When it comes to coffee, it’s all about flavor, and Greenpoint-based duo Suyog Mody and Anu Menon’s small-batch subscription service is delivering good taste in spades. Their curated coffee collection — roasted within 48 hours of an order and delivered to anywhere across the US no more than 5 days after that — is a fun and not so fanciful way of getting a cup of joe. Drift Away’s handcrafted 11 or 7 oz. fresh-seal packages, with labels inspired by vintage air mail tags, is a deliberate pairing of caffeinated form and function.
The husband-and-wife team, both marketing managers with international careers at Sapient, know a thing or two about running a successful business. Having graduated in computer science and electrical engineering, the enterprising couple were inspired by Steve Jobs’s mantra to “love what you do.” As it transpired, their love was coffee. Through a combination of barista classes and time spent roasting in evening and weekend shifts, the couple soon realized their passion could lend itself to becoming a viable enterprise.
Using friends and family as a test audience, Mody and Menon started to analyze coffee offerings at local establishments such as Joe Coffee, Toby’s Estate, Blue Bottle and Greenpoint coffee mecca Budin. They were also inspired by craft coffee carts during their time living in London’s trendy Whitechapel area. Back in New York, an inspection of roast dates confirmed freshness was critical to delivering a good cup of coffee, with most quality coffeehouses using beans within weeks of their roast date.
Secondly, the couple realized that to help make their coffee service more accessible, they needed to cut the jargon out of the equation. So in the spirit of Taste Wine Company, the budding coffee entrepreneurs settled on a combination of expert curation and customer choice. Drift Away customers receive a free tasting kit (you only pay for shipping). The kit includes four different coffees to sample, showcasing different profiles: fruity, classic, balanced and bold. Information is provided in the kits to explain a little about each coffee (more in-depth information and notes are located on their site and Coffeecadamy). Once sampled, a customer then selects their favorite profiles for the next delivery.
Drift Away sources and roasts beans, which come from across the world, to maintain a consistent flavor profile. While customers receive different beans from different farmers every month based on availability, they can be assured the beans they receive will tally to their personal preferences based on the “profile” they’ve selected. Customers in households who like different types of coffee can select more than one type of profile for their subscription. This last idea was inspired by the company’s founders, who profess to liking different types of coffee between them.
Finally after a lot of work researching manufacturers, shipping options and artful experimentation, Drift Away created an “experience” that feels crafty yet functional through custom packaging. Each package was originally hand-stamped before scale forced them to automate this part of the process (in fact the airline style tags attached to each coffee bag were actually designed before the Mody and Menon settled on a name for their business!).
Despite only having been in operation since the middle of last year, the couple now send out over 1,200 shipments across America, and that number is growing. Surprise spikes in orders, such as when a renowned tech and coffee blogger mentioned Drift Away only for 250 orders to fly in overnight, have pushed Mody and Menon into uncharted territory. Having graduated from repurposed popcorn roasters to electric ovens, then gas-powered Huky roasters, the duo were suddenly unable to fulfill demand. Enter Pulley Collective, New York’s coffee co-roasting facility, which enabled them to rent time on commercial equipment without the overheads. Working at Pulley also helps the duo meet and learn from fellow roasters, some large names on the craft coffee scene, as well as coffee veteran and owner Steve Mierisch.
The couple have also been through the motions with sourcing their beans. Initially using home roasting stalwart Sweet Maria’s, they now work with its offshoot Coffee Shrub and Brooklyn’s own Crop to Cup. Their beans are sourced, where possible, from small community farms receiving an equitable rate of return.
Drift Away’s story to date has been quite the adventure! However the team aren’t finished yet. Their latest venture, Drift Away app, is a new way for coffee lovers to experience and learn about coffee on the go. Using simple “heart/un-heart” functionality, Driftaway customers can rate the coffees they receive using the app. This determines what types of coffee they’ll receive with the next delivery. If customers want to provide more information, there’s an option to drill-down into each coffee and rate it against three further criteria. The app, like the site, also lets you talk to the team in real-time as well as browsing the Coffeecademy. Suyog Mody mentions additional functionality to be built-out to help customers find the perfect brew at nearby coffee shops based on their Drift Away profile.
The most exciting aspect of the new app is inputting your coffee preferences to find your “coffee personality.” This adds an element of fun and pride for app users. Are you a coffee “explorer?” Check out Drift Away’s app to find out.
Photos courtesy of Driftaway Coffee.