March 18, 2019

A Cold Brew (R)Evolution

We’re very excited to share with you an evolution of our cold brew coffee: Sparkling Black. A sophisticated, stimulating and delicately sparkling coffee soda, with a hint of citrus, a complex finish and plenty of natural caffeine to keep you focused.


So what’s the deal with cold brewing?


We start by cold brewing to extract the coffee’s natural sweetness and fruity notes, we add a small amount of sugar and the coffee is then carbonated and packaged in slim cans to lock in freshness.


Sourced from the Esquipulas Co-operative in Guatemala, the single-origin coffee in Sparkling Black is sourced through Union Direct Trade.


What’s in it then?


The striking pack design evokes focus – which is aided by the generous caffeine content from the coffee. There are no artificial stimulants added, just naturally occurring caffeine that is extracted through the cold-brewing process. The result is a drink that contains more caffeine than most leading energy drinks, but is low in calories.  


Read on to find out how we got here from our Head of Innovation, Dave Law.


Where did it all start?

When first I started brewing and hand-bottling cold brew coffee in the Brew Lab kitchen back in 2014, the idea of making it fizzy had never crossed my mind. In fact, if it had been suggested to me by someone at the time, I probably would have said that it’s a terrible idea.


Back then we were well into experimenting with Nitro Cold Brew – cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide - it creates a really creamy cold brew coffee when poured from a beer tap, but it was very difficult to package it and get the same effect. We had done some brief tests with carbonating cold brew coffee, but the results weren’t very tasty.

Our cold brew evolution over the years


Over the following 5 years of making, sampling and selling bottled cold brew coffee, 2 things became very clear.

  1. This cold brew thing had legs. It was more and more in demand – and we were starting to see big chains like Costa and Starbucks putting it on their menu.
  2. Customer feedback was clear – a ready-to-drink still cold brew was a love it or hate it kind of thing. Some people got it and loved it, some people just thought they were drinking coffee that had been left to go cold!


While we were really happy with the taste of our still cold brew, we took this customer feedback on board and started experimenting to see how we could improve our still cold brew to make it more appealing to a wider audience. After all, our main objective was, and is to get speciality coffee in front of more people.  


The way we saw it, there were three directions we could have gone with the development – a canned nitro cold brew (there had been some breakthroughs in canning technology since 2014), a milky cold brew or a sparkling cold brew. Our feeling was that while the first two are really exciting and tasty products, if we could make a really refreshing, delicious sparkling coffee soda, there would be more occasions that people would enjoy it: pre-lunch pick me up or afternoon boost when a hot coffee just won’t hit the spot; pre or post workout refreshment; any time you need to stay focused but a good coffee is neither available, nor what you really want. Ultimately, we felt a refreshing sparkling drink would have a wider appeal.


We already had a great tasting cold brew coffee base – our single-origin Liberacion coffee from Esquipulas co-operative in Guatemala produces a wonderful cold brew with chocolate and dark fruit notes. After lots of experimenting with adding flavours, carbonation, natural sweeteners and acidity regulators, we settled upon the simplest recipe – because it tasted the best.


The result? A delicately sparkling cold brew coffee soda, with a small amount of sugar, balanced with a small amount of citric acid. It’s a straight-black sparkling coffee soda. It’s not a long black, or a flat white, it’s a Sparkling Black.


And how does it taste? Fizzy coffee sounds really weird eh?


We think it tastes absolutely delicious. It just makes sense. It's familiar. It’s almost cola-like, with subtle chocolate and dark fruit notes from the single-origin Liberacion Coffee, but with a citrussy high note that just makes your mouth water. It’s refreshing and you just want to drink more of it. Careful though – it's packed with more caffeine than most energy drinks; about 1 and a half coffees per can.


Keep an eye out on our social media for stockists!


Written by Dave Law, Head of Innovation at Union, and Co-Founder of Union Brew Lab

Related Articles