Toby’s Estate explores the unknown

toby's estate single serve

Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters is exploring the unknown with a new range of single-serve coffee bags, making specialty coffee more convenient and accessible to a broader audience.

Specialty coffee is no longer solely the domain of the café. As general knowledge of coffee grows, consumers look for new ways to enjoy café-quality coffee anywhere. Nich Rae, Head of Coffee at Toby’s Estate, says roasters are looking at new ways to serve their coffee to customers outside of a specialty café.

“One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the market is the perception of convenience coffee and single-serve as approachable formats for a specialty roaster,” Nich says.

“You see a lot of the industry moving towards that single-serve, convenience market. We wanted to do the same but in the right way and to make sure we weren’t compromising on quality.”

Nich’s role is to ensure coffee is at the centre of all of Toby’s Estate’s decisions and the heartbeat of the brand. Rather than going down the traditional route of coffee pods or capsules, he thought the roaster should experiment with something new. This came to fruition in February, when Toby’s Estate released its first line of single-serve coffee bags.

“It was the quality of the coffee that stood out to us about the bags. What really blew us away was the aroma and the amount of acidity we could get from the product,” Nich says.

toby's estate single serve
The Next Frontier features tasting notes of dark chocolate and toffee.

“Those two elements play a huge role in specialty coffee and is what got us excited to push forward and explore what we could do.”

The coffee bags work similarly to tea bags, simply needing to be steeped in hot water, dunked for 15 seconds, then left to brew for the desired strength. Toby’s Estate partnered with American company Steeped Coffee to produce the coffee bags.

“We were in Boston last year at the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo, walking around and visiting different stands. We came across Steeped, drank some of its coffee on show, and the team ran us through the shelf life and process of making the bags,” Nich says.

“It definitely caught our attention, so we took a few samples back with us to Sydney. We carried out testing over several months to make sure the quality maintained like they said it would. It did, and this gave us an idea of what coffee would work really well.”

The single-serve bags are available in two varieties: the milk-oriented The Next Frontier and Forbidden Planet, made to be drunk black. Nich says the best feedback Toby’s Estate has heard from customers is that the coffees – particularly Forbidden Planet – taste how the tasting notes describe: milk chocolate and strawberry.

“For us that’s super exciting and exactly what we wanted,” Nich says. “With The Next Frontier, it keeps a strong presence in milk, so people are getting enough intensity to be happy with the drink.”

Both coffees use custom blends and profiles tailored to taste great in the single-serve format. The Next Frontier features coffee from Brazil, India, Colombia, and Guatemala and is roasted close to an espresso roast. Forbidden Planet uses coffees from Brazil and Myanmar and a lighter roast.

After it’s roasted, the coffee is sent to Steeped Coffee, where it is ground and nitro-sealed to preserve the coffee’s freshness and quality.

“By nitro-sealing it, when you open the bag, you get that nice smell of fresh coffee which really sets you up for the experience you’re about to have,” Nich says.

The bags themselves are biodegradable and the outer packet is made using compostable and renewable materials. This addresses the waste sometimes associated with single-use and single-serve packaging.

This was particularly important to Toby’s Estate given the intended use of these products as quick on-the-go options.

“People have less and less time, but they still want to enjoy their coffee during the day. The quality roasters have started bringing to single-serve is changing people’s willingness to experiment in that market and it will only get better as more join in,” Nich says.

He adds the compelling part for Toby’s Estate is that the target audience of the single-serve coffee bags is really broad. Instead of catering to a group of people, it fills a niche in the market.

“We want anyone to be able to experience high-quality coffee. We still want people to go out and have their coffees at their cafés, and that’s still the highest quality of coffee you can get. There’s also people who prefer to brew their coffee at home,” Nich says.

“This coffee is for when you’re short of time, or going camping, on the run, or catching a flight and want to take some coffee with you. Even if you’re in an office and don’t have time to run to the café. The market is huge.”

The products follow a space exploration theme, reflecting the ideas of travelling, looking to the future, and going where no person has gone before.

“We wanted to make something that we could go long term, so we needed a theme that we could replicate over time and wouldn’t fall away, but also have a little fun with it,” Nich says. “It’s something exciting and new to us, so we felt space exploration fit that well.”

Like many aspects of the coffee bags, creating the theme was a collaborative effort among the Toby’s Estate team.

“For us, it’s important to have multiple points of view on everything we do,” Nich says. “That’s why we were able to make the right decisions when choosing this style of coffee and which beans to use all the way to how it’s presented.”

With the single-serve coffee bags now launched and out in the atmosphere, Nich says the next stage is to shoot for the moon.

“I think the next step will be looking at doing this with a single origin, but we’re not just going to move from product to product. We’re really happy with the quality so far and want to make sure we keep doing it right and that our customers understand it,” Nich says.

“We want people to have access to high-quality coffee and it makes life a lot  more convenient if you only need hot water.”

This article appears in the April 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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