Jonathan Chiu is from Melbourne, so he’s fully aware of the challenges involved in launching yet another coffee company. But Minor Figures – started with friends Stuart Forsyth and Will Rixon – exists because the three friends feel there's a clear gap in Australia’s coffee culture: a product to sit between limited shelf-life small-batch brews in glass bottles, and big-brand ice coffees, which may last longer and be easier to transport, but are, well, less good: full of guar gum (a thickening agent that could have harmful digestive side effects) and carrageenan (also a thickening and emulsifying agent, also linked by some to tummy troubles), “all sorts of crazy stuff.”
“The quality and the values of speciality coffee come through in our product, but it’s still accessible,” says Chiu. For accessible, read “take anywhere-able”, from camping at a festival to the walk to work. The brand’s two brews are all-natural: Cold Brew Coffee & Organic Milk (a cold-brewed blend of 70 per cent Brazilian and 30 per cent Sumatran coffee with certified organic milk, with a nine-month self life) and Cold Brew Coffee: Straight Black (single origin coffee – this batch is Ethiopian Guji – and filtered water, with a twelve-month shelf life). To make the drink last without using preservatives, the team developed a bespoke brew system. Reverse osmosis (RO) filtered water gets “a really clean product,” Chiu explains. “A tiny bit of nitrogen is pumped into the tetra-pack just before it's sealed with foil. That keeps it super fresh with or without a fridge.”
“Minor Figures is much lighter and cleaner than most cold brews,” he says. “It's full flavoured but not bitter: something thirst-quenching.” The team isn’t just looking after your caffeine cravings. To stop the used grounds going to landfill, it has created a Coffee Soap and Coffee Scrub, both handmade in the warehouse. A percentage of sales from these products goes to Project Waterfall, working to give coffee-growing communtities access to cleanwater.
Chiu insists the brand isn’t about “making a big splash” but the little tetra packs are winning fame of their own accord since they launched in London in August 2014. Minor Figures took out the Most Innovative Product award at this year’s London Coffee Festival – an event at which other categories were taken out by serious players such as La Marzocco and Square Mile Coffee Roasters.
But Chiu’s mission is as down-to-earth as ever: “We just want to provide good quality coffee in a relaxed, accessible way.”