South East Asia’s cafeculture revolution: A blend of tradition, innovation, and technology

Coffee and bar equipment on display at THAIFEX-HOREC Asia

A new chapter in the global café culture is being written, and South East Asia, rich in history and tradition, is actively shaping global café trends. The heart of this change can be experienced at the upcoming THAIFEX-HOREC Asia from 6–8 Mar 2024.

Set against the backdrop of this dynamic industry, THAIFEX-HOREC Asia will include exhibitors like Aroma Group, Gruppo Cimbali, Boncafe, Honey Coffee, and Kerry Ingredients showcasing their innovative solutions. The event will be a melting pot of the latest equipment and product ranges that support local cafes in their quest to lead inventions in the industry.

The essence of innovation: Equipment and flavours

South East Asian cafes are demonstrating a commitment to artisanal, single-origin coffee. To maximise the flavour extracted from coffee beans, innovations in equipment to enhance premiumisation and brewing from companies like Gruppo Cimbali are enabling cafés to offer premium coffee experiences and alternative brewing methods, some of which are rooted in South East Asia’s growing influence.

In 2024, ethical sourcing and sustainability will be the key themes at the forefront of the South East Asian café market. In line with this, coffee flavour trends for 2024 are diverse and innovative, reflecting a growing interest in unique and sustainable coffee experiences.

Ethically sourced and organic coffee beans used in cafés are often accompanied by stories of their origin, connecting their drinkers with the farmers and communities behind the beans. Today, coffee enthusiasts seek out rare and exotic coffee varieties from less-known regions. These beans offer new flavour profiles that provide distinct and memorable tasting experiences. An example is Indonesia’s kopi luwak, which has the reputation as being the world’s most expensive coffee.

At THAIFEX-HOREC Asia, visitors can discover coffees flavoured with regional spices or fruits, as consumers support local businesses to savour a taste of their own region. At the show, visitors and buyers will be able to source equipment and products that enable experimentation and invention of coffee drink flavours.

For example, fermentation and ageing techniques, typically associated with wines and spirits, are gaining popularity. Barrel-aged coffees, where beans are aged in barrels used for whiskey, rum, or wine, could gain traction, as they infuse complex flavours into the coffee.

Inspired by culinary and cocktail trends, new flavors are emerging like bourbon-infused caramel, spicy cinnamon, or floral hints like lavender and rose. Exhibitors like Honey Coffee support this trend with their extracts of coffee, black tea, green tea, citrus fruits, herbs, spices, flowers, and other ingredients.

Exhibitors like Aroma Group from Thailand, who sell machinery and speciality filter equipment, will showcase coffee and tea blends, along with syrups and juices to enhance café beverages.

Plant-based, sustainability, and wellness

The THAIFEX-HOREC Asia exhibition also embraces key market trends including plant-based menus, sustainability, and wellness.

Milk alternatives from manufacturers like Boncafe and functional ingredients in ready-to-drink (RTD) products from Kerry Ingredients reflect this trend.

The focus on eco-friendly packaging is also evident, with exhibitors ike Alterpacks providing sustainable solutions made from food waste. Packaging is increasingly important as consumers gravitating towards brands that use eco-friendly packaging and clearly label their sustainability practices.

Alterpacks offers sustainable packaging solutions made from food waste, which supports cafés with sustainable packaging. A manufacturing processes turns certified compostable material from food loss to upcycle spent grains such as malt and barley, which would otherwise go to landfills, into 100% organic food containers.

A haven for coffee bean buyers

THAIFEX-HOREC Asia is supported by the ASEAN Coffee Association and will feature the ASEAN Barista Team Challenge. The ASEAN region has significant influence as Asian coffee producers, especially from Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, and Laos grow in prominence.

Vietnam, as the world’s second-largest producer of coffee, is known for its robusta coffee. Vietnam is not just a major producer but also a trendsetter in coffee culture with single source blends, and creative coffee concoctions that cater to local tastes.

Indonesia’s coffee culture, renowned for its kopi luwak, has faced challenges with reduced exports due to adverse weather conditions. Despite this, the country remains a significant player in the coffee export market.

Yet the coffee scene in the Philippines is buzzing as the country is set to make US$2.3bn from trading coffee, according to Statista. Filipinos are embracing their own beans, as Euromonitor reports that they are falling head over heels for local specialty coffee.

Laos is also emerging as a key coffee producer, focusing on higher-value Arabica coffee. Its exports to countries like Thailand, Japan, Spain, and the United States, among others, are increasing, as seen in the significant rise in coffee bean exports worth nearly $40m in just six months of 2022, up from $20m from the same period the last year.

In contrast, Cambodia’s presence in the global coffee market is relatively small, with exports totalling $60.4k in 2021, positioning it as the 137th largest exporter of coffee in the world. Yet, its exports to countries like Russia, South Korea, and France indicate a growing interest in Cambodian coffee.

Overall, the global influence of South East Asian coffee growers is marked by significant contributions from countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, with Laos also emerging as a key player. However, regions like Cambodia are still developing their presence in the global coffee export market.

South East Asia’s coffee revolution, showcased at THAIFEX-HOREC Asia in Bangkok, is influencing global café trends through a unique blend of tradition, innovation, and technology. This event, central to the IndoChina coffee region, and with ready access to the Philippines, is a convergence point for hotels, cafes and restaurants, and catering services. It will feature over 300 brands exhibiting the latest in equipment, technology, and services. THAIFEX-HOREC Asia expects to attract 20,000 trade visitors, including 500 key buyers, fostering industry passion and new connections.

Other highlights of the show include the ASEAN Barista Team Challenge, and the THAIFEX-HOREC Academy, which will offer deep insights into hospitality from leading experts.