BEANLESS BREW: Coffee startup Atomo grinds out groundbreaking idea to save forests

Image showing a man with coffee beans in his palms — AFP/Files
Image showing a man with coffee beans in his palms — AFP/Files

Atomo, a Seattle-based startup, with support from investors who have previously backed Beyond Meat, is set to introduce the world’s first coffee without beans this week, aiming to significantly reduce the environmental impact associated with the beloved beverage.

This groundbreaking innovation has captured the attention of investors, who have poured $51.6 million into Atomo Coffee, anticipating that its unique brew, created using superfoods and repurposed ingredients to replicate coffee’s molecular structure, will resonate with consumers. 

As our planet’s climate continues to warm, coffee farms, particularly those cultivating the delicate arabica variety favoured by baristas, are ascending to higher altitudes, resulting in deforestation along the way as they seek cooler climates.

Deforestation ranks as the second leading contributor to climate change, trailing only behind the burning of fossil fuels. Studies project that by 2050, nearly half of the land currently dedicated to coffee cultivation could become unproductive due to the effects of climate change.

“Coffee is contributing to deforestation at an alarming rate—almost equivalent to the size of ten Central Parks in New York every day,” remarked Andy Kleitsch, CEO and co-founder of Atomo, ahead of the company’s launch of beanless coffee at the New York Coffee Festival.

“We’re essentially dealing with a relentless coffee machine, constantly seeking more land, and our goal is to put a stop to this,” he emphasised.

According to Atomo, its initial “proof-of-concept” cold brew beanless coffee boasted a 93% reduction in carbon emissions and used 94% less water compared to regular coffee. Time magazine recognised it as one of the top 200 inventions of 2022. 

The company anticipates achieving similar sustainability figures with its new hot beanless coffee, which also relies heavily on repurposed ingredients such as discarded date pips commonly generated in commercial production.

Initially, Atomo is focusing on supplying coffee shops rather than retail stores and supermarket chains. Its roasted coffee is set to wholesale at $20.99 per pound, in contrast to the $10-14 per pound typically paid by the average US coffee shop.

While certain manufacturers of meat alternatives have faced challenges recently due to price-conscious consumers in the face of inflation, Atomo is currently engaged in discussions with major coffee corporations worldwide on potential scaling and supply arrangements.

“Most major players in the coffee industry recognise the looming challenge of coffee availability in the next 20-30 years, and they are proactively seeking solutions,” noted Kleitsch.

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