Jeff and Justin Wiguna have never considered themselves coffee connoisseurs.
Sure, their family has owned several coffee shops, and over the years, the brothers came to appreciate a good cup of coffee. But it wasn’t until several years ago that they decided to take that appreciation to the next level.
During a trip to Indonesia, the brothers stumbled upon the concept for Kuju Coffee – as they’ve dubbed it, the “Pocket PourOver” – but weren’t sure how it would translate to the U.S. market. A year later, on a camping trip to Red Rocks, the idea finally solidified when Justin brought several prototypes along, unsuspecting of the outcome.
“He was like ‘look what I brought’,” Jeff recalls. “We were just excited to have coffee that didn’t suck.”
The product they had created – a packet of high-quality coffee that fits in your pocket and converts into a makeshift pour over pouch – was perfectly positioned to speak to an outdoor audience craving the portability and ease of great-tasting coffee while off the grid. Since then, the company has taken off among the camping and outdoor crowd, landing in major retailers like REI.
Growing up camping, the brothers felt confident in their knowledge of the outdoor industry, but realized that the idea had the potential to extend far beyond that.
“We want to redefine what quality is, and we want you to be inspired to make quality a part of your life no matter who you are or what your daily rituals are,” Jeff told ASN. “It’s about breaking down those barriers of intimidation for certain customers who might not feel comfortable going into a hipster coffee shop. Our vision is to be in those places where great coffee typically isn’t – the airport, the gas station, when you are on the go.”
As such, Kuju’s mission is to continually expand who they speak to. Recently, they expanded their offering with several new single-origin coffees from locations like Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia and Indonesia, which we had a chance to try.
Admittedly, this taste test was conducted within the confines of our Southern California office, but the Pocket PourOver definitely sparked the itch to take these handheld nuggets of coffee goodness on the road; they were just so easy to stash and use, it made other coffee options (including our in-office coffee system) seem practically archaic.
Coffee is something that I immediately need (and look forward to) within moments of opening my eyes every morning, and that doesn’t change based on where I am or what I am doing. On a recent camping trip in the North Cascades, our backcountry guide spoiled us by (magically, it seemed) having hot coffee waiting in our mugs every morning at dawn.
While that was a dream come true, Kuju’s solution is the next best thing.
The Indonesia blend has notes of apricot, berries and toasted cocoa, and has a smooth, rich (not bitter) flavor that tastes like a cup of coffee you’d get at your local coffee shop.
The Papua New Guinea blend was equally pleasing to the taste buds – although a bit of a darker, stronger flavor – throwing out hints of oak and dark chocolate and a subtly sweet touch of maple syrup.
Perhaps the favorite out of the bunch is the Ethiopia blend, which fuses blueberry, honey and citrus flavors.
I was also impressed by how seamless the fold-out pour over system worked. The sides of the packet accordion out to fit over the edge of your cup. After you’re done brewing, you can slip the filter and used grounds back into the package to pack out if you are on the trail, and later recycle the paper elements.
Note: If you are using a smaller mug or glass (less than 8 ounces) you’ll probably experience the brewed coffee meeting the pour over packet in your cup – that’s actually OK and helps the coffee steep and produce a better flavor, according to Kuju.
Kuju puts its coffee through rigorous scrutiny to ensure ethical standards, starting with sourcing – Kuju has tapped into a coffee bean supplier in Thailand who employs former sex-trafficking victims and supports local farmers – straight through to the purchase, which sees a percentage of each sale go to the National Park Foundation through a partnership with 1% For the Planet.
At the same time, the brothers have personally tasted each of Kuju’s blends before including them in the lineup. Taste will always remain central to the company’s business model.
“At the end of the day, we are a coffee company,” says Jeff.
The clean product branding breaks down where each coffee is sourced and what flavor you can expect to emanate from the handy packet. And although brewing your coffee like this does take a few extra minutes out from your day, it’s well worth the wait. “Quality if never instant,” is Kuju’s mantra … and we can’t help but agree.
Kuju Single Origin blends come in a 10-pouch pack ($30), with the option for a recurring subscription that saves you 10 percent.
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