Hario rides the third wave
Hario products have become synonymous with alternate brewing methods. Hario President Yasuhiro Sibata talks to BeanScene about the company’s contribution to the specialty coffee industry.
A crowd of supporters gather around the Hario Brew Bar at the 2013 Melbourne International Coffee Expo.
Cameras flash and videographers find their best angle. All this hype could be associated with an Australian Rules Football player or movie star, but today the centre of attention is Yasuhiro Sibata, CEO of Hario. “It is very exciting to be here at Australia’s coffee expo. It’s impressive to see that so many people appreciate Hario products,” says Yasuhiro.
Hario is a Japanese company that manufactures innovative glassware and utensils for coffee brewing methods. It is their products that have largely influenced the movement of third wave coffee in Australia, since their introduction to the market in 2008.
“If you are a barista, you must continue to search for better ways to make good coffee,” Yasuhiro says. “As times and cultures change, people’s tastes change too. From the position of Hario, as a manufacturer of coffee equipment, we always try to find if there is new equipment or brewing method to extract the goodness of coffee to the fullest.”
Yasuhiro’s father Hiromu founded Hario in 1921. At first the company was dedicated to processing and manufacturing glassware for laboratory and medical use. “At the time there were only three major glassware manufacture companies in the world. Pyrex in the United States, Schott in Germany and Hario in Japan,” says Yasuhiro. “We entered the coffee industry after World War II. We thought we could use our glass technology to make coffee brewing products.”
At Hario’s inception, Yasuhiro says Japan’s coffee culture was “developing”. “We were trying to introduce European and American café cultures to Japan. There was a boom of Japanese style coffee houses in 1970s and more people were starting to enjoy syphon coffee at home,” says Yasuhiro.
After a while, Yasuhiro says the coffee house market had reached the point of saturation with the launch of Starbucks in 1996. Thankfully, he says with the trend of shop roasting and dedicated specialty coffee shops, Japan’s coffee culture is booming.
The first coffee-related item made by Hario was a vacuum coffee maker, or Syphon, produced in 1948. “I believe that this product is a worldwide masterpiece. Syphon is the most famous and is [our] number one product because it is very difficult to manufacture,” says Yasuhiro. “Because my father had expertise in pharmaceutical glassware, he was able to apply the same techniques and use similar glass to make the Syphon.”
Over the years Hario has developed an extensive range of brewing equipment. In 1951 Hario released the flannel dripper, the glass percolator in 1952 and then increased variations of the Syphon throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Hario’s first coffee grinder was released in 1971. What followed in 1980 was the Coffee-kyo Jidai dripper, the V60 dripper in 2005 and the buono kettle in 2007.
In recent years, the V60 dripper has become Hario’s best selling brewing tool. More than one million V60 drippers have been sold all over the world. “I think [it’s been so successful] because the V60 dripper enables you to extract the true deliciousness of coffee beans simply and directly,” Yasuhiro says.
Yasuhiro puts the V60’s success down to three special features. One, the cone shape which allows users to make a thick layer of grounded coffee. Two, the large single hole, which enables the user to change the strength of coffee. Three, the inner spiral ribs of the V60 make enough space between the dripper and the filter so they don’t rub.
Hario products are exported to 48 countries. Yasuhiro says his products are universally popular both for café operators and homeusers because they are “simple, handy and reasonable”.
“We provide easy and reasonable brewing tools so that everybody can extract the original taste of coffee. Our [target audience] is coffee-lovers who want to enjoy and enrich their life with delicious coffee,” says Yasuhiro. “That idea itself has no national boundaries.”
To maintain the standard of products his father first adapted 92 years ago, Yasuhiro says his inspiration comes from simply listening to the creative ideas of his workers and the voice of his customers. “We are manufacturing from the viewpoint of users with good quality control,” he says. “If I receive 10 ideas from my salesmen and designers, they are usually all the same. But out of the 10 if there is one that is totally different to the others, that’s the one design I will choose.”
Yasuhiro admits the market for alternate brewing equipment is challenging. However, he says it’s those challenges that will push his team to create innovative products that will change the coffee industry. When asked if coffee can be better than it already is, Yasuhiro answers boldly. “It will be better,” he says.
Hario has been the official sponsor of World Brewers Cup Championship since 2011. Yasuhiro says the decision was simple because he wanted to expand the company’s brand awareness. “When the Brewers Cup competitors use our items it makes me very proud. It’s an opportunity for us to spread the word of Hario all over the world,” Yasuhiro says. “I want the baristas to use our products to make the best tasting coffee they can. That’s the experience I want them to have.”
Most importantly, Yasuhiro says his company of 250 employees succeeds because it is built around its people. “Every day at the company I drink a coffee. I allow an employee, new or old, to make a coffee in front of me. Together we engage in a conversation and bond together,” Yasuhiro says. “In that moment we are no longer boss and employee; we are two people enjoying coffee together.”
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