Each time Kent Sheridan went camping with his family he diligently shoehorned fresh coffee beans, a hand grinder and a pour-over brewer into his rucksack. A disciple of the perfectionist coffee culture in his hometown, Bend, Ore., Mr. Sheridan would not, could not, tolerate a cup of instant coffee.
Maintaining precipitously high standards had a downside, however. “It was a lot to lug around,” he said. “On top of that, I’d have to get up before everyone else. I began to think, ‘What if instant coffee could actually be good?’”
So Mr. Sheridan launched Voilà, an instant coffee brand that packs French-press flavor into pouches roughly the size of sugar packets.
Steering clear of the shoddy beans traditional instant brands use, Mr. Sheridan instead partnered with top roasters to develop complex blends of beans from Colombian, Guatemalan and Ethiopian fields. But the real secret, he said, is his method: “The preparation process, recipe and the technology,” including proprietary steps, help preserve the characteristics of his coffee during drying.
He wasn’t alone in seeing an opportunity. With both coffee snobbery and outdoorsiness on the rise, there’s a healthy market for a better cup of joe that can be brewed around campfires, on mountainsides or just in a pinch.
Over the last two years, several entrepreneurial boutique instant brands have come to a boil, including Alpine Start, founded by rock climber Matt Segal, and Stoked Stix, conceived by ultrarunner Jax Mariash. There’s even instant Cusa Tea created by Jim Lamancusa, an avid backpacker who created his own dehydration process.
The coffees and teas are sold in single-serve packs that can be stashed almost anywhere (pockets, socks, under a hat), ideal for those going deep into the wild who want to conserve their energy for things like survival.
Each box offers a variety of five unique, complex blends. The brews have rich aromas and fresh tastes, we found, with nothing thin or instant-y about them. $20 for five servings, voila.coffee
2 Mount Hagen
Made with organic and fair-trade beans, this instant is robust yet smooth. There’s a caffeine-free version for those who just like the taste. $10 for 25 servings. mounthagen.de
3 Alpine Start
A smooth, easy-to-drink cup of java. We found this Boulder, Colo., company’s brew less complex than others, but it still has a nice morning kick. $9 for eight packets, alpinestartfoods.com
4 Cusa Tea
Using leaves from organic plantations in Asia, this instant tea is available in five flavors, including English Breakfast, Oolong and Lemon Black. $10 for 10 servings, cusatea.com
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