So, I confessed that I am back on the Coffee train after many years away from it. The taste of the nectar of the Gods early in the morning after the fire is crackling and I look out into the cold morning is about as good as it gets – especially due to the lack of sleep that has accompanied having a child. It’s not the mellow “slow-and-easy” caffeine injection that comes from tea that I now need in the morning, it’s an express delivery that I can only get from coffee.
To deliver our coffee to us, we have a Nespresso machine. Nespresso has been popular in Scandinavia for quite a while now, and I think it is gaining ground outside of Europe now as well. Basically a Nespresso machine operates on special pods that you can only buy from them, and you can get various ristretto, espresso, and lungo pods from them. In the US I noticed that the Keurig and Senseo are everywhere, but these pods and the cup of coffee you get from them is noticeably better. With Nespresso, you are not getting a cup of brewed coffee, you are getting an espresso.
You can buy the machines at various retailers around Sweden, but you can only buy the pods from them – either on their website or in their shops. And their shops are fairly rare. For example in Sweden, where a lot of people have Nespresso machines, they only have one shop, and it is in the heart of Stockholm (on Kungsgatan). They also have 1 shop in Hong Kong in the most exclusive mall there. And so on.
The Nespresso shops are a bit like if you were to imagine if Apple owned and operated them. They feel a bit exclusive; they are well-staffed. You definitely can tell who has been there before and who has not – you don’t just go “browse” in a Nespresso store. You go in, you take a number, and you wait for your person to help you with either finding the coffee for you, or a machine, or so on.
I have been into the Nespresso store only a few times. As a retail person, I do not particularly enjoy the “exclusive” vibe they are going for, because it creates a power imbalance where they are in power and you, the idiot consumer, need to rise up to their level. It is not aimed at making you feel comfortable – and I believe it should. Why make things harder for yourself as a company by competing with the environment? (unless they want to push you to their website) The most recent time I went in, I was completely lost with what I was looking for (I just wanted some more pods for our machine, but did not know what), and luckily I got a nice guy who was eager to help me. So I would guess their people are well-trained, especially because they can describe every coffee quite complexly.
Interestingly, Nespresso is owned by Nestle. It probably stands for “Nestle Espresso.” Nestle is generally though of in the food world as a completely irresponsible company, and they get boycotted all the time. When I saw the Nestle logo on the sleeve of pods, I was surprised, but found it a little less painful when I read that they seem to be working sustainably (read about it here), and generally how they obtain the coffee seems to be legit. They also offer pod recycling, so for those who are worried about the waste of the pods, they need not worry (and you can also simply recycle them with your metal recycling).
Cost of a pod ranges from 4-6 sek (0,50 – 0,60 usd), but Sweden is the cheapest place to buy pods. For example in the US and Hong Kong, it was twice that price. I guess it makes sense from a supply & demand perspective – Swedes are at the top of the list in coffee consumption, so it needs to be less expensive to work here. And considering a latte at Starbucks costs 45 sek (5,25 usd), it is a really good idea to get a Nespresso machine and have your high-quality coffee at home.