Following years of behind-the-scenes growth that endeared its roasts to wholesale clients and quality-seeking Central Texas patrons at large, Austin’s Cuvée Coffee has flexed some serious retail muscle over the past year and a half.
It was mid-2014 that the company opened its first branded retail shop, serving coffee alongside beer through an innovative bar flow design. Most recently, the company has pumped up its packaged product game, winning a prestigious design award for its canned nitro cold brew and making inroads with Whole Foods that are putting the coffee product on the shelves of all the grocer’s 33 Northeast Region stores.
The Whole Foods appearances of Cuvée’s Black & Blue nitro cans are the first outside of Texas, and follow years of development related to the product. As with many drink trends — and nitro cold brew is certainly that, if nothing else — the exact origins are difficult to pinpoint. Yet Cuvée maintains it was one of the first, if not the first, to develop nitro coffee in tap form.
“The idea came to me in 2005 when I was selling La Marzocco espresso machines and saw that a customer had installed a coffee beverage on one of his beer taps,” Cuvée Coffee CEO Mike McKim says, according to Cuvée’s own marketing materials. “The drink was just a flat, cream and sugar kind of thing, but the idea of coffee on tap stuck with me. For years I mentioned the concept to other business owners, but no one seemed all that interested. But I kept talking about it, because I always thought coffee on tap was a great idea. I couldn’t believe people weren’t seeing the opportunity.”
With Cuvée firmly established by 2011, McKim revisited the idea, and a light bulb went on while drinking a nitro milk stout from Left Hand Brewing. Says McKim, “I watched the cascading nitro and thought, ‘Why can’t I do that with coffee?'” By summer 2012, Cuvée was serving tapped cold brew to the public at various events, and the canning operation came to fruition last year. Cuvée’s canned Black & Blue recently snagged BevNet’s Best of 2015 award for Packaging Innovation. From BevNet:
Cuvée Coffee was the first cold brew brand to market a nitrogenated offering. It’s really the first time in “third-wave coffee” where a shelf-stable format is truly a straight replica of something you’d buy in the shop.
High praise, indeed, for a company helping lead the nitrogenated charge.