I was quickly met by a wonderful aroma when I opened up the shipping packaging. I hadn't even opened up the actual bag of coffee yet. I sat it in my cupboard and soon, my cupboard was filled with the same incredibly flavorful aroma. The next morning, I opened the bag of beans to start grinding. I was in high anticipation of the taste after being amazed by the smell. The taste blew me away. It was bursting with flavor and richness. I never knew the difference truly fresh roasted coffee would make. That was until I was introduced to Sumato Coffee.
Ben Martinez was sitting in the Silicon Slopes Summit earlier this year. He was listening to the Utah all-stars of the tech industry talk about breaking up the stigmas around Utah. They wanted to find a way to break the stigmas and get top talent to move to Utah, specifically for the players in Silicon Slopes. As Ben was listening to them during the early morning session, he noticed they all had a soda or energy drink they're sipping on. Outside of Utah, that's pretty atypical. In most areas, you would instead see cups of coffee. They took a break at 10:30 and Ben and the other 5,000 people huddled out into the common areas. He set off searching for coffee. After being unsuccessful on his own, he inquired to a gentleman working the event. The coffee was far off in the corner. He poured a cup and was quickly disappointed. It was cheap, disgusting coffee.
This event activated spinning wheels in Ben's head. He has spent 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, moving around the country and working within some of the largest companies in the U.S. "Six states and six companies later, I was left with a few constants in my life - my wife, my kids and my love for coffee," Ben said. Working alongside Ben at a tech company in Utah, we quickly struck up conversations about coffee. He is known for toting books about coffee in his backpack. I would see his snapchats, up early brewing his coffee or watch him take an afternoon stroll to a local coffee shop for a brain break.
As Ben worked for various companies and even walked into those coffee chains or coffee shops, he was continuously disappointed with the poor quality of the coffee. Each instance, he grumbled over the lack of fresh roasted coffee. He looks at coffee as an experience, not just a hit of caffeine and he hopes to see others view coffee in a similar way in the future. This idea isn't solely one that belongs to Ben. Currently, we are experiencing the third wave of coffee. The third wave of coffee is a movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity. Third wave coffee, "In all of its processes, from the origin of the harvested bean to the roasting and brewing process, is treated with the same reverence as fine wine and craft beer.”
To understand how the third wave of coffee came to be, we need to review coffee history. First wave coffee has roots back to the 1800s. Entrepreneurs quickly saw an open market for affordable, brew-ready coffee. This is where the birth of companies like Folgers and Maxwell House happened. They quickly amassed as household names across the United States. This first wave received criticism for their lack of taste and quality in an effort to make conveniently mass produced coffee. The quality was horrible but the father's of this wave made huge innovations in packaging and marketing. These innovations propelled an explosion of the coffee industry into the future.
The second wave of coffee was brought about by the reaction to the bad tasting, poor quality coffee of the first wave. Consumers started questioning the origin of their coffee as well as roasting styles. It brought about specialty coffee beans. The knowledge led consumers to look at coffee as an enjoyable experience instead of just another beverage. The second wave started receiving criticism for forsaking the source of the bean in order to create a marketable social experience of drinking coffee. Coffee shops, especially chains, became a big business, driving people into brick and mortar stores to drink their favorite coffee beverage. This is where the pumpkin spice craze developed. The coffee business most associated with the second wave is Starbucks.Matt Milletto of Water Avenue Coffee says, "Having been more than 20 years in the industry, I feel that the third wave is truly a way of appreciating a quality product." It's not just about the coffee we're consuming but also the way we think about the coffee we're consuming.
In the third wave, there is a massive emphasis on transparency. Consumers want to trace their coffee to the farm where it was harvested. There is an interest in the method of processing. Third wave roasters and coffee shops tend to be entrepreneurs who love great coffee and want to share great coffee with their community. They also have a huge interest in education. It is built into their marketing and business models. They want to provide education and consumer knowledge to customers. With a more highly educated consumer, the coffee industry will be strengthened. The third wave is creating a movement of experience, customer education and service.
This is how Sumato came to be. Ben was frustrated by the lack of quality coffee both in the workplace and homes. "My main mission is to easily provide fresh roasted coffee to those who can't otherwise get high accessible high-quality coffee," Ben said. In regards to improving the experience of coffee and contribute to breaking the stigmas around Utah, especially in the workplace, he said, "The one thing I can do is offer really good coffee." He wants it to be about the enjoyable experience and not about a quick hit of caffeine.
Leading up to creating Sumato, he dove head-first into research. He interviewed virtually every roaster in Utah. He would also go into local coffee shops and chain coffee stores, asking questions and looking for information. One thing he noticed is that in your big box coffee chains like Starbucks, the roast date isn't even listed on the package. He looked all over the bag. Even in grocery stores, you have to hunt for the date and often it is either hidden or nonexistent. When you do find a date, it is often 30 days to six months post roast date, even on the shelves of places like Harmon's or Whole Foods. When there is no date, you have no idea how old that coffee is. Up to this point, consumers haven't really demanded to know how fresh the coffee was. It's not something the typical coffee consumer thinks about or even knows to think about. When Ben would ask for roast dates, especially in the chain stores, they typically wouldn't have an answer for him. The baristas don't have the dates. He also learned the smell you experience when you walk into a Starbucks is fabricated. Since most of their locations don't do any roasting, they have a spray that creates a roasted coffee smell.
Ben, like others in the third wave of coffee, have a high emphasis on education. He wants to empower consumers to be educated on their coffee and coffee experience. Sumato is a Japanese word for smart. He wants people to be smart about their consuming choices. Ben said, "Fresh coffee is not freshly brewed coffee, it’s not freshly ground coffee, it is freshly roasted coffee." He went on to explain that it needs to be roasted within two to fourteen days of purchase. The roast date is critical. "You don't want to purchase coffee that is older than 14 days post roast date because it is no longer at peak freshness," Ben stated. It is consumable for 30 days post roast date. He said the roast date is critical for the optimal taste. "When you take fresh roasted coffee and grind it, you will experience the most robust and flavorful smell and taste," Ben urged. Coffee is known to be chocked full of antioxidants but what most consumers don't realize is that the coffee must be fresh roasted and consumed within that freshness window to receive the antioxidant benefits.
Ben officially launched Sumato on June 1. Sumato receives an order for coffee and then they begin roasting. They package the coffee with the roast date right on the bag. It is then delivered to your work or home. He even set up a customer-friendly subscription service. Previously, people were driving all over Utah to get fresh roasted coffee. Now, it can arrive on their doorstep of their homes or offices, right as they are ready for their next bag. Currently, they offer two sizes. One is the 12 ounce bag which will last about two weeks for someone who drinks a single cup a day. It's about 31 cups. There is also a 5 pound bag. This is the typical choice for most office consumers.
They had 67 orders on their first day which is incredible for a brand new, bootstrapped, startup business. Part of the success is thanks to partnerships they've developed. Artemis Health, a Utah medical software company, is just one of their incredible partners. Artemis will send a gift to their prospects and often include a bag of fresh roasted Sumato coffee. Not only do they appreciate the gesture, they love their coffee and want to know more. When he goes into talk with businesses here in Utah, he asks how they do coffee. Every workplace, people are talking about the coffee. Whether it's gross, convenient, etc. Sumato seeks to make the process easy for high-quality, enjoyable coffee in the workplace.
Ben says it is important to have the capability to trace the coffee bean to the farmer, where it was grown, what the story is behind the coffee and how the roasting is happening. "There's an art to roasting and by the time Starbucks ends up in your cup, it's old coffee," Ben said. "Experience the difference in artfully sourced and roasted coffee." He's excited to educate the market and provide convenience to Utah consumers. He's excited for them to understand why this coffee tastes so much better. "Be smart about what you are drinking," He said excitedly. "People outside of Salt Lake City previously thought they had to drive all the way downtown for the fresh roasted taste, but not anymore!"
Ben so graciously gave me a discount code to share with my readers. If you're interested in an unparalleled coffee experience, use promo code "sumatoMVP" for 20% off the first order and an additional 10% when you subscribe. To learn more about Sumato, check out their website, Instagram (@sumatocoffee), Facebook page and Twitter. Instagram is where you can see the most behind the scenes videos and photos. Additionally, if you want to up your coffee knowledge or just get to know the owner, follow Ben on Snapchat (@BenMartinezJ). For questions and inquiries, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ben@sumatocoffee.com