In the city that birthed Starbucks, there’s a new contender for the cup-o-joe throne. Meet Atomo, a Seattle-based startup that’s looking to brew the best cup of coffee … without actual coffee.
You see, Atomo has developed “molecular coffee,” the term they’re giving to a drink that uses naturally derived ingredients to replicate the look, mouthfeel, taste and, most importantly, caffeine of coffee without using the actual coffee bean.
Why would anyone want fake coffee when they can have the real thing? That’s just the point. Atomo’s mission statement isn’t to dethrone Starbucks (though they claimed victory at a small blind taste test at the University of Washington), it’s to prepare for a future where climate change decimates natural coffee production.
As Fast Company notes, “Farmers already report struggling with changes in temperature and longer droughts ... A report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture estimates that around half of the land now used for growing coffee won’t be able to grow it within around 30 years.”
If that comes to pass, Atomo hopes to step in and keep your daily caffeine intake in place — though they will look to change certain aspects of it. Since they’re tinkering with coffee composition on a molecular level, they’re also working to take out the bitterness so there’s no need to add milk or sweeteners. (Speaking on behalf of the black-coffee delegation, I sincerely hope they don't plan to do that in toto.)
Caveat emptor: Atomo has yet to get their not-coffee coffee to market. To do that, they launched a Kickstarter, which at the time of writing is almost 200% funded. It ends March 9th, but with shipments not expected until December 2019, hop to it if you're looking to get in on the, ahem, ground floor.
Photo courtesy of Atomo