Outdoor physical activity and good organic coffee. These two ingredients have been cornerstones in my life for as long as I can recall. Unfortunately, when I’m out for a full day of play in the outdoors, good coffee usually isn’t readily available. If it is, the options tend to leave much to be desired. At least that was the case until recently. Enter Cusa coffee’s new instant cold brew.
I have thousands of backpacking miles under my belt fueled by Cusa’s instant premium teas, so I’m familiar with their quality standards. And while I genuinely enjoy the taste and health benefits of premium tea, there are times when only a good cup of coffee will do. However, the instant coffee market is limited, and the options I was familiar with left much to be desired in terms of flavor and quality.
Why Quality Coffee Matters
After years of working as a barista at many different coffee shops, and being fortunate enough to drink coffee that’s in the top 1% worldwide in terms of quality, my standards are high. Unfortunately, this means gas station coffee and cheap instant packets no longer cut it.
I realize my coffee snobbery level probably sounds off the charts right now, so let me explain. When it comes to coffee (and tea), quality really does matter. Aside from organic being better for the environment, it’s also better for you. Conventional coffee is one of the most heavily chemically treated crops in the world, being sprayed with a myriad of chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides, all with questionable safety profiles. Due to the known ability of agricultural chemicals to cause a large number of negative health effects, I like to avoid them when I can.
Furthermore, mold toxicity (via mycotoxins) is a real concern for coffee drinkers. You know that jittery, anxious feeling that you sometimes feel after you drink coffee? It may be an issue of quantity (too much), but often it’s due to the mold and chemical contamination. For these reasons, drinking a quality source is important to me. In that regard, Cusa’s new cold brew fits my needs.
I had the opportunity to sample several of Cusa’s new instant coffee varieties, including the Dark Roast, Medium Roast, Vanilla Dark Roast, and Lemon Dark Roast. When evaluating an instant coffee, there are a few key factors I’m examining. These include taste, dissolvability in hot and cold water, quality (organic), and convenience (single serving packets).
With Cusa’s instant cold brew coffees, all are 100% organic, arabica coffee, satisfying my need for quality. They come in single serving packets that are intended to be mixed with 8-10 ounces of water, according to the instructions. I like my coffee pretty strong, so using ~6 ounces of water or multiple packets in a larger amount of water, depending on my caffeine needs, was the way to go.
I tested some of the varieties in cold water and some in hot water and each dissolved completely, either instantly or with a small bit of agitation (e.g. stirring or shaking in a jar/bottle). That part is crucial for my needs on trail since I want the ease of simply dumping a packet into my water bottle, shaking and caffeinating. Sometimes I carry a stove, but often I don’t, so cold water dissolvability is key for me.
I tested the Medium Roast in 6 ounces of cold almond milk. It dissolved well and the taste was strong and paired perfectly with the nut milk. The Dark Roast I tested in 8 ounces of hot water and found it to be full bodied with a balanced flavor. That one was probably my favorite. For the Vanilla Dark Roast, I used 8 ounces of hot water. The vanilla flavor was well balanced, but the brew was not full bodied enough for my taste, and I’ll reduce the volume of liquid next time. I prepared the Lemon Dark Roast in 8 ounces of cold water. The lemon is quite apparent and while I personally did not care for this flavor combination, I can see how one might find it quite refreshing on a hot afternoon.
I will always love the ritual of making a hot cup of french press or stove top espresso at home, but there are myriad ways Cusa’s coffee makes my on-the-go caffeine needs more convenient. I can stash a few packets in my day pack for a day in the mountains or on the river. I also keep a few packets in my glove box ICCE (in case of caffeine emergency). And Cusa’s tea and/or coffee packets are the ideal choice to send myself in resupply boxes for my multi-month thru-hikes. I also envision these being great for long travel days when I’m not interested in paying $6 for a cup of crappy airport coffee (which is always).
In addition to Cusa’s new caffeine free herbal line of teas (which are also excellent), I’m genuinely excited for the recent addition of premium cold brew coffee to the Cusa family.
In full disclosure, this product was sent to me free of charge. However, I have no ongoing relationship with Cusa. In addition to a few other organic instant coffees, it continues to be one of my favorites.