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The Short Version: When a pair of London transplants failed to find a cup of coffee in Brooklyn that was up to their standards, they started roasting their own. Before long, Suyog Mody and his wife, Anu Menon, started Driftaway Coffee a convenient, subscription model coffee service. The company offers four unique options, and, after customers sample coffees to determine what suits them best, they customize their plans. As Driftaway Coffee’s reputation grows, it continues to develop relationships with coffee growers to foster a culture of sustainability.
When Suyog Mody and his wife, Anu Menon, moved from London to Brooklyn, they didn’t expect to have any trouble finding coffee they’d like. But time after time, they discovered that something was wrong with each cup they tried. Sometimes, the roast wasn’t made from whole beans, meaning that it wasn’t fresh. Other times, it was roasted in a style that they didn’t like.
“How can we fulfill our need for fresh coffee in Brooklyn?” Suyog recalled thinking.
The pair decided to look online for coffee clubs instead, and, while many subscription-style coffee clubs existed, most were “roasters’ choice,” meaning subscribers would receive a new style of coffee every month and couldn’t stick with particular roasts they preferred.
“You got whatever they wanted to send every month,” Suyog told us.
Suyog had always wanted to create a business of his own. So, a few years after college, Suyog and Anu decided to found Driftaway Coffee, a coffee roasting and subscription company that could satisfy their desire for a perfect cup of joe.
Six years after its founding, Driftaway Coffee appeals to a wide range of people who enjoy the company’s mission. Millennial singles and couples are some of its most devoted clients, but the company serves coffee-loving folks of all ages.
All of its subscribers share a common interest: making coffee that’s tastier than what they can buy at a coffee shop for a much lower price.
“A subscription is usually initiated by one person in a couple who is interested in upping their coffee game at home,” Suyog said.
One reason Driftaway Coffee has been so successful is that it helps subscribers learn what they like in a cup of joe. When someone signs up for a subscription, they receive four two-ounce bags of different roasts to try and figure out which beans and roasts they like best.
Once users fill out a taste profile, the company sends them a bag that fits exactly what they’re looking for. If a couple drinks a lot of coffee, for example, they may opt to receive a new bag in the mail every week. If they drink less coffee, they may choose a bi-weekly or a monthly subscription.
Each shipment of the company’s most popular plan comes with 11 ounces of beans to make 22 cups of coffee, and, if subscribers commit to a plan for six months, their flat price is reduced.
Driftaway also offers gift subscriptions and even an option for cold brew bags.
“We have a busy holiday season every year because people are giving subscriptions as gifts. These are fairly similar to the subscriptions people would buy for themselves, but they end after the term,” Suyog said.
Driftaway Coffee ensures that subscribers don’t receive stale coffee that’s been sitting too long on the shelf, and they aren’t going to send out ground coffee to subscribers, as freshness is one of the problems that Suyog and Anu set out to solve in the first place.
“The coffee is in an ideal window to start drinking as soon as you receive it,” Suyog said.
Another way that Driftaway differentiates itself from other coffee subscription companies is through the relationships that it develops with coffee growers.
When subscribers receive a bag of coffee, they also receive plenty of information about the coffee beans and their origins.
“There are postcards with every kit that tell the story of the producers, as well as from us describing how we chose the producer,” Suyog said.
He added that the postcard feature is particularly popular with customers.
Those relationships continue through the Farmer Feedback program. Driftaway customers can share their thoughts about various beans, which, in turn, lets the farmer know what beans to grow next.
“We collect feedback and share the information in a final feedback report with the farmers,” Suyog said. “That includes the rating, the review, and price, and how much people value their product. It’s helpful for them to know what to grow the next year.”
Unlike other coffee shops and subscription services, Driftaway is also committed to coffee research and sustainability. When Suyog and Anu visited coffee growers, they discovered that many farmers were worried about diseases and pests that could harm their crops. After that realization, the company began donating five cents for every pound of coffee sold to coffee-related research.
“Nobody has mapped the DNA of the coffee seed or plant, so nobody knows what’s going on with it, essentially. We want to know how coffee can survive into the future,” Suyog said.
Many of the biggest names in coffee also donate to the nonprofit World Coffee Research. The more that is known about the coffee bean, the more effectively farmers can grow beans in the future.
“This research is not going to help just us; it’s going to help everybody,” Suyog said.
With its commitment to farmers and sustainability, Driftaway Coffee also wanted a culture that connected with consumers, so Suyog and Anu built a team of artists and professionals who could help them consider what the coffee market needed.
“We made a conscious decision to bring in people who didn’t have coffee experience, and some don’t even drink coffee,” he said.
This team has helped brand Driftaway Coffee as a company that sells the simple joy of coffee.
“We’re changing out everything we use in terms of materials, so that it can be composted. Everything — the ink, the paper, the mailer. It should not exist in six to nine months.” — Suyog Mody, Co-Founder of Driftaway Coffee
“People dig the simplicity of the design and packaging. We use a minimal amount of materials and don’t include too much in the package. It comes through as well-designed product,” Suyog told us.
Driftaway also introduced packaging that biodegrades soon after customers are finished with it.
“We’re changing out everything we use in terms of materials, so that it can be composted. Everything — the ink, the paper, the mailer. It should not exist in six to nine months,” Suyog said.
As of now, the coffee trade is not a sustainable one, either in terms of consumer packaging or growing practices. A recent study found that only 48% of coffee beans were grown using sustainable practices. At that rate, there may not even be enough coffee to fill the global demand 20 years from now.
That’s why Driftaway is working so hard to help create long-term solutions to ensure that farmers receive the tools necessary to grow environmentally-responsible coffee and earn a fair wage. The company also wants to diminish its own eco-footprint as much as possible.
“We are worried about our impact on the planet, so we’re going to double down on the sustainability front,” Suyog said.