Food and Leisure

Say hello to encapsulated coffee flavor

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau - The Philippine Star
Say hello to encapsulated coffee flavor
Lyger offers real coffee flavor in cute (non-biodegradable) capsules that you pour into hot or cold water or milk.

The concept is eye-catching: tiny black and orange capsules containing a single serving of pure Colombian coffee, crystallized and freeze-dried, that you can pour into a glass of either hot or cold water or milk. The crystals dissolve quickly, releasing the best possible flavor.

Sourced from 100-percent premium Arabica beans, Lyger Coffee promises barista quality with single-serving convenience. All that in a capsule that more than one person at their recent launch described as “cute.” And it is that. But the containers are also 100-percent plastic, which seems to be the least renewable material its German founders, Phil Renner and Tim Michael, could have come up with.

So you’d be right to raise an eco-eyebrow, especially since the launch event at Katherine’s Cafe in Ayala Malls Manila Bay was called “Beyond the Boundaries of Sustainability.”

But wait. There’s more to the story.

Lyger Coffee has partnered with The Plastic Solution, an NGO that turns recovered plastic into bottles, ecobricks, tiles, and other building materials. That means those plastic capsules will have a second life as something more sustainable. To facilitate the recycling effort, Plastic Solutions will even pick up your used capsules (in minimum bundles of 50) from anywhere in the Philippines.

That sounds a little better.

On hand to explain all things Lyger were CEO and co-founder Renner and COO and co-founder Michael, as well as Fiona Faulkner, president of The Plastic Solution.

“I’ve always been a coffee aficionado,” says Phil, “so I’m always looking for a coffee solution on the go.” The idea came to Phil and Tim roughly a year ago to find something that is barista level, quality-wise, but convenient. They launched Lyger here last December.

“We brew the coffee under perfect lab conditions, at 94 degrees; it gets freeze-dried, pulverized and the result is these crystals,” Phil continues. “And once you pour it back into liquid, be it cold or hot, it dissolves within 20 seconds. It looks exactly like freshly brewed coffee.”

The little plastic cups may look cute, says Phil, “but they’re also used because of high humidity levels here. So you only open it right before you drink it. It’s sealed.” This requirement makes sense in tropical SEA countries that Phil and Tim hope to expand into.

Of course, sustainability is top of mind for young people these days. Lyger was earlier shipped in translucent plastic boxes — a definite no-no — “but we have changed that” after customer feedback.

Now they’ve partnered with The Plastic Solution, an NGO hired to pick up the used capsules through a website (there’s a minimal fee). As Fiona — an environmental scientist and avid surfer who’s used to the sight of floating plastic when paddling out into the local surf — explains, these used cups are then extruded and “upcycled” to build eco-bricks, hollow blocks, floor tiles, planters, benches and PET bottles, working with communities that sell them.

The Plastic Solution began five years ago out of Fiona and her partners’ love of the ocean. It was slowed down by the pandemic, but now they’ve relaunched, and with Lyger and others as partners, they bring eco information to small communities and reducing solutions to companies that still produce a lot of recyclable waste.

“Knowing that a growing coffee company like Lyger recognizes the impact that the industry can have on the environment, I am looking forward to their growth as they set a good starting point that we hope other startups can follow,” Fiona said.

It doesn’t end with recycling plastic, Phil and Tim realize. “Within the next six months we want to offset all plastic waste that we create,” says Phil, “so even if you order cups and don’t return them, we make sure that we at least recycle other plastic in the same amount to reach this neutral level.”

They plan to source local beans as well. “We’re in conversations with coffee farmers here because the Philippines has amazing coffee; I’m a huge fan of Benguet Arabica,” says Phil. Freeze-drying local beans would offset the eco costs of shipping in beans from Colombia, no doubt.

And they are investigating other sealing options besides the cute plastic tumblers. (“We’re looking into coated-paper options,” promises Phil. “That’s in the R&D process.”)

Flavor expansion is also part of the plan, says Tim. “We initially launched two flavors — Latte and American — and we’re now expanding to things like bulletproof coffee (a high-calorie coffee drink intended to replace a carb-heavy breakfast), decaf, mocha, and other flavors.”

As for the name: “It comes from the largest crossbred feline there is — a combination of lion and tiger (‘lyger’ in German) that can’t reproduce but is fierce and weighs up to 500 kilos,” says Phil. “They’re bigger, bolder, stronger — like our coffee.”

Watch for Lyger to roar into the market — sustainably, we hope.

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Visit https://bit.ly/MindfulLygerCoffeePh.


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