Andrew Aussie, president and cofounder of Earnest Eats, has been in the food industry for more than twenty years. While his company offers coffee shops a range of great snacks and oatmeals, just one has coffee in it. Well, not coffee—coffee flour made by dried and milled coffee cherries. Coffee Flour, the company that created the new product, was developed by Starbucks alum Dan Belliveau and incubated by former Microsoft exec and gastronome Nathan Mhyrvold.
Coffee cherries fascinate me. They taste amazing when plucked from the bush, and when dried and steeped as cascara they create a drink that’s so good it makes me wonder how the beans became what we call coffee. The problem with cherries is that they are one of the biggest waste byproducts in coffee production and are an environmental baddie. Coffee Flour hopes that its invention can turn coffee cherries from waste to a kitchen staple. Earnest Eats’ Energized Hot Cereals are among the first ready-to-eat products to feature the new ingredient.
How did Earnest Eats get started?
I was the head of sales and marketing at Kashi for eleven years. As Kashi got so huge and was acquired by Kellogg’s, I wanted to create something with a higher level of consciousness. So in 2006 I founded Earnest Eats with Mark Mandel and another business partner here in San Diego to create powerfully nourishing foods that earnestly give back.
The people I see eating at coffeehouses and owning coffeehouses are so passionate about the coffee itself and the quality of it and the sourcing of it and the stories of the villages. I feel there’s a real opportunity out there for coffeehouses to bring their food up to the same level as the coffee they serve. That’s why, even though we started in natural food stores where all of the hippies are, like myself, we quickly went into coffeehouses because there is such a common ground.
How did you find out about coffee flour?
Hanging out at all of the coffee shows, Ryan [Watt, national sales manager] was the one who met Andrew Fedak from the Coffee Flour company. He said, you guys are about sustainability and giving back . . . what could you do with our coffee flour? And he gave us this whole story. We were so intrigued by this ingredient. We said, we have to use this. It’s not only a sustainability story, it’s a super food.
“I feel there’s a real opportunity out there for coffeehouses to bring their food up to the same level as the coffee they serve.”
What’s cool about coffee flour is it’s got these first, second, third order benefits. The first one is: millions of tons of coffee fruit is thrown away every year because there isn’t really a mechanism for dealing with it. When you look it up online there are these images of mounds next to rivers and waterways—there’s a pollution and waste issue. That’s first order. Second order: paying farmers for something they would throw away is an economic benefit for a lot of villages. Third order, for us, is that it is a super food.
That was the part that was most surprising to me. Our initial interest was the earnest part, the conscious giving back, but as we learned about it, it’s kind of like an acai berry or a goji berry in terms of its antioxidants, protein, fiber, and whatnot. And we’re able to put a substantial amount in our oatmeal. Our Energized Hot Cereal has enough coffee fruit in it that you’re actually getting caffeine, about a cup-of-tea’s worth. You’re getting more fiber, you’re getting a little more protein.
What flavor does it add to the oatmeal?
I didn’t expect the taste. I was expecting kind of a coffee flavor. The coffeehouses that use cascara to make a tea will know what we’re talking about. When you open our oatmeal, you see a lot of little brown, reddish flecks in there and when you add the hot water you can smell almost a roasted tea quality. I have found it to be quite addictive. We make it at the trade shows and I probably eat twenty cups worth over the weekend because it has this really intriguing, almost earthy tea-like note that makes it unlike anything else.
How do you get flour to work in an oatmeal without it being a goopy mess?
The grind is course enough that it almost looks like a finely ground tea. We blend it with our superfood grains—the quinoa, oats, and amaranth—and mix it with the whole foods—nuts, seeds, and whole fruit. It took a lot of fiddling.
One of our hot cereals on our regular line, called our Asia blend, it has matcha green tea blended in. So we had some experience already with how to incorporate tea or coffee-like ingredients. Obviously, you don’t want to be eating whole leaves of tea in your oatmeal. The matcha works fantastic and gives it a grassy note. Not something a mainstream person would enjoy as much, but in a coffeehouse environment, wow, I love it.
—Cory Eldridge is Fresh Cup’s editor.