How the Coffee Gator dream went from an idea to reality

How the Coffee Gator dream was born (via South America, Cardiff and generic chains)

Posted by Coffee Gator

How come no one else found it as disgusting as me? That’s what I asked myself as I poured away the revolting stream of nastiness and threw the cup in the bin. 

Bad coffee

I was taking an early morning flight and I’d been forced to wait in line for the only coffee available (I won’t mention any names but it was from a well-known chain that rhymes with jar pucks). It was bitter, burnt and it took me all of one sip to decide my morning would fare much better without it.

The annoying thing was I knew coffee could and should be so much more.

It’s a ritual. it’s a passion. And when you realize that, every cup becomes so much better. 

That’s why I created Coffee Gator - to help people drink better coffee. I want everyone to discover the ‘secrets’ to making great coffee AND provide them with beautiful products that make it a total breeze.

The truth is, making your own coffee is a lot less complicated than many people think. You don’t need a chemistry degree, a refractometer or a hipster beard to make yourself a great cup of coffee. PLUS, when it’s brewed by your own fair hand, your reward levels go through the roof.

Let's skip back to 2007 when the seeds of Coffee Gator were sewn.

It was a stereotypically wet and cold morning in Wales. That’s when it happened. But I had no idea it would change my life.

I noticed a new stall at the local farmers' market. The guy running it was tall and stocky with a round face and a big grin. There was a long line of people waiting to buy from the newcomer (whilst busying themselves with feigning an intense interest in the organic rhubarb on the next stand).

The sign on his stall read ‘The Caffeine Kid’. I wasn’t completely oblivious - it wasn’t the first time I’d seen a coffee stand. But it was the first time I’d seen anyone with such energy and passion and a LONG line of people waiting to be part of it.

As I ordered a coffee his enthusiasm shone through like a beacon. He couldn’t wait to regale me with the story of the coffee he was using. He’d been to Guatemala and met the grower himself.

The Caffeine Kid in Cardiff

These very beans had helped him win the UK Barista Championship (I didn’t know what a barista was at the time, I had a vague idea it was something to do with the British legal system). 

I walked away inspired if a little jealous. ‘If only I could be so passionate about what I was doing’. 

It wasn’t until many years later I realized that morning was the first (very small) step towards building something that would change my life…something that would take me out of my dreary office job and living with the same kind of passion I saw that morning.

But Coffee Gator was still many years in the future. 

In the days and weeks after that…absolutely nothing happened. Nada, zip, zilch, rien de tout. There was a similarly unproductive theme even for the months and years after that. The universe wouldn’t give me my next clue for another 7 years or so. 

I was bitten. Again. This time it really hurt - blood was running down my arm.

This is where the story starts to get really interesting. I was halfway through a 4-day trek of the Colombian jungle and the mosquitos were feasting on my pasty, white skin. Nothing would stop the incessant blighters. Despite that, I had a far more serious problem on my mind.

(Here's me putting on a brave face)

Phil on a trek in Colombia

I woke up cold and British, which means I was craving a cup of tea. The problem was there was no tea, not so much as a shop for 90 miles - let alone a McStarbucks. The only supplies we had were being hauled through the jungle on the sweaty back of an unfortunate tour guide. Needless to say, he didn’t cater to the tastes of mollycoddled Brits such as myself. 

When we set up camp there was only one hot drink on offer - freshly brewed Colombian coffee. No milk, no sugar, no napkins (scandalously not even Apple Pay). There was no way I could drink it like that. I was a proud instant coffee drinker. Brewed coffee was too strong for me. As a bare minimum, it would need milk to make it fit for human consumption. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

Imagine my shock - this was not the bitter, acid taste I’d mustered up the courage to subject my unrefined palate to. What was washing around my mouth was smooth and a little sweet. I could even detect a certain fruitiness to it.

That day changed my view of coffee. It would also change my life. 

On the rest of my travels, I visited coffee farms in Guatemala and Vietnam, spoke to growers and fell in love - one cup at a time.

Coffee adventures in South America

But it didn’t end there. Four years later, my growing passion (and frustration) led to the birth of Coffee Gator. 

Back home, I loved brewing my own coffee. There were a few things that impressed me less. I didn’t love the products on the market. They were either poor quality or overpriced, overdesigned and complicated. There was nothing for the home coffee fan like me. I wanted beautiful products that I’d be proud to show my friends but didn’t require a chemistry degree and a refractometer to use (don’t worry, I don’t really know what a refractometer does either). 

After just a few hours of intense focus and application, I devised a fiendishly clever codename for my new coffee project: It would be called ‘Project Coffee’. 

That was August 2015 and a LOT has happened since then. Every day I’m overwhelmed by the love we get from our customers (like this video someone posted on youtube - I don’t know this cool cat - he just loves what we do). 

Seeing stuff like this is an amazing feeling. 

Learning about coffee has changed my life so now I’m on a mission to help you #DrinkBetterCoffee.

Phil and the Coffee Gator story

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