Sometimes in order for some people to beat the heat, somebody else has to endure it. That would seem to be the case for Cold Bruja, a new cold brew coffee company in Los Angeles that will soon be hitting the sunbaked streets on what the company says is Los Angeles County’s first permitted and approved cold-brew-coffee-selling cargo tricycle.
Adopting the idea from what they’d seen in other cities such as Portland, Ore., the company did not anticipate how confounding the concept would be to the county of Los Angeles.
“We basically had to bushwhack our way through the whole blueprint design approval process to make sure that we met all of their rather strict code requirements,” co-founder Will Wilkinson told Daily Coffee News, adding that he’s happy to have blazed a trail for another company that he happens to know filed their application for a coffee-selling bike scheme at around the same time they did.
A representative of the year-old Santa Monica micro roastery Warbler Coffee Roasting recently told LAist they they planned to roll out a nitro cold brew bike Aug. 1, while their Indiegogo campaign is ongoing.
“I think it’s probably a good thing that there’s going to be another coffee cart,” said Wilkinson, noting that the other business will be peddling around a territory far from theirs within the approximately 470-square-mile city. Apart from there being another bike cart drawing attention to the existence of bike carts, Wilkinson’s glad it’s also simply raising awareness of cold brew in general.
“Cold brew to us is a well-known thing, we’ve been pretty steeped in it for about a year now,” Wilkinson said. “But when we’ve done events and festivals, even the LA Food Fest, we spent a lot of time explaining to people what cold brew coffee was, and what nitro was.”
Cold Bruja serves their own 24-hour-steeped brews at events, soon from the cart, and also online and on a few select local business shelves in 12-ounce RTD bottles and a 16-ounce glass bottle of concentrate. The eye-catching, old-timey-style labels boast of a “24-hour ferment,” although the product is not fermented in the cultured kombucha or alcohol sense.
“We like the parallel aesthetics between cold brew coffee and craft beer. That’s why we bottle our coffee in beer bottles,” said Wilkinson. “I also come from a background of brewing my own kombucha and making my own sauerkraut in my bedroom, that kind of thing. So I really enjoy fermentation culture.”
Cold Bruja therefore adopts the term “ferment” from the definition set forth in the book The Art of Fermentation, which Wilkinson described as “the fermenter’s bible.” In it, said Wilkinson, the author describes even the act of brewing hot coffee as technically a type of fermentation. “Or a style of fermentation — a chemical process, where the biological components of the coffee are undergoing a chemical change,” said Wilkinson. “It’s kind of riffing off that.”
Wilkinson noted that the labels also assert that the brew is “cauldron conditioned,” in an essentially meaningless bit of good witch-themed fun.
The bottled coffees themselves are brewed from a light roasted Brazilian bean that earns an SCAA cupping score of 88, which Cold Bruja sources from the New Jersey-based roaster Coffee Bean Direct. Wilkinson prizes its inherent sweetness as a means of winning consumers over into drinking more straight black coffee, while for events and for drinks on tap via the cart, they’ll be offering the signature Brazilian as well as nitro brews made from a couple different darker roasts done by local roaster City Bean Coffee
“We’d prefer to work with a local roaster, but we haven’t sampled a product that we like as much as what Coffee Bean Direct supplies,” said Wilkinson of those pragmatic selections, adding that Cold Bruja does also aspire to roast its own when its business achieves a scale where that would make financial sense.
And yet, as neither Wilkinson nor his business partner Milana Budisavljevic have professional backgrounds in coffee prior to Bruja, they don’t presume to be able to roast as well as those that have honed their craft over years and decades, and so it’s not something they intend to rush into. “We don’t really have a whole lot of coffee cred before this,” said Wilkinson. “We both come from the nine-to-five world, the corporate world.”
Wilkinson moved to Los Angeles from Iowa in 2011, which was really when he first fell in love with “third wave” coffee. Budisavljevic emigrated from Serbia to Wisconsin as a teenager, then moved to LA in 2012, befriending Wilkinson over their shared love of top-quality joe. The business partnership evolved from there.
Wilkinson anticipates launching the cart in a matter of weeks, or by early September at the latest, and expects a regional chain to begin carrying the bottled RTD and concentrate in the coming months. Upcoming product line expansion plans include bottling the Mexican cold brew, canning their nitro cold brew and perhaps also delving into canned nitro teas. Another untapped segment Wilkinson sees as holding potential is that of a canned pre-workout concentrated coffee shot for athletes, incorporating electrolytes and other performance-boosting nutrients.
Said Wilkinson, “We’re constantly looking for exciting ways to repackage coffee and to make it a useful and delicious product for all purposes.”