Mean Mug, partnering with Roj Syrups, wins award for best product at NYC Coffee Festival

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 2, 2023

SALISBURY — When the CEO of Mean Mug Coffee Company, Evelyn Medina, walked into The New York Coffee Festival in Manhattan earlier this month with her team, they found themselves talking to thousands of people about a new product they brought to the event.

Bigger coffee syrup companies from all over the world were at the festival, including Routin 1883 and Monin, two coffee and alcohol syrup companies based in France, and Torani Syrup, a company based in Italy. But nobody was talking about them.

People wanted to know about Mean Mug’s newly introduced product: Geisha Cascara Syrup. Mean Mug partnered with and became a distributor of Roj Syrups, which is based in Guatemala, and which took on the difficult task of creating the cascara syrup.

“So we’re talking to people and talking to people. And the first day goes by and the second day goes by and then on the third day everything is kind of winding down and here comes all these folks with awards in their hands. They stop at our booth and they tell us ‘congratulations, you just won best product of the convention,'” Medina shared, seemingly still in disbelief at the achievement.

“We were like ‘what?’ And they said ‘yeah, hands down your product is the best product in the entire convention,'” she continued.

The next thing she knew, these “suited people” started coming by the Mean Mug booth. As she was talking to them about the syrup, Medina noticed these people were from Routin 1883, Monin and Torani “to see what we were all about.” But she has no plans to partner with any of those companies.

“We want to be as big as those companies,” Medina said.

Medina explained the difficult process of creating the award-winning syrup.

Coffee comes from a fruit called a coffee cherry. When the cherry gets peeled open, you get two little coffee beans that you process into coffee. The skin of that cherry is known as cascara, from the Spanish cáscara, meaning “husk.” The skin, or coffee husk, is usually just thrown away, used for fertilizer or added to compost. It’s like when you peel an orange. You eat the orange slices and you throw away the orange peel. The coffee husk is equivalent to an orange peel.

The thought was, instead of throwing away the coffee husk, could it be useful?

“My friends at Roj for the last 5 years have been trying to come up with a use for that husk to make a coffee type syrup that doesn’t taste like coffee but has all the properties of coffee,” Medina said.

Medina’s friend and business partner, Alexander Kachler, who is also the CEO of Roj Syrups, was up for the task. Kachler used geisha, a type of coffee variety that is known for floral and sweet notes. After taking the coffee beans out of the geisha and collecting the leftover cascara, or husk, Kachler dried it. He spent three years figuring out the best way to dry the coffee husk to make it suitable for turning into syrup, while maintaining its sweet flavor.

“You have to dry it in a very specific way. When you cut the coffee beans and you separate them into beans and then the coffee husk, that’s where the process starts. You have to dry it as soon as possible or else it will get moldy,” Kachler explained. “The drying process has to be perfect because if you dry it too much you lose the flavors. After this we take the coffee husk to our factory, we crush it until it’s like dust, then we extract all the flavor, mix it with hot water and create the syrup”

Kachler, who was also at the coffee festival in Manhattan, said winning the best product award was validation for years of hard work.

“It was really amazing. It took a lot of years to get this product done. We were just super happy to build recognition for this product that shows the sustainability that we were looking for in our products,” Kachler said. “Here in Guatemala people are asking a lot of questions. It’s getting interesting now.”

“Because of what it takes for finding the variety, there really is no product out there that’s made quite like this in the world,” Medina added.

Mean Mug is also opening a new store at 1621 W. Innes St, Salisbury, NC 28144, where the Winston-Salem company BYGood Coffee used to be located before closing. Mean Mug is hoping to have the store up and running by the middle of May.