LOS ANGELES — Waka Coffee & Tea, an instant coffee and tea company, has raised $725,000 in pre-seed funding from industry veterans and strategic investors. The brand plans to expand its product line and introduce redesigned packaging.
Founded in 2018, Waka Coffee & Tea sources premium Arabica beans that are freeze-dried to preserve the coffee’s aroma and depth of flavor, said founder and chief executive officer David Kovalevski. He developed the concept while juggling college courses and a full-time job in New York. Visiting coffee shops regularly became expensive, and brewing a cup at home required time and equipment in an already-cramped kitchen. Traditional instant coffee, he had discovered, often is produced using Robusta beans that are roasted in large spray-dried batches, which compromises taste, he said.
“While instant coffee remains very popular around the world, most consumers in the US have only interacted with legacy brands in the space that often pale in comparison to large specialty and premium coffee retailers,” Mr. Kovalevski said. “This presents an incredible opportunity for Waka to create a strong connection with consumers who are looking for a viable option in the instant coffee and tea categories, and we are already seeing massive spikes in interest and adoption for home, office, and on-the-go.”
Consumer preferences are shifting as viral social media trends such as whipped coffee and loaded teas are drawing younger generations to instant products, he added.
“We are inspired by the potential application of our products and are encouraged by our consumer survey findings showing a willingness to try Waka instant products versus more traditional brands,” he said.
The brand offers an assortment of instant coffee, including light and medium roasts, Colombian and Indian origins and caffeinated and decaffeinated options. Additionally, the company has added instant Kenyan black tea and Japanese matcha to its lineup. Recent additions include Ethiopian dark roast, Ethiopian light roast and Papua New Guinean medium roast coffees.
Products are packaged in recyclable packets, bags and boxes and available online and in Central Market stores in Texas. The company donates a portion of sales proceeds to support clean and safe drinking water initiatives. A refreshed brand identity is “playful, simple and approachable,” Mr. Kovalevski said.
Participating in the funding round were former Starbucks executive Joe Canterbury and former PepsiCo executive Craig Musgrove, who both joined Waka as board advisers. Additional investors include Bee Cave Capital; Chaucer Global; Scott Jensen, founder and CEO of Rhythm Superfoods; Mark Turner, CEO at HeatGen; Steven Kalifowitz, chief marketing officer at Crypto.com; and Sunil Desai, head of global brand marketing at Shopify.“Coming from one of the biggest coffee companies in the world, I believe Waka has all the right ingredients and momentum to become one of the leaders in the instant space,” Mr. Canterbury said. “I couldn’t be more excited to support them on their journey.”