. A scene like this is not new to Jascaffe: the company tries to provide its staff members, students, and clients constant exposure to world-class training and connection.
Three years ago, Slayer Espresso was unknown to Wang, until one day Franck Pecol, owner of Shanghai artisan French bakery, Farine, came to Jascaffe for help. He wanted a two-group Slayer Espresso machine, and he knew Jascaffe would be able to import one into China for him. Wang was intrigued by the design of this espresso machine, and saw the potential market in China, so he and his team made a trip to Slayer’s workshop in Seattle, and came back as its Chinese distributor.
Continuing my tour around the Jascaffe headquarters, I was taken to the Jas’Bleu Coffee Academy. Jas’ Bleu is a sister company to Jascaffe, specializing in specialty coffee education and market development in China. The entrance was a solid wooden door, with a handle made from a portafilter. I slid it open with some extra effort, then entered a different world. Inside, there was a custom-made Jas’Bleu Slayer espresso machine sitting on the bar, a SCAA-certified cupping lab for Q-Grader classes, and a spacious classroom where SCAA and SCAE certification courses are regularly held. I was offered a drink at the espresso bar, and as a Kiwi, I asked for a flat white. Lucky for me, what was in the grinder happened to be Ninety Plus natural process Nekisse from Ethiopia, which is known for its creamy mouthfeel and berry jam sweetness. On a normal day, this place would be filled with baristas-in-training pulling shots over and over again, pouring over different brewing equipment—words from the flavor wheel are constantly heard bouncing around the room. A caffeine hangover, too, is normal here throughout the year.
Building a relationship with Ninety Plus Coffee has been another of Jascaffe's milestones. The company took over Chinese distribution for Ninety Plus in November 2014, and a fast-moving new journey has embarked for both brands. Wang once joked, “I want to put Ninety Plus into fast food.” Although this was a joke, sort of, Wang and Ninety Plus founder Joseph Brodsky do have a plan to build a refined team to provide a smooth distribution chain and professional training to all Ninety Plus Coffee customers in China. In one of Wang’s Hotelex speeches, he noted that previously, many small roasters in China already purchased Ninety Plus green beans, but had trouble making the most of them. Without the experience and knowledge of roasting—and the beans themselves—these esteemed green coffees weren’t being roasted to their full flavor potential in China. Exclusive training provided by Jascaffe in partnership with the Ninety Plus Maker Series aims to change that.
The Ninety Plus Maker Series is a program that Brodsky created in 2014, collaborating with coffee champions who have won competitions using beans from Ninety Plus. Maker Series members include names such as 2014 Australia Barista Champion Craig Simon, 2014 World Brewers Cup Champion Stefanos Domatiotis, 2015 Japan Barista Champion Yoshikazu Iwase, and 2014 New Zealand Barista Champion Hanna Teramoto. Because these are people who work closely with the beans, from roasting to tasting, the program focuses on developing taste profiles and increasing production quality through experimentation with the farmers. The Maker Series also provides training on each taste profile to make sure the ideal flavors are delivered into customers’ cups. At the Hotelex trade show, Jascaffe allocated an individual booth for the Ninety Plus Maker Series, where champions like Domatiotis, Miki Suzuki, and Teramoto brewed Ninety Plus coffees as pour-over and Chemex, or pulled shots of it from a Slayer.
Jascaffe has quickly become an important bridge between the Chinese and the world specialty coffee industries. Wang and his team like to be exclusive and leading-edge, but with the aim of broadening the knowledge of those around them, always on the lookout for new products, new developments, and new approaches. They are continuously expanding their collaborations and their own creations. I asked Wang what Jascaffe’s next plan was, and he answered with determination.
Dianne Wang is a Sprudge contributor based in New Zealand. Read more Dianne Wang on Sprudge.