Caffeine-free coffee shop does well in NYC, despite rumors of a cultural apocalypse

Swiss Water pop-up
© Swiss Water (via Twitter)

Swiss Water is a coffee company that uses a unique water-based decaffeination method to remove 99.9% of caffeine while maintaining the beans' integrity. The result is a fabulous cup of coffee without - gasp! - any caffeine.

New Yorkers expressed great shock and outrage, mixed with a good amount of admiration, for a pop-up coffee shop that set up in Soho this past week. This coffee shop dared to do something that no other coffee shop in New York would ever dream of doing – serve only decaffeinated coffee! Yes, you heard me right: there wasn’t cup of regular stuff in sight.

And yet, for Canadian coffee company Swiss Water, which wants to improve its brand recognition south of the border, the pop-up shop was a big hit. New Yorkers were sufficiently intrigued by the blasphemous idea of decaf to keep its baristas busy for a week, pulling beautiful shots of espresso and foaming milk for gorgeous lattes.

Swiss Water explained that it’s not trying to prevent anyone from enjoying caffeine, but wants to provide a high-quality alternative for those coffee lovers who, “for social reasons, anxiety reasons, or health reasons, just don’t want to get jazzed up at 7 p.m. The goal is to say there is an alternative and it’s delicious.”

Swiss Water is known for pioneering a water-based decaffeination process in 1933 that removes 99.9 percent of the caffeine without altering the taste of the beans. Seventy to 80 percent of other decaffeination methods rely on chemicals, which remove some of the beans’ natural components and alter its character.

Reactions to the shop were strong. The phrase “cultural apocalypse” was tossed around. Quartz’s executive editor Zach Seward tweeted:

The Gothamist made reference to "fake coffee drinks" and wrote that “caffeine can cure your hangover, save your life, and make your colleagues moderately tolerable at 9 a.m. And now some Canadian weirdos are taking it away from us.”

Not everyone is freaked out by the so-called Canadian weirdos. Lots of happy, caffeine-free customers are tweeting about their great cups of coffee, which goes to show that Swiss Water is on to something. There is a time and place for decaf, even if New Yorkers hate to admit it. I know that I had to cut down drastically on my caffeine consumption while pregnant and nursing my infant children, and it would have been wonderful to have a really great cup of decaf, not the insipid-tasting wannabes that I ended up drinking. Swiss Water’s cleaner and chemical-free process makes it all the more appealing.

Since Swiss Water’s pop-up shop closed yesterday, you will have to look for its decaf elsewhere. Search online to find the nearest vendor, and then judge for yourself. Do you really think there’s a cultural apocalypse pending? Somehow I doubt it. You might even go back for more.

Tags: Canada | Coffee | Drinks | New York City

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