Coffee Minus Coffee: A Sustainable Java Solution?

Coffee Minus Coffee: A Sustainable Java Solution?

With climate change accelerating, science is tackling more and more problems that I didn’t ever imagine we’d have to. Case in point: arabica coffee (the world’s dominant coffee bean cultivar) thrives on the sides of cool, rainy jungle mountains – among the most environmentally vulnerable landscapes on our planet. But we humans love our joe, so the food tech startup Atomo Coffee is hoping to soften the blow of our eventual java-less future (and buy us time to fix our climate problems) by replicating everyone’s favourite breakfast drug with lower-impact ingredients. Plus, unlike current replacements like chicory “coffee,” this new faux-go juice keeps the all-important caffeine. (Yay!)

“Atomo’s coffeeless coffee is made from upcycled ingredients, e.g. sunflower seed husks and watermelon seeds, which undergo a patented chemical process to yield molecules that mimic the flavor and mouthfeel of the real thing. […]

‘We like to think of ourselves as the Tesla of coffee,’ said [co-founder Jarret] Stopforth, who’s spent the last two decades working in food science and development. [Co-founder Andy] Kleitsch, meanwhile, is a serial entrepreneur and former product manager at Amazon.com Inc. ‘Before Tesla came along, if you wanted a luxurious, powerful vehicle that was detached from diesel and fuel, you had no option,’ Stopforth said. ‘In the same way, before Atomo, if you wanted coffee that wasn’t linked to deforestation, you had no choice. Now you do.’

Atomo’s product is poised to enter a market that is abuzz with plants masquerading as something else. (See our recent article on 3D printed protein alternatives for a peek at what’s out there.) But the dairy and meat industries have pushed back against increasingly popular substitutes – mostly citing legal definitions of the terms “milk” or “meat,” that require products labeled as such to be animal-derived. Luckily for Atomo Coffee, there’s no definition of “coffee” on the legal books; meaning they can advertise their sunflower-and-watermelon-seed concoction as coffee, without backlash from Big Brew.

I’m definitely interested in doing a side-by-side taste test of Atomo’s product, against my rocket fuel of choice. But until it hits our shores, I’ll have to content myself with bean juice the old fashioned way.