Consumers are being bombarded by scientific news releases claiming breakthroughs in lab produced food like beef, kangaroo, chicken, honey, horse, shrimp, cheese, foie gras and mouse (cats only).
Almost a hundred years ago, “Brave New World” and “1984” predicted a society, in which, the government controls food production through lab-based substitutes. In the 1973 movie “Soylent Green (soy lentil)” because of overpopulation there are severe food shortages. One corporation produces half of the world’s food through food chips named Soylent Green, Soylent Yellow and Soylent Red. Soylent Green is considered the most nutritious, but it is in short supply. At the end of the movie, Charlton Heston discovers the truth that Soylent Green is recycled dead human bodies and announces that “Soylent Green is People.”
In life following fiction, Soylent, a food-substitute company was founded in 2013. The company produces processed soy-based food in the form of bars, powders, and liquids. They advertise that their products are complete meals in themselves. One of their products is mocha, a “chocolatey coffee drink.”
Now food scientists are creating bean-less coffee. They have announced that synthetic coffees will save the environment and help stop global warming by eliminating coffee orchards. However, they are ignoring the immutable Law of Unintended Consequences. Millions of people depend on coffee farming to feed their families. It is true that they are horribly exploited and underpaid for the labor. However, if coffee farming stops those people have no alternative way to survive. They are not going to become lab technicians or coffee factory workers. The migrations we have seen recently will be minuscule compared to hundreds of thousands of families moving into cities and other countries trying to survive.
Coffee scientists, who are micro-fixated only on global warming, might want to remember that Dr. Frankenstein’s monster turned on him and tried to kill him.
Currently, there are three lab produced coffees in process, but more are on their way.
Atomo is the only lab coffee currently on the market. It is offering eight-ounce cans of cold brewed coffee for $5.99 each. Atomo won’t reveal exactly what is in its beanless coffee, but the company says it is a mixture of dozens of compounds found in food, such as antioxidants, flavonoids and coffee acids. The cold brewed coffee cans state the ingredients are:” water, extracts of date seed, chicory root, grape skin, inulin, natural flavors, caffeine.”
Compound Foods uses synthetic biology to create coffee without coffee beans by extracting molecules from plants. Its coffee isn’t on the market yet, however, it has received $5.3 million as startup seed money.
Scientists in Finland have announced that they have created a beanless coffee in the lab from cells derived from the leaves of coffee plants. So far, no samples or products are available.
Is this the future for coffee? Will 1984’s “victory coffee” substitute become the new standard? Will we wind up like Winston in 1984 who gets a package of contraband coffee and exclaims “It’s coffee”, he murmured, “real coffee”?