Caffeine addicts now have another option to get their fix at the
Citta Espresso Club in Zhongshan Park, Shanghai. The recently
opened cafe serves hot food, gourmet sandwiches and most
importantly, fresh premium Italian coffee to cash in on the city's
burgeoning coffee culture.
Bringing this concept to these shores is Israeli Maayan Kahn.
The CEO has 20 years of experience in food and beverage and had
previously introduced similar concepts in London.
"There are other coffee chains here but there are all mid-range,
not premium," said the coffee-mad 42-year-old. "We're trying to be
the Versace or Armani of coffee. To do that, we've understood very
quickly that coffee is not enough - you have to bring a lifestyle.
We don't just sell products."
The business-savvy Kahn was lured to the city last summer,
barely a few months after he had first had a peek at the
opportunities Shanghai had to offer in February last year.
The Tel Aviv-native stated that he was simply a fast mover, and
as soon as he had identified the opportunity was quick off the
blocks to strike while the proverbial iron was hot.
"We're positive about the location," said the father of three.
"I wasn't sure at first but now I see customers coming from the
residential apartments, the nearby hotels and the offices around.
The level of frequency with which they are coming is amazing."
Khan sees the lure of his concept in it being essential to
everyday life here, especially in the Zhongshan Park vicinity.
"This is needed in this area. It's part of your life - you don't
even think you just go. People want to be part of something good
and here you can feel like a millionaire without being one. You can
order something small but still feel the luxury."
Food is an indispensable element to any cafe, and this is
another aspect Khan is paying close attention to. Citta has
incorporated the five a day approach to fruit and vegetables, with
different colored leaves for the body's essential vitamin and
mineral uptake. "It's a win-win situation - the food is colorful,
healthy and tasty."
The outlet also serves hot food to cater to local customers as
well. Eschewing popular notions ingrained in Europe, Khan's team
tried its hand at localizing many items to cater to the city's
palate. A tall order for any restaurant, this is twice as hard for
a small cafe.
Most would question how anyone can turn a nation of tea drinkers
into coffee aficionados. Khan, however, is nonplused and is
positive about growth in this market. "I saw what happened in
England, another supposed country of tea drinkers. Now it is a land
of coffee chains. In China, they really appreciate the culture of
tea and the ceremony around it. Coffee has culture too, and the
Chinese love things that have something around it. They don't just
drink and go on, they will adapt to what is beautiful about coffee
and appreciate it.
"Coffee is the most complicated beverage in the world, more so
than wine. Every five seconds of roasting gives different results.
We have spent a lot of time getting the ideal blend from Italy, not
too bitter and a little bit sweet. What is unique about coffee is
that I don't get to drink the perfect cup everyday - every cup is
different because there are so many things that influence it. The
most important aspect is the man behind the machine."
Citta Espresso Club plans to open eight stores this year and 140
outlets in the next four years. The first Zhongshan Park cafe
offers free wireless Internet.
(Shanghai Daily February 15, 2008)