Relatively few of us have a serious passion for instant coffee. I don’t. It’s something I tend to associate with bad camping trips and a depressing winter in the north of England. I’d heard Waka Coffee was “reinventing” it and basically thought “why would anyone bother inventing that stuff again?”
It turns out there is a place for instant coffee if it’s good. And this stuff is not your grandma’s evil fallout-shelter jar of Nescafe.
First, why do we want instant coffee? We don’t necessarily, because fresh brewed coffee isn’t unattainable for most of us in most situations (although outside the United States, instant coffee is nowhere near as unfashionable; it’s totally normal in, say, the UK). But… clearly there is camping, and hiking. (And airplanes, though there is something to be said for avoiding airplane water entirely.) Have you ever been on a crack of dawn safari? I have, and let me note that good instant coffee would have been lifesaving in that Land Rover. There’s weak coffee that could use a “depth charge.” There’s cooking! Instant coffee can be awesome for milkshakes, marinades, ice cream and beyond. There are any number of situations where an appliance isn’t working, or cleanup is unwieldy, or you’re on the move or in a rush, where instant coffee would be a totally appropriate move provided the coffee was palatable.
Waka is palatable. Good, in fact. It’s made from single-origin 100% Arabica type coffee beans sourced from Columbia. It’s a medium roast, not overpowering, slightly fruity (an orange-rind undertone, for me). It’s clean tasting and fairly neutral and not super challenging, which can be a righteous thing before you’ve… you know, had your coffee. Waka is freeze dried, which as it turns out is not the standard for instant coffee: Most instant coffee is spray-dried, which is a heating process that strips moisture from the beans and alters their chemical makeup in the process. This processing step is what gives a lot of instant coffee a burnt, scorched or “dead” flavor. Waka freeze-dries their coffee, preserving its flavor profile and keeping it from tasting murky.
Another factor that might be of interest to you (and should be, really) is their environmental footprint-which would be in the “nice, but” category, perhaps, if the product were not worth your time, but since it is worth your time, the responsible production attitude escalates from “nifty bonus” to “this is what everyone needs to be doing.” Like wine, coffee has an ecological footprint that is a complicated calculus of all the factors involved in growing, processing, shipping and consuming it. Waka stands out for its light, recyclable packaging (no plastic, a small amount of foil); it’s relatively efficient to ship and relatively easy to dispose of responsibly. To their credit, Waka also has a firm awareness that coffee production can create a lot of wastewater in countries where access to clean water is insecure to nonexistent. So 4% of their profits always go to charity:water, which has clean water access initiatives in 26 countries across Africa, Asia and Central and South America (in other words, nearly everywhere coffee is grown). It’s not every day that a convenience-purchase ends up being socially or environmentally beneficial. But it should be.