There’s no shortage of coffee subscription services in the world, but very few have captured my imagination like Crema.co. This young company launched in late 2015 but has already established itself as a leader in the online coffee marketplace world through great coffee, compelling storytelling, and an innovative platform.
Emily McIntyre is one of the co-founders of Crema.co. She has her own consulting business, Catalyst Coffee Consulting, is writing a novel, and loves delicious coffee. Captivated by her work and passion for coffee, I sent over a few questions about her time with Crema.co. Her responses made me thrilled to be part of the specialty coffee industry, and I have a feeling you’ll be inspired by them as well.
Photo by Ashley Tomlinson of The Little Black Coffee Cup
What about Crema.co draws you in as more than a casual employee?
When Tyler Tate invited me to join him as a co-founder of Crema.co, I jumped at the chance because I believe that the platform has the chance to help shift the way coffee is traded globally, toward increased transparency, better wages for everyone, and more information on all fronts.
I love the storytelling side of this industry, naturally, and am obsessed with the relationships we create together by pursuing this magical liquid in all its passion and ritual and hard work. Crema.co is a beautifully-designed platform for this kind of relationships.
What makes you most excited about the things coming up at Crema.co?
Two things: first off, as of May 1, we are giving between $.10 and $1 per bag we sell to Food4Farmers, a nonprofit that works in Nicaragua to mitigate seasonal hunger for coffee farmers. We are excited to join in and help with the urban farming, microfinance, and education that’s happening on the ground in the Jinotega area.
Secondly, we are about to launch office coffee! We are stoked to sell the same delicious coffees in 5-pound increments for teams around the country, and we will be doing it through a Slackbot integration that allows users to upvote coffees, leave feedback, and even communicate with each other about coffee right in their normal workflow.
What inspired the Netflix-like “Brew List”?
My co-founder, Tyler Tate, has a background in creating the search experience and had put a lot of thought into how to present single origin specialty coffees. This approach allows the user to choose a custom coffee experience (drag and drop!) while also indicating how frequently he or she wants to receive coffees. It works really well.
Does Crema.co partner with farmers and roaster in a unique way?
Yes; we are the only coffee subscription that connects so many great artisan roasters and with customers all over the world in a choose-your-own-adventure, roasted to order, format. We don’t partner directly with the coffee farmers at this time, but we work with roasters that have an emphasis on careful, responsible sourcing and on treating farmers well.
Do you have a favorite farmer story?
Some of my favorite coffee stories happen when my life as a coffee pro and writer/photographer collides with Crema.co. Like with the Ethiopia Shantawene from Dapper & Wise: that’s a coffee I sourced with my other company, Catalyst Coffee Consulting, and those photos are ones I took at the Shantawene mill. I love it when a farmer I know and respect is featured on my site. Connection, you know. That’s what we all want.
What’s changed at Crema.co since the Kickstarter campaign and launch?
Lots of things! More coffees, more roasters, better systems, and a great team of folks who make this all run smoothly. The Kickstarter campaign was important: we had the privilege of inviting all Kickstarter backers in to our beta period to give us feedback as we developed the site and everything that goes with it. Building on their feedback, we built the site you see now, but we’re always tweaking and refining it. We’ve learned a lot about making the process easy for roasters, about sharing the stories and making better coffee possible through our Brew Guides, and about building the ultimate coffee destination. We have a long way to go and all sorts of ideas for the future!
What’s the outlandish dream embedded in the Crema.co mission?
I hinted at that above. We want to be instrumental in shifting the way coffee is traded globally: away from a commodity and toward community. We want to see farmers, roasters, and everybody else who participates in the coffee value chain receiving fair value for their work as well as real recognition for their contributions, and to see innovation and quality soar. I think it’s possible.
Speaking of Crema.co, I’m drinking an iced pour over of a coffee from One Village Coffee, one of their partner roasters. Over ice, this washed process Papua New Guinea has a gentle apple sweetness that turns into a pleasant orange acidity. The coffee has a smooth aftertaste with a note of toffee. Yum!
I personally backed Crema.co’s Kickstarter campaign in early 2015 because I thought the business would do great things for the global specialty coffee community. And I was right. Two years later, the business is thriving, farmers are becoming recognized, and great coffee is spreading.
If you’re in the market for top-shelf, sustainably sourced coffee beans, give Crema.co a shot. You won’t regret it.
For the first time in years, a new coffee product has seriously disrupted my regular coffee routine.
I’ve been brewing coffee manually for a while now. I’ve found my own systems, my preferred brewing methods, my typical routine. Just when I thought no new product could shake things up and cause me to reevaluate my coffee habits, some cloth filters from Coffee Sock arrived in the mail.
I’m a big paper filter guy. I love how easy they are. I love the lighter body and crisp flavor. But these cloth filters seized my attention. I haven’t used a paper filter in weeks because I love using them so much. Let me share with you why.
Coffee Sock generously offered me a couple of products in exchange for my honest feedback. Since I’ve enjoyed using the filters so much, I decided they deserved a blog post. I assure you that these words are my own and that my opinions are in no way influenced by the generosity of Coffee Sock.
1. Cloth Filters Encourage A Syrupy Body
I’ve always been a champion of the crisp and clean body that paper filters produce, but the syrupy, juicy body that comes about from cloth filters is captivating. The cloth allows the coffee’s natural oils to slide right through. These give the final mug a smooth, syrupy feel and contribute towards a fuller flavor. The coffee grounds and micro-particles, however, are kept from entering the final mug.
While I still appreciate the thick and clean mouthfeel that metal and paper filters produce, I’m loving this in-between zone where I get to experience the feel and flavor of the oils without the sediment.
2. Cloth Filters Can Be Used For Ages
I’ve been using these cloth filters almost exclusively for the last two months. They’ve gotten a little darker in color, but I’ve seen no tearing, thinning, or any other kind of decay. They function just as well as they did the day I opened the package.
While rinsing out the filters isn’t a quick as throwing a paper filter away, it sure is more rewarding knowing that I’m not producing a lot of paper waste over time. These cloth filters compliment my values of minimalism, practical purchases, and reusable tools.
3. Cloth Filters Are Travel-Friendly
Lauren (my wife) and I are preparing to travel internationally and work remotely for the next year or so. We’ll be living out of backpacks, so space will be very limited. Instead of lugging around 50 paper filters or a metal cone (which we’re less fond of, though still enjoy), we’ll be able to take a single thin, reusable cloth filter.
Specifically, we’ll be taking the Coffee Sock Travel Filter, which is designed to be used on the road. It consistent entirely of a cloth cone and a holding wire. So simple. So travel-friendly.
I didn’t think I’d be crazy about cloth filtered coffee, but I was wrong. I am slowly being converted to a full-time cloth filter user.
If you’d like to try cloth filters for yourself, I suggest taking a look at Coffee Sock. The Texas business (my homies) focuses solely on cloth and sells filters for pour over brewers, cold brew, Aeropress, tea, and beyond.
Who knows? Maybe you won’t be able to stop yourself from converting as well.
A lot has changed within the specialty coffee industry since I began to take part in it five years ago. The lines between 2nd and 3rd wave have blurred as shops innovate and diversify; specialty roasters started popping up in numbers like never before, making great coffee accessible in remote places; and a new instant coffee was born that has surprised everyone with its quality: Sudden Coffee.
Sudden Coffee is the child of two-time Finland barista champion Kalle Freese, a coffee professional originally from Helsinki, Finland. As the story goes, Kalle was sipping on a cup of stale, dull instant coffee while on an airplane and wondered if there was a better way to provide convenient and tasty coffee.
Personally, I’d say he’s found it.
What Does Sudden Coffee Taste Like?
Lauren, my beautiful wife, bought me a round of Sudden Coffee vials in December of last year. I haven’t noticed a decline in quality over the last two and a half months, but I’ve been drinking the coffee sparingly, so a subtle decline may have slipped past my palate. I haven’t seen anything officially indicating how long the coffee powder can be kept.
The coffee that fills the vials I received in December is from the Biftu Gudina cooperative in Agaro, Ethiopia. I am under the impression that they will be switching the coffee periodically (maybe monthly?), though the product page on the website doesn’t specify how often.
This coffee has a milk chocolate aroma, floral flavor, gentle acidity, and a light caramel sweetness. Texture-wise, this offering features a silky, almost buttery smoothness and a medium body akin to an Americano.
I was sipping on a cup of Sudden Coffee last week and thought to myself, “This coffee is really good. What did I make again?” When I realized it was ‘no-brew coffee’, I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t be ecstatic about this coffee if I were to receive it at a specialty shop, but it’s definitely good enough to satisfy my picky coffee shop manager palate.
How Does ‘No-Brew Coffee’ Work?
Sudden Coffee is extremely easy to use. You unscrew the vial lid, pour the dehydrated coffee powder into your vessel of choice, and dilute. You can dilute with hot water, cold water, milk, or any other liquid that tickles your curiosity.
I’ve only used it with hot water, but I’ve heard of people enjoying it in the form of homemade iced lattes and iced coffee. The company’s blog even features a cocktail recipe: Suddenly Tipsy.
What’s The Verdict?
I’m very fond of Sudden Coffee and believe it is a significant new product that will continue to rock and shape the instant coffee world. I’ll definitely be ordering some more to keep around for when we leave town and don’t want to lug coffee gear around.
This instant coffee is absolutely worth a try. At $2.40 per cup, it’s not the cheapest coffee you can find, but you won’t beat the convenience at this level of quality. All things considered, Sudden Coffee is very upfront about their costs and why $2.40 is appropriate.
I highly suggest you check out the Sudden Coffee website to learn more about their values and product.
Confession time: I get a lot more coffee in the mail than I write about here on Coffee Brew Guides. Most of the coffees are good, but I’d be wasting your time if I told you about every good coffee I had. Máquina Coffee‘s bag of Nyeri, Kenya was different. It was stellar.
Trust me, this is a coffee roaster you want to know about.
Gabriel Boscana has worked in specialty coffee for over 15 years. He’s been a barista, a green coffee buyer, a roaster, and beyond at different points of his career. He’s worked at some of the nation’s most identifiable coffee brands: Gimme! Coffee, Sightlass, Intelligentsia, and Ritual Coffee Roasters, but they weren’t enough to pacify his long-term dream: open up his own coffee roastery.
The bag of coffee I received from Gabe was, like I said, astounding. The first thing that struck me about the Kenyan peaberry coffee was the juicy body and fruity sweetness. No joke, I felt like I was drinking fresh fruit juice. The notes on the bag were blackberry, tangerine, and molasses, which I thought were spot on.
Máquina Coffee is currently a garage operation in West Chester, Pennsylvania, but I’m sure it won’t stay there for long. The coffee is too great and the brand vision is too captivating for Gabe to be able to roast in his garage for much longer.
An Interview With Gabriel Boscana
Itching for a better look behind the delicious coffee, I sent Gabe some questions.
At what point did you know you wanted to roast coffee for your own business? Was it a long-term goal?
I knew I wanted to roast for myself probably pretty early into my roasting career over 10 years ago. As soon as I knew that the process was a mystery of sorts, but in that mystery I could really connect with the coffee I was hooked. It has been a goal of mine for over the last 10 years, so I guess it’s long term. haha. I was a barista for years before starting to roast, and then from roasting went to green buying (via Intelligentsia and Sightglass) and now back mostly to roasting. Green buying is made easy by having some stellar importers to work with these days.
How are you feeling now? How long have you been roasting and selling? How’s it gone so far? (I know… 3 questions…)
I am feeling optimistic. I love roasting more than anything else I do. It’s solitary, mindful and one of the few times I get to really be in my own head to make something wonderful. It’s like a meditation in many ways. I have been roasting and selling since mid-November, so not very long. I have been roasting for 10 years though!
The response has been terrific. Lots of love from people and friends and family and people I have never met but are buying the coffee because someone they trusted vouched for our quality! It’s been all word of mouth which is strangely fulfilling. Plus, we just have no advertising money anyway.
How are your past coffee jobs influencing your own brand? Are there things you are going to implement that you learned elsewhere?
Good question. Yes and no. I always had an idea of what I wanted to brand to look like and feel like. I would say working for Intelligentsia influenced me the most in regards to making sure the brand is clean and professional looking. I learned a lot in that job. I was the national roasting manager and also bought coffees for them. I am implementing things I learned elsewhere all the time.
The best lesson is honesty. Be honest, even if you risk upsetting someone. Do what you say you are going to do and do as you say. Be good. Be kind. People smell bullshit a million miles away and no form of branding is going to erase a burn. Do good work, for the right reasons not for marketing reasons.
What put West Chester, Pa on the map as a possible place to open a coffee roastery?
Family. I never intended on West Chester. LOL. We were really thinking Philadelphia when we moved to PA. But we rented a place out in Chester County for the Spring and Summer while we looked for a house to buy and ended up really falling in love with the rolling hills, historic homes and the obsession with land stewardship out here. Also, there is NO good coffee in West Chester, so I am starting ona blank slate. Let me remind you and your readers, the roastery is my garage!
I’d love to hear more about how you came up with the idea for your logo.
The logo came from wanting an arresting image, something that makes you stop and really look. The combination of humans (the hand) and coffee (the drop). It is an image that marries the two as coffee is impossible without people and labor and love in many ways. I worked with a great designer out of Philadelphia, Caleb Heisey to come up with something a little quirky but whimsical and meaningful. We are super happy with it.
What’s the end goal for Maquina Coffee?
The end goal is to purchase coffees from the same farms every year as much as possible. To be a TRUE partner with the producers we purchase from and to always maintain a stellar delicious line up for our subscribers and select wholesale accounts. We will eventually need to (hopefully) move our roasting operations to a bigger and more commercially accessible place, but for now we are happy to keep it small and simple. A tasting room would be killer.
The REAL end goal is to do as much good as we can while remaining profitable. There are some projects we are already concocting that would help that goal, we just don’t need to shout it from the rooftops as much as we need to MAKE them happen. Do good for good’s sake.
If you’d like to taste coffee roasted by an industry veteran, I highly suggest you go buy a bag from Máquina Coffee!
Cause coffee companies are not new, but ironically, many of them forget to give care to the thing that will keep them in business: the coffee beans. That’s not the case with the men behind Brothers Coffee, a new subscription service that selects coffees based on their effects on the globe and their quality. January was their launch month, and their promise to deliver great coffee with a side of altruism did not disappoint.
I’ve been lucky to get to try some coffee from Trailhead Coffee Roasters, courtesy of Brothers Coffee, over the last two weeks. The Guatemala offering featured a rich chocolate, honey, and caramel flavor that was quite sweet and balanced. The acidity was just strong enough to highlight a bright floral note to end the flavor experience.
Currently, Brothers Coffee is partnered with Grounds For Health, an organization that treats women with cervical cancer in developing countries who could not get treatment otherwise. Brothers Coffee donates $1 for every subscription purchased to this organization of hope.
Impressed with the coffee quality and dedication to selecting coffees that improve the lives of farmers around the world, I reached to Matthew Little, one of the brothers behind Brothers Coffee, for a brief interview.
An Interview With Matthew Little Of Brothers Coffee
Was there a clear moment that you and Bryan knew you had to launch your own coffee subscription?
I had wanted to find a project to start for quite some time, but I wanted it to be something that helped others. My brother, Bryan, and I had a few conversations about coffee and how difficult it was to figure out where your money was going, who it was helping, and – often more importantly – who it wasn’t helping. We thought there must be a market of people just like us, coffee fans that want to discover new coffee and help others. With these thoughts, Brothers Coffee Company was formed in our minds!
How does a bag of Brothers Coffee help alleviate poverty and ecological harm in producer countries?
What’s so exciting about having a Brothers Coffee subscription is that this answer changes every month. We love finding roasters that are developing new and unique ways of dealing with the problems the coffee industry is facing.
For instance, in January we sent out coffee roasted Trailhead Coffee Roasters that they had sourced through Cafe Femenino, a project that helps farms that are completely owned and operated by women, using a portion of the profits to invest in their communities. Larry’s Coffee, our February roaster, delivers their coffee using biodiesel vans, use solar power, store rainwater for use at their site, and so much more! Brothers Coffee subscribers get to participate in these stories and more each month.
How do you find roasters that are as globally-conscious as you?
What started with a lot of Googling has turned into a giant spreadsheet of roasters! I love to talk to roasters themselves about other roasting companies that they love – making delicious coffee and using their platform for good.
As a storyteller, do you have a favorite story about coffee?
My favorite part of this journey has always been the discovery of new roasters. It’s so exciting to find new projects and initiatives that are doing coffee right. I can’t wait to share with our subscribers all the awesome roasters we’ve lined up and tell their amazing stories.
5. Is there anything you’d like the world of coffee lovers to know?
My brother and I really want the coffee community to learn that if you want the best tasting coffee, it will always be ethically sourced coffee. Why?
When a roaster is paying farmers a good price for their coffee, these farmers are able to spend less time on quantity and more on quality; changing how they grow their coffee year-to-year after hearing the roasters notes and eventually bringing the best coffee possible to consumers.
Subscribers are part of a win-win situation with us: they vote for positive change with their hard-earned dollars, and they get the best coffee they’ve ever had. Unfortunately, there have been many gimmicky coffee-roasters that focus on their mission more than great tasting coffee. We will not select these roasters.
If you’d like participate in making the world a better place by buying coffee from people who care, check out Brothers Coffee!