“It all started with a simple question,” Ali Kothari recalled the other day. “Why can’t we eat our coffee?”
A short while later — with some college-student enthusiasm and some dorm room kitchen ingenuity — Kothari and Johnny Fayad began developing CoffeeBar. It’s basically an energy bar that is infused with a full cup of fair trade coffee (as well as oats, chocolate chips, almond butter, and cashews).
The genesis for the bar began with something many of us can probably relate to: embarrassing coffee stains on our clothes.
During his freshman year at Northeastern, Kothari said, he was having trouble getting going for his 8 a.m. financial accounting class. One morning, he woke up late and didn’t have time for breakfast, but he did grab a cup of coffee.
In a rush heading to class, he spilled it all over himself but left no time to head back and change. When he got into class, he broke open a Nature’s Valley granola bar that crumbled everywhere.
After he and a classmate, Fayad, stopped laughing, they began talking.
“Why can’t we just eat our coffee?” asked Kothari, a 20-year-old business major who just started his junior year. “We set on a mission to find an alternative, getting your day going faster.”
They began experimenting in their dorm room kitchen, trying to fine tune a recipe that would work. (One funny sidenote: Early on, they miscalculated and each bar had 10 cups of coffee in it, rather than just one. Luckily the samples they handed out were bite-sized, but classmates came back talking about how wired they were after a small bite.)
The bar is infused with 102 milligrams of caffeine, which is the equivalent of some cups of brewed coffee. As to how they do it, Kothari is tight-lipped.
“That is part of our trade secret as a company,” he says. “We have a special process that we use.”
He says they do use real coffee, but “it is not brewed in the traditional sense.”
They started a 45-day Kickstarter campaign on Monday to try and raise funds for packaging for the bars. Starting out, it’ll cost $10 to get two bars shipped, or $25 for a box of 12.
The CoffeeBars are not currently available in stores, only online through the Kickstarter campaign. They met their $10,000 goal in less than 15 hours and are now trying to hit $25,000. If they meet that goal, Kothari said, they would be able to source the coffee directly to the coffee farmers by working with Boston-based nonprofit Project Alianza.
He said they have lined up a manufacturer to produce the bars — at least 200,000 at any given time — and they are going through the steps to get the bars FDA approved.
“We’re not necessarily trying to eliminate coffee,“ Kothari said. “We’re trying to be the second cup of coffee.”
Still, for someone like me, most things about this are an anathema. One of the things I like about coffee is the methodical preparation. I enjoy lingering over a cup, savoring every last sip.
This bar, on the other hand, is meant for rapid ingestion of caffeine. They advertise that you can get caffeine in 3-10 seconds, rather than the 3-10 minutes it would take to consume a cup of coffee.
That said, it does taste good — and remarkably like coffee. It has a nice presentation, the dates were a nice touch, and it’s hard not to admire the enthusiasm that Kothari has for this.
If I wanted an energy bar, I might choose this because I do like coffee. But if I want coffee, this wouldn’t get me my fix.
Personally, I still like my coffee as a liquid, not a solid.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.