The last thing you expect to find in your goodie bag when you leave Vendon’s stand at any exhibition – in this case, HOST Milano in October – is a bag of coffee beans bearing the company’s name. ‘They’re a telemetry business aren’t they?’ I hear you; but the latest product innovation from Vendon puts them in the vanguard of quality control in establishments that use ‘traditional espresso machines.’
The innovative addition to Vendon’s offer is Traditional Coffee Telemetry, or TCT for short. It’s a step in a different direction for Vendon, so it’s no wonder that the man who’s been close to the TCT Project since Day One is a different kind of Vendon employee.
Unlike many of his colleagues, Raivis Vaitekūns is decidedly not an IT star. When he joined Vendon two years ago, his CV included stints as a barista, a barista trainer and a coffee-shop owner. It’s a background that allows him to bring a fresh perspective to R&D at Vendon, as he explains.
‘Over the past couple of years, science has been increasingly used in the preparation of coffee’, he begins. ‘Baristas are no longer relying simply on ‘feel’ to deliver the best drink they can. These days, they are also consulting technology. They want to know ‘what the numbers say’.
‘Don’t get me wrong, the best tasting coffee is made by a barista, not by numbers… but to deliver that perfect coffee consistently, that’s when you need numbers. Take any two baristas and ask them to make the same coffee, using the same machine. Each barista will bring their individual nuance to the cup, so their numbers will be different.
‘One of my passions is looking for solutions: how to bring high quality coffee to the masses. I’ve worked as a barista and as a barista trainer, so I know that high quality coffee can be brought to a small crowd of people by another small crowd of people. But when you want to achieve that consistently high quality on a larger scale, you have to think about automisation. The coffee world already has superb fully-automatic machines, and there are some manufacturers that are doing a great job in this respect. They deliver consistency. But if you use a traditional espresso machine, that kind of control has not been possible.
`But now we’ve launched TCT, our telemetry platform for traditional machines, all that has changed. Operators can now track the quality, they can see that the same amount of water, at the same temperature, with the same flow rate or extraction time, was used to make the same beverage. Or not…’
Raivis continues by explaining that TCT also tracks the mechanics and electronics of your machine and reports sales volumes, as well as guaranteeing consistent quality. But it doesn’t take him long to return to his favourite subject – coffee…
‘When we work with our customers there are different ways in which we can assist them’ he says. ‘We can make their accounting easier, we can make the life of the technical department easier, but most importantly, in my view as a former shop owner, is that TCT gives you the tools you need to make sure that your customers get exactly the drink that they expect, time after time, regardless of which branch they happen to visit, or which barista happens to be on duty.’
Raivis sees Vendon’s present achievements not so much as the culmination of a process, but rather as the beginning of one. He may as well have said, ‘you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…’
Just one of Raivis’s thoughts to leave you on: ‘In the future, the barista’s job will be more like that of a sommelier. The sommelier doesn’t make the wine, but he has the skills to understand what the customer wants. He is capable of pairing a particular wine to accompany each course. In the future, as the machine takes the technical responsibility for drinks preparation away from the barista, so the barista is freed up to become a coffee consultant and truly engage with his customers.’
It’s food for thought…
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