Visitors to an ongoing consumer product expo in China will not just be amazed by an array of electronic gizmos or merchandise; they will be greeted by the aroma of coffee, brewed on the spot by a robot “barista.”
Cofe+ (氦豚机器人), a Shanghai-based developer of unmanned robotic coffee shops, is among some 3,100 exhibitors that showcased their products and technologies at the 3rd China International Consumer Products Expo, held on April 11-15 in the country’s southernmost tropical resort Hainan Island.
According to Han Feizi, founder of Cofe+, the company debuted its latest 5.0 version of unmanned coffee house at this year’s expo. The booth-like structure can autonomously produce 50 types of hot drinks including coffee, bubble milk tea, matcha tea and hot chocolate.
Customers can choose via a user interface to have their coffee go with milk or oatmeal substitutes. Cups are available in 12 and 16 oz and made of paper or plastic.
Cofe+ offers customers a range of choices in terms of thickness, temperature, sweetness, amount of ice, and serving size for their beverages, and serves a drink every 50 seconds.
According to Han, Cofe+ aims to showcase its 24-hour unmanned coffee shop solutions and the new business model it engenders through this expo.
Connected to major global payment systems, the booth accepts payment also in digital yuan and can imitate the gestures of real baristas.
Sitting on a floor area of 2.25 sqm, Cofe+’s automatic drink vendor reportedly can replicate the skills of human coffee masters.
According to a study by iiMedia Research, a business intelligence provider, China’s coffee market has recorded double digit growth for several consecutive years.
In 2021, the market size was 381.7 billion yuan (US$55.5 billion) and is expected to exceed 1 trillion yuan by 2025, iiMedia said.
Shanghai, in particular, is known as the world’s “coffee capital,” home to around 8,000 coffee shops large and small, averaging 13 stores in every 10 square km of land.
Nonetheless, brick-and-mortar coffee houses face a string of limitations, especially higher raw material, human and rental costs, forcing them to price their drinks per cup at 15 yuan or more.
Speaking to 36kr, a tech media outlet, in a 2020 interview, Han of Cofe+ said he hopes to use robotic coffee-making booths to slash costs, passing on savings to consumers in the form of quality coffee at 10-15 yuan per cup.
Founded in 2018, the startup has shipped its products to North America, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia and deployed them to multiple cities at home. Application scenarios range from government hall, hospital and college to shopping arcade, scenic spot and pedestrian precinct.