There are only so many new variations of coffee for the summer: There’s cold brew, nitro and … and citrus-flavored coffee soda? Keepers Co. seeks to shake up the cold coffee beverage industry by putting a spin on a beverage once confined to, say, french vanilla or hazelnut.
“We’re trying to change the perception of what coffee could be,” Keepers Co. Founder and CEO Thi Lam told PYMNTS.com in an interview.
While Lam saw the potential in the beverage, he said he can’t entirely take credit for the idea: People in other countries enjoy citrus-flavored coffee. In Italy, for example, some people put lemon peel in espresso. In Australia, some people mix lime juice, tonic water in with espresso. Even so, such drinks are often only in specialty cafes for the summer season. Lam thought people should enjoy the drink all year long and he could possibly make it. Using a SodaStream, he made a beverage with coffee and citrus — and the concept for Keepers was born.
The Citrus Sparking Coffee flavor uses light roasted coffee from a small batch paired with tangerine, lemon juice, lime juices and a little bit of cane sugar. Lam said consumers can think of the product as a refreshing tangy coffee.
“We want to be like an alternative to a latte,” Lam said. “Almost like a summer treat that is not bad for you.”
And Keepers Black, which is coming out in July or August, will be “the more coffee-centric item.” That product will be pure black coffee made sparkling — and a little bit on the lighter side. Tam said it’s “going to drink like a sparkling water” but have a bolder finish.
Flash Brewing Coffee
To brew the coffee, Keepers uses a flash-brewing process called Kyoto Method. The coffee is brewed in an elevated area and moves down a spiral tube, dripping slowly onto a block of ice. When the coffee melts the ice, it becomes the “perfect ratio” — a balanced coffee. The idea behind the process is to brew the coffee hot and quick, and not to let it linger. Semi-warm water can still brew coffee and extract from the bean, potentially giving the coffee a bitter taste.
When the coffee is ready, Keepers packages the beverage in cans. Though Keepers started with glass bottles, the company moved to cans for a few reasons. One reason was simple economics: It was cheaper to have cans in the long run. Not to mention, the cans are easier to ship to the store and simply easier to open for customers. The choice was inspired by the craft beer movement, which was using cans, but Keepers’ cans often come with a twist that is not often found on cans for, say, beer or other coffee. Each can tells a narrative about the product inside. The back of the company’s cans showcase origin, tasting notes, the coffee’s elevation and even the name of the coffee’s farmer. The idea is the product isn’t just a commodity.
“There’s a whole story behind it,” Lam said.
Keepers is hardly the only company putting a unique spin on coffee beverages. Cafes across the country experimented with coffee tonics that mix coffee with, well, tonic water. Steven Latham, the manager of the Box Kite coffee shop in New York, told Eater that the “bright and citrusy flavor” of quinine is a good match for the floral notes and brightness of some espressos. Beyond tonics, drink makers are pairing coffee with mushrooms — and even broccoli.
For Keepers, which sells online through Shopify and other stores, the short-term goal is to saturate New York City — one block at a time.
“We plan on taking over New York this summer,” Lam said. “That’s the goal,” However, going forward, the company plans to expand distribution and partner with bigger brands for events. And, of course, its latest creation is scheduled be introduced in just a few weeks.