After growing tired of caffeinated beverages laden with copious amounts of sugar and caffeine during UC Berkeley 2018 finals week, two campus seniors started a coffee company to provide energy without the jitters.
Campus seniors Ofek Arush and George Passantino developed the idea for their company to create an alternative to coffee drinks that made them feel anxious, jittery and unhealthy, which inspired the “healthy, jitter-less” concoction, according to Passantino. The two hit the ground running with the development of their company, Quokka Brew.
“We then set out to build from the ground up a better overall coffee,” Passantino said in an email. “We always joke around and say that coming up with the idea was the easiest part.”
The following five months after their finals week experience, Arush and Passantino started the research and development stage of creating their “jitter-less” coffee. The process went through multiple stages, trying different roast options, as well as testing amino acids and extracts that negate the side effects of caffeine. The two went through 75 pounds of coffee and about 200 combinations until they settled on the final blend, according to Passantino.
To finalize the coffee’s formula, Arush and Passantino partnered with a beverage formulator company in Southern California. They also partnered with Peerless Coffee & Tea, an Oakland-based roaster that won 2019 Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine. After trials and tests, Quokka Brew was born in February 2019.
Soon after the company’s birth, however, Arush and Passantino hit unchartered territory.
“This period was very difficult and was a testament to how much we believed in this and ourselves,” Passantino said in an email. “Many told us that a jitter-less coffee could not be made and that we were just wasting our time.”
Passantino and Arush proved their doubters wrong. With 135 mg of caffeine, 15 calories and a gram of sugar, Quokka Brew is sold at the Berkeley Student Food Collective, Cheese n’ Stuff and through the company’s online store. The company hopes to expand to a few distributors and restaurants in the coming months, according to Passantino.
The co-creators developed Quokka with the intent to improve consumers’ overall health, as well as “revolutionizing the coffee industry from the ground up,” Passantino said in an email.
“When Ofek and I really started to look deeper into the idea of creating a jitter-less coffee we realized that this is a concept with such a high potential that the world genuinely needed,” Passantino said in the email. “We saw this as something that would genuinely positively impact people’s lives and would lead them to be healthier and more productive versions of themselves.”