After e-cigarettes and Beyond Meat, are you ready for lab-produced coffee?
The trend toward creating and marketing alternatives to traditional products that can be considered harmful in one way or another may be poised to take yet another step.
A Seattle-based company called Atomo is looking to cash in on the trend, having created a coffee alternative in a lab, which they say is better for you — and for the planet.
Jarret Stopforth, Atomo's chief scientist, told CJAD 800's Elias Makos that he while he is a coffee lover — he says he drinks six to eight cups a day — he's had a hard time finding a consistently good cup of coffee, even in coffee-rich Seattle.
"I started becoming really disappointed in finding a consistently great cup of coffee," says Stopforth, who holds a doctorate in food science and microbiology. "I'm always looking for ways to brak things and build them back up and innovate, and I just thought to myself, 'there's got to be a way to create a consistently good cup of coffee that's also better for the environment."
Stopforth suggests the recent, much-publicized burning of the Amazon rainforest may be an omen of things to come for some of the world's coffee farmers, who might find fewer and fewer places to actually grow coffee in the coming years and decades, because of drought and the ongoing effects of global warming.
"We're not here to demonize coffee. We love coffee, we love coffee farmers," Stopforth says. "But the harsh reality is, coffee is in major trouble."
The company estimates that for every cup of regular coffee that's consumed, a square inch of rainforest is lost to deforestation.
But how does it taste?
While Stopforth proclaims his product as the future of coffee — the Tesla of coffee, as he put it — what does it actually taste like?
Stopforth has tasted his own coffee, though he admits there was a lot of trial and error while trying to perfect his craft in his garage.
"There was a lot of coffee we spat out," he says. "Then, there was that Eureka moment, when we were like, 'this is a great cup of coffee!'"
At that point, the company did a Pepsi Challenge-style taste test at the University of Washington, where seven out of ten students preferred the lab coffee to the real stuff.
"It was smoother, it was less bitter, it was less acidic," Stopforth says.
Atomo hopes to have its product released to the public by 2020. For now, the fledgling company boasts a $2.6 million investment from Horizons Ventures, which has invested millions in other alternative products, such as plant-based burgers, molecular whisky and vegan dairy products.
The plant-based burger company, Impossible Burger, is now worth $2 billion dollars, and competes with Beyond Meat in the plant-based burger market.