Photo: Business Times
Melbourne is famously a city of coffee snobs, boasting indie cafes that have sent Starbucks packing. Now, coffee lovers here can get a taste of Melbourne's finest with a click of the mouse – e-commerce site Cafebond.com brings specialty coffee beans from the city's cafes and roasters right to your doorstep.
Launched this week, Cafebond. com's catalogue includes single-origin offerings and signature blends from 14 Melbourne cafes including ST. ALi, Seven Seeds and Market Lane, as well as Canberra's Ona Coffee, founded by 2015 World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic.
The site is the brainchild of Eugene Chen, 31, and Keyis Ng, 28, a former IT developer and a marketing professional, respectively.
A trip to Melbourne two years ago introduced them to the fine-grained pleasures of specialty coffee. But unlike cafe-preneurs here, the duo aren't concerned with selling the experience of sipping a piccolo latte in some hipster back alley; rather, they're looking to connoisseurs with their own AeroPress or coffee machines, and even corporate offices, some of which feature pantries with full-time baristas on hand.
They are betting that these coffee- lovers will fork out an extra S$10 for shipping, though the beans are priced competitively from S$13 to S$20 for around 300 grams.
Orders start on June 1, with the loot made-to-order and arriving in a week – the perfect window for freshly-roasted beans to rest before consumption.
"As the coffee scene here matures, and with the convenience and accessibility that we offer, there may be new customers who switch from just cafe- hopping to buying beans for home use," says Mr Ng.
His partner is a prime example of their target audience – Mr Chen bought his first pack of specialty beans online three years ago. "By the time I leave work, all the shops are closed," explains Mr Chen, who does most of his shopping on the Web.
Cafebond.com founders Eugene Chen (left) and Keyis Ng, who will bring specialty beans from 14 Melbourne cafes to Singapore, are also looking to launch in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong by the end of the year.
And it seems merchants are biting; we're told ST. ALi's Salvatore Malatesta (often considered a specialty coffee pioneer) said yes within five minutes of hearing their pitch.
"These Melbourne cafes are gaining recognition worldwide, but they don't necessarily have the resources to open overseas outlets," explains Mr Ng. "An online platform like ours offers an opportunity to expand while posing minimal risks."
Their concept has also attracted a S$250,000 investment from Quest Ventures, the venture capital firm behind online marketplace app Carousell and restaurant app Burpple.
Cafebond.com is also one of four startups selected by Microsoft Singapore to be co-located within its Asia- Pacific headquarters.
In the future, the team intends to expand their range with Tokyo's specialty beans, and roll out a mobile app, though the greatest challenge lies in becoming a one-stop shop for coffee solutions. "Corporate clients will probably want us to provide the full package – not just beans but machines, maintenance and even baristas," says Mr Ng.
"We've been talking to coffee machine manufacturers, though we're currently still putting our core business first."
For now, they are looking to launch in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong by the end of the year.
"Realistically, Singapore has a significant market for specialty coffee but it's not huge," says Mr Ng. "In 10 years' time, China is projected to be the biggest coffee consumer, with 20 to 30 per cent of the market going to fresh beans."
If that takes off, who knows – perhaps even local roasters like Papa Palheta or Brawn & Brains might hop on board and become regional names some day.
Go to cafebond.com for orders and more information.
Written by Tan Teck Heng for The Business Times.