Wandering Bear's Coffee in a Box Is a Breakthrough in Cold Brew

Gordon and Bachmann visiting coffee farmers in Colombia
Gordon and Bachmann visiting coffee farmers in Colombia
Courtesy Wandering Bear

Can an upstart coffee company founded by two students (they graduate later this month), named after a spirit animal, which specializes purely in boxed cold-brew coffee offering the convenience of Franzia (in dispenser only), compete with all the other entrants in this increasingly crowded, yet growing, field?

Fresh Direct thinks so. So does Murray's Cheese. They're betting that consumers want convenience without sacrificing quality — and without paying for the former at prices usually commanded by the latter.

Paying café prices is what Columbia Business School students Ben Gordon and Matt Bachmann were trying to avoid when, by coincidence, both brought their own home-brewed cold coffee in mason jars (during winter!) to class. They soon discovered they had more in common: They had been undergraduate classmates at Michigan, then pursued professional careers (Gordon worked for film studio Lions Gate, Bachmann was a management consultant at A.T. Kearney) before seeking graduate degrees.

What makes Wandering Bear's proposition compelling? It's not the first local packaged cold brewer — Grady's, Kickstand (now defunct), Birch, and Gorilla, among others, preceded it. It's not even the first cold brewer with an animal moniker — that honor goes to Secret Squirrel or Chameleon. But while the rest of the cold-brew world looks and acts like beer, packaging in growlers and Red Stripe–inspired stubbies (Stumptown) or pouring like Guinness, Wandering Bear eschews slick, suds-evocative marketing to champion a straightforward, consistent, and sustainable product. The $30 box delivers twelve cups of coffee (that's $2.50 versus the city average of $4), stays fresh for a month, and suits office and in-home use (and is especially appealing to lonely, work-from-home writers). Instead of heavy glass, the cardboard container is lightweight, and seals and protects against those twin enemies of coffee freshness: air and light.

Convenience is the universal selling point. By now, we've all come across articles claiming how easy it is to make cold brew, but that demands some serious lead time. Eighteen hours of steeping? Sounds like a plan to air-dry your clothes in the bathroom.

Wandering Bear sources its beans from Colombia, in an area so remote, so seldom traveled, that the founders' guide wouldn't accompany them to the farm. They package their cold brew just 48 hours after roasting. All good reasons to let these cold-brew fanatics find the best way to deliver their coffee to our reusable cups.

Lauren Mowery is a drinks and travel writer based in NYC. She blogs at Chasing the Vine. Follow Lauren on Twitter @ChasingtheVine





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