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Artikel: Article in NZZ Bellvue

Coffee

Article in NZZ Bellvue

PREMIUM OUTDOOR COFFEE

Can a Swiss startup make coffee from a tube - does it taste good?

Sonja Siegenthaler

NZZ Bellevue 02/29/2024

There are countless ways to prepare coffee, and this year there's one more: The startup No Normal Coffee is introducing tube coffee to the market. We tested the product.

Alexander Häberlin and Philippe Greinacher met as teenagers at the water ski and wakeboard club. Since then, they have been close friends, and nature has remained a central part of their lives. They regularly go on ski tours, hikes, and surf trips. During breaks, in the quiet moments between the rush of adventure and the peace of the wilderness, coffee is essential for them.

But every time, they faced a decision: either carry a lot of equipment - coffee grinder, coffee press, water, beans - in their backpacks, or settle for instant coffee. "We had to come up with a better solution," says Greinacher. So they came up with coffee in the aluminum tube - and the joke turned into No Normal Coffee, "the first premium outdoor coffee in a tube."

"Coffee from the tube" initially sounds strange. However, the simply modern packaging contains nothing but coffee concentrate - brewed coffee from which water is removed. This is supposed to preserve the flavor profile. In addition to Fairtrade Arabica coffee beans from Peru and Colombia, the aluminum tube contains organic beet sugar from Emmental and natural thickeners.

A teaspoon of concentrate yields 25 espressos or 15 large cups of coffee, depending on the dosage. The thick paste is mixed with hot or cold water.

The tube coffee convinces in terms of taste. The flavor is surprisingly robust, with a slight hint of chocolate and minimal acidity. No Normal Coffee leaves instant products like Nescafé behind, by far. Only the slight sweetness is confusing - modern coffee drinkers are too accustomed to not having sugar in their specialty coffee to please the barista.

"Personally, I drink my espresso without sugar at the office," says Greinacher, who has worked for advertising agencies, media houses, innovation programs, and later for large startups. But outside, in the morning after a short night in a tent with cold feet, sugar is welcome. Because it quickly gives the body energy. The founders are aware that their coffee with sugar may not appeal to every modern epicurean: "We don't have to make everyone happy with our coffee, but there has to be a certain level of taste."

By the way, you can even eat the coffee paste from the tube. This wasn't the startup's original goal - but as tasting began, the versatility of the product became apparent: the concentrate tastes just as good on bread, fruit, or in espresso martinis. It's a caffeine kick for snacking: a teaspoon of it has as much caffeine as an espresso. So tiramisu, a protein shake, or meat marinade can also become a pick-me-up in between.

Sure, aluminum tubes are practical. But one is more accustomed to finding ready-made products from the supermarket in them, not something labeled "premium." However, the tube protects the contents better than plastic or glass, it is recyclable, and fits into any backpack, according to the startup. And: Switzerland is a country of tubes. Unlike elsewhere, many food products such as mayonnaise or mustard come from tubes here, not just toothpaste and glue. "We are presenting the world with a completely new product - in a tried and tested packaging that everyone knows and understands," says Alexander Häberlin, who works in industrial design and marketing. So the idea doesn't sound so strange anymore.

And it's so simple that it's actually surprising that a Swiss startup - founded by two outsiders - has realized its idea in the multi-billion dollar coffee business. Nestlé did test a similar product called "Coffee and Cream" in New Zealand and Australia about ten years ago, the founders tell in the podcast with "Swisspreneurs." But it was discontinued.

The niche is too small for the big players and too big for the small ones - and a missed opportunity, Philippe Greinacher believes.

 

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