through the looking bottle
There’s a new moniker in town. New might be relative since it’s been here for a little while. It’s called RTD. The Ready to Drink Coffee Market. It’s built on a beverage being consumable, convenient and ready to drink right here and right now. This new concept has a foothold in specialty coffee, whether finding itself in cold coffee, cold brew, or juices and soda offered at counters, refrigerators and bars alongside specialty coffee offerings.
According to a report by ReportLinker, “The United States of America Ready to Drink (RTD) coffee market was valued at USD 1.425 billion in 2015, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.8% and mature into a USD 1.634 billion market by 2020.”
And, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported in 2016 that, “the U.S. ready-to-drink coffee market has been growing by double digits annually since 2011, and Euromonitor International expects the market to reach nearly $3.6 billion by 2020. The global market stood at $18 billion in 2015, according to Euromonitor.”
While convenience and accessibility are key market distributors of such products, one shouldn’t forget the timeless spread of word-of-mouth. It’s the thing that happens when a friend sees something and likes its packaging and tweets about it, when a person tastes something so delicious they tell a friend about it, or when a journalist discovers something worth investigating by means of an ‘I wonder why’ that turns into a written piece.
In light of this -the RTD category, the statistics and my being an agent of word-of-mouth spread – I took some time to explore three new-ish bottled products made in California. Each is either coffee driven and or inspired by coffee and are giving the lifestyle of bottled drinks a tasteful name, one perfect for you to carry into this years’ Super Bowl party, to your upcoming spring picnic and to many a summer cook outs and adventures in the world out there, well beyond the café and your local grocer’s cold section. Let’s meet them now in alphabetical order.
Jack Knows Coffee and Your Sweet Tooth
He’s a local. A famous local, if he doesn’t tell his own story. He’s famous for leaving one career being a biochemist and applying its tenets to another: barista. Appearing in the specialty coffee industry in café’s over the past few years from Little Tokyo to Culver City and Highland Park, in 2015, he opened a spot of his own, Endorffeine Coffee Bar, where specialty coffee was virtually unsaturated in its estimated population of 10,000.
Ahead of the curve of specialty coffee build outs and self-bottling cold brew lattes as a team of one, with taste and cultural flavor as a guide, Benchakul opened Endorffeine with a minimal storefront and an un-posted menu on its facing doors with the purpose of satisfying a customers’ sweet tooth which would also serve as the, “drinks that would keep the lights on,” he said. They did and continue to.
Approaching a two-year anniversary this summer, the demand for his signature specialties couldn’t wait for his longer term goal of eventually bottling them to catch up to the practicality of doing it now, as in just a couple of months ago.
“It made me sad, but I started bottling the drinks out of practicality. I still make them each by hand every morning but as the drinks became popular and the line longer, it got exhausting to make it every time, on demand,” said Benchakul.
There’s three signature drinks, one non-caffeinated and two caffeinated. The first is the Tamarind-Thai Basil Tea and the second two are a Vanilla-Pandan Latte and the Palm Sugar Whiskey.
Benchakul considers the latter as cold brew ice lattes made from a recipe he, as a former biochemist created: cold brew, coconut milk and one of two house made syrups. Pandan is a flat leaf used in Southeast Asia whose coconut and grassy flavor lends to a drink that is “cool and refreshing,” he says. Whereas the Palm Sugar Whiskey, has enough of the liquor dripped in, where one may not readily perceive its alcohol existence, which is intended, but taste its complex chocolate notes and in my opinion, an adequately sweet yet herbal finish.
As Benchakul began looking at bottled options and branding design, he thought glass was a nice way to go in the direction of aesthetics and chemistry in addition to the sustainable motivation factor for someone to recycle or reuse it.
“The glass feels nice. And, I think a drink tastes better coming out of a glass. There’s very little interaction between it and the drink, unlike metal or plastic,” said Benchakul.
c.: You’ve created a RTD beverage, out of practicality, but also with your own recipe, in a lifestyle climate that fits a beverage category and a culture. How do you feel RTD is pushing the lifestyle of coffee forward?
j.b.: It’s inevitable. The Japanese have vended coffee for a while. It’s one thing to have guests saddle up to the bar. But, then there is also something about coffee culture that is personal as well. I respect the ritual of making coffee at home or a ready to drink bottle that you can enjoy at your leisure; that’s a nice personal aspect of where the bottling industry is going. It’s great for the industry because the quality has gotten better. A good quality product will draw people in first. Second, it’s how the space makes them feel, the chemistry a guest has with a barista, it’s that holistic approach?
c.: Could you see bottled coffee as a RTD go-to option for consumers for events like the Super Bowl?
j.b.: Football is ritualistic. Everyone drinks beer during football, and its alcohol, but can coffee get there. In Europe, it’s not unheard of to have 4-6 espressos a day. Here, we’re not all day drinkers and coffee is more utilitarian. Third wave coffee has changed that, we’ve progressed to coffee being a leisurely thing to have in a nice café; it’s an event. I think we could get there. I would love if it the NFL called me up.
Two Valley Kids with Tricks In a Bottle. | Good Luck Soda
They’re two valley kids who became high school friends. Annie, was into aesthetics and after high school, she went to study at Parsons in New York. He was Chris and into photography and went to study at CalArts in Valencia. While she went to school to do fashion she found a passion for illustration. And, while he went to school for photography he fell in love with food. So, this is where one could say the precursor to Good Luck Soda was born.
“For my senior thesis, I got a studio space and I did a photo piece on L.A. beer culture including home brewing and a speakeasy bar. We homebrewed beer every week and sold it behind the studio – it was all word of mouth and no one really said anything.”
After that year, he thought he’d open a craft brewery. After all, he had all the equipment. But when he went to a pop-up by House Roots Coffee where his good friend Jimmy runs the coffee department, his interests in “carbonation, soda and kegs” begin distilling.
He reached out to his friend Annie and asked her if she would partner with him on a soda project. “She had a lavender lemonade recipe for when people were feeling sick or down and so we decided to bottle it.”
They searched online for a bottle that they liked and found one online with a retro feel. To figure out a name, they made a Pinterest board of all the images that inspired them from emoji’s to tattoos. They shared the board back and forth, including a pin of Brewery Mikkeller, the once math and physics teacher with a penchant for experimentation that turned his ideas into micro brews that are in 40 different countries around the world.
“Then we really liked this hand sign; it meant good luck. We wanted the name to be a title. So we said let’s just run with it. Our message is about spreading good luck visually, reducing waste and finding sustainability in the things we make. We live in an instant culture where we want to visually share. We know like good latte art, you’ll consume our drink visually first and if we achieve that then we’ve succeeded,” said Hahn.
After doing a couple of runs, the two found that people liked the soda. Accessing that they really had something going Hahn and Seo decided to dig deeper into their Good Luck Soda by taking it on in the spirit of the DIY culture and with a lot of support and encouragement from friends House Roots Coffee.
Nearly a year later, the two-person team which turns a year old in March is carbonating the menus of mostly coffee shop accounts while also doing events like weddings. The secret ingredient to their humble and climbing success of being placed in coffee shops across greater Los Angeles is simplicity, focus and selectivity says Hahn.
Kid friendly, healthy and fruit based, the recipe, is comprised of pure cane sugar, fresh squeezed lemons and organic lavender buds, each soda follows the same ingredient base with a fruit leading the way accented by an herb and good water. . A simple syrup of the ingredients becomes the base of the soda which is made almost like a cold brew, using the coffee technique in the on trend RTD category as inspiration. Customers can currently buy six flavors, including their best seller – Lavender lemonade – at these locations, as illustrated on an aesthetically pleasing map by Seo.
c.: How has coffee culture inspired Good Luck Soda?
c.h.: “The largest coffee chains taught us to wait in line, get your order and leave. Bar Nine taught us, wait in line, sit, and have a conversation. It was like a crash course in hospitality. We’re small and doing this ourselves but we’ve decided to embrace our constraints. This was just a one –off project that has become something real,” said Hahn.
Bottling a City with a Few Cherries on Top | Venice Cold Brew
Who thinks of bottling a city? As in mapping a particular taste and flavor profile to a geographical region. It’s happening in coffee origins around the world like Colombia and Ethiopia. And it’s also happening in a city where an entrepreneur and creative coffee drinker Chris Mueller of Venice Cold Brew is leading a Venice wave to bottle not just the beachfront neighborhood, but a flavor profile inspired by it.
After launching his now trademarked brand in Venice, California in 2015, Chris Mueller didn’t sit and wait for the bottled cold coffee to make its way into retail places and fly off shelves in the cold section. He’s been pedaling its taste and the concept that cold coffee can be more than a dark, heavy brew. Instead, his bottle boasts “bright, clean and refreshing” with a visual aesthetic to match.
And now, the category of RTD coffee gets another item, Sparkling Cascara. Cascara is the dried skins of a coffee cherry. While it isn’t coffee itself, it’s a component of the fruit that is the world’s second most traded commodity.
“Let the bubbles tickle your tongue. Sip at it, like whiskey, take your time, this drink is long,” said Mueller.
Sage drinking instructions from Mueller, giving that he once lived in New York City and has since transplanted place and pace with the slower, skateboard driven, palm swaying, art filled, off-beat community with a growing outpost of craft forward food brands.
Providing ascending caffeination, Sparkling Cascara is meant for one to take their time with, not necessarily knocking back like a shot of espresso. Upon trying it, in the city of Venice, I nearly finished it in the timing of a cappuccino. Sorry, not sorry. I was thirsty and it was refreshing.
c.: Cascara as a bottled drink is niche. However, cascara in the cultural conversation of coffee is beginning to make an increased cameo. Why cascara?
c.m.: Why? I wanted to come up with the good stuff and be brave enough to do it. I wanted to offer something original and talk to the public about what we do.”
c.: Do you think the public is ready for cascara?
c.m.: It’s an experience that maybe they weren’t expecting. Cascara is coffee with a level of complexity, quality and beauty. It’s fruit, carbonation and spring water. With it we can add a second revenue stream for farms on direct trade and its healthy. With our drinks people we can start to own tastes and reflect what a company and drink really is.
What does this RTD coffee inspired drink want of you? To take your cascara with sunshine.
08:47:20 An addition of a statistic by Bloomberg BuisnessWeek of Euromonitor’s estimation of the market by 2020, which is $3.6 billion.