You’re in the middle of class. There are thirty minutes left. Suddenly, the classroom starts to blur—you’re drifting off to sleep. As you struggle to maintain consciousness, you grab your cup of coffee only to discover that it's empty. What are you going to do? You can’t step out to buy a cup of coffee; the line will be too long. If only there was a faster way to get your coffee fix. But wait—COBA has just the solution you’re looking for.

What is COBA?

Sarah Fung

COBA is an up and coming startup founded by people who want to reinvent the coffee experience. In order to make coffee more convenient for people on the go, COBA is launching a line of signature coffee bars. That’s right. Coffee bars. At first glance, COBA coffee bars look like any other chocolate bar, but COBA substitutes cocoa with a coffee base. The result: a bar that holds about 100 mg of caffeine, about the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

Meet the Team

Photo courtesy of Joshua Han

Two friends—Douglas Kim and Peter Lee—came together to establish COBA in 2016. It began when Peter was travelling through South America on a journey for good coffee. While he was searching for coffee, he realized that coffee is hard to enjoy on the go because of the various factors affecting the taste. Meanwhile, Douglas was frequenting a café when he wondered why coffee couldn’t come in a solid form. Instead, it is always served as a liquid.

With these thoughts in mind, they came together to produce coffee in the form of a bar. Later, they met Joshua Han, who is now in charge of operations and development. In addition to these three, COBA houses other individuals who are helping the startup become the next big coffee company—many of whom are Berkeley students. We recently met up with Joshua Han, and he answered all the burning questions we had about the startup.

How did you decide on the recipe?

Photo courtesy of Joshua Han

"The milk bar, our main product, has about 180 iterations. To choose just one, last semester during finals week, we posted on Facebook and gave bars away on campus. We then asked in a survey how much caffeine people would want in a single bar. About 50 percent said 100 mg. In terms of taste, we simply had to put our foot down, since taste is subjective. Currently, we are trying to reduce the amount of waste, since grinding coffee beans wastes about 80 percent of the caffeine."

Where do you get your coffee beans?

Photo courtesy of Joshua Han

"We get our beans from Ecuador. Peter has a personal friend who lives in Ecuador and is connected to two farmers, Julio and Juan. He took a trip down there two to three weeks ago to meet them and source beans from them. They grow their coffee trees on the mountain side and do their entire work by hand. Because of the amount of manual labor that goes into this, we’re hoping to help small farmers like them through this project."

Whom are you hoping will buy COBA bars?

Sarah Fung

"We started this because we’re young college students, young professionals who often need coffee, and just people who want to shed some minutes off of their day. These are the people we identify with the most and the ones that have shown the most enthusiasm about the project. Eventually, we’d like to target office spaces."

Tell us about the recent success of your Kickstarter campaign.

Sarah Fung

"We actually started our Kickstarter twice, since the first one had some technical difficulties with the Kickstarter policy. But our second one was even more successful. Our initial goal was $7,500, which we broke within 24 hours. Then for the second launch, we put our goal up to $10,000, and we also broke that within 24 hours. I think we were successful, since we had raised a lot of awareness for the first one, so we already had a lot support the second time around. And news publications, like NowThis on Facebook, shared our story as well."

What are your plans now after the success of your Kickstarter?

Photo courtesy of Joshua Han

"Right after the Kickstarter, we're hoping to launch an e-commerce website, so that people can purchase bars on a monthly basis through a subscription. We're also considering selling on Amazon Prime. Another idea is to have a soft launch on campus or even become a vendor for the UC system."

"We also want to launch new flavors. Currently, the milk bar is our main product, but we realize some people are vegan or lactose-intolerant. They might also just want new flavors, like a mocha-flavored chocolate bar. But of course, these are simply our future ambitions."

The Post-Interview Taste Test

Sarah Fung

After the interview, we had the opportunity to try the COBA dark (vegan) coffee bars. We all agreed they tasted fantastic. Even before the first bite, we could smell the rich aroma of the coffee roast. The bars had both the sweetness of a chocolate bar and the bitterness of fresh black coffee, and the bar melted nicely in our mouths.

Curious to taste these bars yourself? While they've reached their Kickstarter goal, you can still pledge to support their campaign right now and get a set of COBA bars delivered this December. Soon, you can have your coffee at any time and anywhere.