The Next Best Thing, the Best Coffee when you can't have the Best Coffee... Coffee Supreme Instant was served at Supreme Meets in five different cities this morning. A gathering of friends, customers and colleagues sharing the first public outing of our newest coffee.
The idea of Coffee Supreme Instant was born nearly three years ago. Since then, New Product Development (NPD) and Operations, otherwise known as Bridget and Heath have been chipping away at the project in the office, roastery, laboratories and factories with litres of different samples being tested in-house and with carefully selected focus groups. Now a beautiful brand has been created, it's boxed and here we are, ready to take the next best thing to the world!
We brought together two of the Instant team to answer a few questions about the project. Al Keating, our CEO, who was a champion of the idea and Bridget Zimmerman, NPD, who made it happen.
Where did the idea for a Coffee Supreme instant coffee come from?
Al: It was obviously all my idea. Long before any of the other instant players turned on their freeze dryers and dreamed up a quirky pun name.
Nah, it actually came about after I had dinner with an old mate one night in London on my way home from somewhere up that way. He took me to a little restaurant on the corner with a forgettable name and rickety tables. I thought he was discussing with our waiter his favourite chemicals from the periodic table of elements, so I lost interest. It turned out he was ordering wine, which was memorably delicious. I don’t remember the meal at all, but I do clearly recall the conversation.
It was his idea. But he was too scared to do it. He has an international reputation. I’m from New Zealand which, funnily enough, is also where the person who invented instant coffee hails from.
Is it really all that different from traditional instant coffee?
Al: Traditional instant coffee is, well, a tradition. And traditions are to be loyally consumed, adhered to without question and passed down through generations. So yes, this is different to that. This is something that you’d choose to drink even if your family didn’t. This is a coffee that can hold its own even when it’s parked up next to something less traditional - like an AeroPress or even a coffee from a clunky and expensive robot down a Melbourne backstreet.
I’ll let my talented colleague Bridge give a more scientifically accurate answer.
Bridget: Traditionally instant has been associated with late nights and “more mmm” but not often with quality. We have carried our care for sourcing, roasting and brewing into Instant and that’s what you taste. Regardless of what whizz-bang technology you use, the difference always comes down to delicious.
What is “Specialty Instant" - isn’t that an oxymoron?
Al: I know it sounds like one, and a gag that our parents might enjoy, but let’s break it down.
If ‘specialty’, in crude terms, refers to an individual coffee’s quality, trade and traceability characteristics then we can tick that box.
If instant refers to water-soluble and freeze-dried, then we have two from two.
Specialty Instant: Delicious, quality coffee, grown and purchased from people we trust, freeze-dried.
It sounds simple enough - trust me, it wasn’t.
Do you have any memories of drinking instant coffee as a kid?
Al: Yeah I do. My parents drank coffee at home in a few ways:
a) Fresh, I'm using the word fresh liberally here - remember ‘fresh’ wasn’t actually invented in any category until well after the eighties, ground coffee in one of those hexagonal stovetop brewers that smelled like a Brillo pad laced with scrambled egg and mouldy tea leaves.
b) The same, questionably, fresh coffee in a saucepan of cold water, brought to a gentle simmer, then poured through a tea strainer.
c) Or, Ecco - chicory coffee. This was my first experience of drinking instant coffee. It was awful. It tasted like I remembered wart remover tasting but, for a kid living in suburban Canberra in the early eighties, and with enough milk and sugar, I enjoyed sipping away at it, pretty much as a full-blown adult having a coffee at the breakfast table on a Sunday morning with my parents.
Who do you think will be most excited by having Specialty Instant available?
Al: The goal was to create a coffee one could enjoy when there was no access to a good cup - the best coffee for when you can’t have the best coffee. So, I think this will be enjoyed by all of us who find ourselves on occasion in that moment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an action-packed adventurous affair either. This will at times be enjoyed by people in the most everyday situations. Sitting in a non-photogenic room, standing unceremoniously at a sink, drinking from unfashionable cup ware.
When you joined Coffee Supreme in 2005, would you ever have thought you’d be serving Instant coffee? How do you think it would have been received then?
Al: No, I did not envisage being a part of a team at Supreme creating instant coffee. Back then, we were preaching instant to be next to the devil, second only to reheating that same coffee in the microwave. We had a lot of ground to cover before we could bring instant back to the table. Then, we still had the renaissance of filter coffee ahead of us, naked portafilters, weighing individual shots with scales and wearing blacksmiths' aprons on the bar. We had our hands full.
That’s not to say that this has not at all been a challenge for some of us. You might even say there have been moments of polarisation here at Supreme. A huge factor in this product taking 3 years to complete - from conception to today - has been the fact that we have not all been united on it. Some of our team have raised eyebrows, questioned our sanity, or have simply not been proud to be a part of this. Some are yet to be stranded in a foreign airport for long periods with dismal chain options.
I actually can’t imagine how it would have been received had we produced instant back then. Perhaps it could be likened to the idea of a vegan section in a New Zealand supermarket in 1999, or telling your 7 year old they will most likely not have the opportunity to drive a car, but will instead wear flares and never taste cheese made from milk. Isn’t it funny how quickly things change?
Where will you be drinking Instant?
Al: Where won't I be drinking instant? It’s so good I actually drink it! But, in all honesty, I’ll be drinking it on a plane, at a holiday house where plunger grounds are not to be disposed of down the sink please. Or when I simply can’t be sure that what’s on offer will not be better than what’s in my back pocket.
Bridget: I’m excited to have an easy offer on my kitchen bench that keeps up my coffee rep but can also be made by my ten year old on a Saturday morning.
What were the biggest obstacles in creating Instant?
Bridget: Discovering a method of coffee production that is contrary to almost all the rules we’ve spent 25 years adhering to was a good curveball. Luckily I’m good at Google.
Images below of Coffee Supreme Instant being served at Supreme Meets in Wellington at Drunken Octopus Club; Auckland at the Old Folks Association and in Melbourne at stockist Clunes Outdoor Goods.
Coffee Supreme Instant will be served at Moore Wilson's Fresh from 9am - noon, Friday 15 March. And at NZ Coffee Festival, 15 - 16 March in Auckland. It's available to purchase online in New Zealand and Australia now.