In the 2003 Christmas comedy “Elf,” while exploring the streets of New York City, Buddy the Elf (played by Will Ferrell) bursts into a coffee shop because of a neon sign in the window that reads “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.” Buddy then exclaims, “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody. It’s great to be here.” 

Steeped Coffee is working to give consumers the opportunity to consistently brew the best cup coffee right at home.

Inc.’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America ranks Steeped Coffee at 572nd. The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based company is ranked 88th in the state and 18th on Inc.’s list for all of Food and Beverage. On the prestigious Inc. 5000 list, Steeped Coffee is now among companies such as Patagonia, Chobani and Under Armour. 

“The Steeped Coffee team is proud to stand alongside the nation’s most successful independent brands and elite entrepreneurs, recognized by Inc. for what we’ve accomplished so far,” Josh Wilbur, founder and CEO of Steeped Coffee, said in a statement. “Not only is it a tremendous honor, but it also highlights just how important it is for our industry to reimagine single-serve coffee as a sustainable daily ritual that avoid long-term impact on the planet, instead delivering a delicious cup of fresh coffee in minutes with no machines required.”

Steeped Coffee aims to “make great-tasting craft coffee more accessible through its proprietary technology and Steeped Brewing Method,” a method that is licensed to more than 400 top specialty roasters around the world. Steeped licenses its patent-pending method to companies like La Colombe, Counter Culture, Mr. Espresso and BLK & Bold. With 100% freshly roasted, pre-portioned coffee, the company says their method is “the simplest way to make a perfect cup of coffee by just adding water, no machine needed.

The specialty coffee is roasted in small batches and packaged individually — but Wilbur says Steeped “is not coffee in a teabag,” though it’s as simple as that. Made for convenience, the CEO notes that “simplicity is one of the most difficult things to achieve.” 

The company worked with top baristas to achieve this single-serve brewing method. Ethically-sourced and precision ground beans are craft roasted, portioned into Steeped Coffee Bags, which are then triple nitro sealed “for ultimate freshness, ensuring each cup tastes like it was ground just moments ago,” the company adds. The method is certified commercially compostable and produced from plant-based renewable materials. 

“Beyond Steeped’s trailblazing format that blends the comfort of coffee with the ritual of tea, Steeped Coffee is not just a single brand, but a proprietary brewing method supporting hundreds of top brands and coffee roasters,” Wilbur says. 

Establishing Steeped Coffee

Seven years before founding Steeped Coffee, Wilbur attempted to solve the problem of how to enjoy a good coffee while on a visit without the need for “a whole suitcase of equipment.” The product created would become a minimum viable product (MVP) of Steeped Coffee, which was founded in 2017. Wilbur felt that making great coffee shouldn’t be difficult, and the convenience of making coffee shouldn’t come at the environmental cost that pods did. He says that he wrestled with the decision to start a company. 

“It literally took an answered prayer, which inspired me to begin the Steeped story,” Wilbur explains. “We would be a business on a mission to redeem the waste of single-serve coffee, to highlight ethical sourcing, to enable specialty coffee companies to be more accessible for consumers, to be a light on a hill to promote Business Without Compromise, to model business for good, and to see what journey it would all take us on. It has indeed been a crazy ride so far.”

The company was created to be the new standard in coffee. The simple, environmentally-conscious brewing method, without the need for expensive machinery, sets Steeped apart from the rest. 

“Steeped Coffee is not trying to fit within the current coffee market, but rather expand the limits of the entire coffee category by increasing customer accessibility — similar to how the single-serve tea bag transformed tea drinking and became the standard for convenience,” Wilbur says. “Steeped is going a step further by bringing together unmatched convenience, quality and sustainability to revolutionize coffee.”

Current coffee crazes

Much like Buddy the Elf, more and more consumers are on the hunt for the perfect cup of coffee. Consumers prioritize factors like quality taste, convenience and environmentally friendliness. 

“Simply put, coffee needs to deliver on more than a caffeine boost with consumers increasingly looking for premium craft-roasted coffee with the highest sourcing standards from farm to cup,” Wilbur says. 

He also credits the uptick in awareness of environmental impact as an influence of their purchases, especially when it comes to the single-serve coffee market. Among all the age groups of coffee consumers, Wilbur notes that the younger ones specifically are looking for products that are not polluting the planet. While other specialty coffee roaster focus on elements like ethical sourcing, ultra-premium coffee and craft roasting, they may not be willing to adopt alternative instant coffee methods. And Wilbur says single-serve coffee, despite being a hot ongoing trend, is “literally littered with problems.”

“Steeped Packs serve as a convenient unplugged alternative to wasteful pods dependent on additional machinery and deliver ultra-premium craft coffee that’s freshly roasted, precision ground and triple nitro-sealed in Steeped’s Full Immersion Filters and Guilt-Free Packaging,” Wilbur explains.  

What’s brewing at Steeped

With a portfolio consisting of an Odyssey Blend, Sunrise Blend, California Blend and Breakwater Blend, there is something for coffee lovers of every kind. The two most popular products in the lineup are the Odyssey Dark Roast Blend and California Medium Roast Blend. 

“The Odyssey Blend uses high-grown, high-density Latin American beans to achieve its smooth and consistent profile that sings with notes of dark chocolate, s’mores and caramelized sugar, while the California Blend provides a welcoming balance between acidity and a rich chocolate body with a hint of toasted coconut,” Wilbur says. “For those who are new to the Steeped experience, The Lineup is the perfect introduction. This collection features a variety of each of our blends so you can take your moment and find out which blend best suites your palette.”

The newest addition to the lineup is the Certified Fair Trade and Organic Breakwater Blend, a French roast “for coffee lovers who prefer a bold experience.” The richer, stronger flavor of the blend comes from notes of caramelized sugar and toasted marshmallows. 

The CEO adds that, going forward, Steeped will continue to be an innovator in the coffee category. There are plans to add the Breakwater Blend Pro+ to the portfolio, a coffee blend with probiotics “to offer consumers a functional boost to their daily coffee ritual.”