Jiva Coffee Cubes:
There has been a fair amount of chatter within the hiking community over the last week or two regarding a coffee called “Jiva Cubes” which makes little coffee cubes that you put into hot water and in a few seconds you have yourself a hot cup of coffee.
Jiva Cubes Inc. is a small business that is based out of Miami, Florida USA that got started a few years on kickstarter. Their first attempt did not work out ($3,671 pledged of $15,000 goal) but their second time around did work out for them ($21,173 pledged of $1,000 goal). Their third kickstarter product was a huge success for them ($82,012 pledged of $15,000 goal) and really got their name out there.
Their most recent kickstarter project is setup to develop a new coffee flavor simply called “Black Coffee Cubs” and has already reached it goal of $15,000 USD and I am personally really looking forward to the black cubes, as they offer two or three times the amount of caffeine over their existing cubes. I gladly supported this project.
How Does It Work?
Jiva cubes are compressed soluble coffee and panela that come in neat little packages.
You simply heat up some water, throw the cubes into your cup, give it 30 seconds, stir, and you are good to go (add sugar if you find the panela not sweet enough).
Below are photos of how this process works. I have used a glass bowl so that you can see distribution of the cube as it softens up. I have used 8oz of 210°(f) water.
Jiva Cubes keeps it simple:
Panela is the juice extracted from sugar cane, dehydrated and then crystallized through an evaporation process, which makes it so that it is neither refined, nor a chemically processed, sugar product. It tastes somewhat like molasses only not as strong. I found this neat little video that shows panela being made.
Granulated coffee is another term for ‘instant coffee’ which is another term for ‘soluble coffee’. This is the same thing that other ‘instant coffee’ used by hikers is made from, be it Starbucks Via or Nescafe or such. There are two main ways of producing soluble coffee, freeze drying and spray drying.
I do not know which of these processes is being used, but my guess is that they are using the spray drying process. (update June 28, 2014) According to Jiva the soluble coffee is produced via the freeze drying method (ref).
Both the panela and the soluble coffee are being manufactured by a company in Bucaramanga Colombia. They are, for all intents and purposes, these with rebranding.
Each cube of the ‘classic flavor’ provides 32 mg of caffeine.
Each cube of the ‘strong classic flavor’ provides 52 mg of caffeine.
Each cube of the ‘black flavor’ (not yet available, at time of writing) provides 100 mg of caffeine.
As for flavor, I have found the ‘classic flavor’ to be a rather weak flavored coffee (8oz of water) and akin to coffee that you might find in the Caribbean nation – flavorful but not strong.
The cost of a box of 24 cubes shipped to my door results in each cube costing ~$0.80 (eighty cents, USD).
I find I have to use two cubes in my standard cup of trail coffee. This places the cost per cup at $1.60 per cup, which is two to three times more expensive than a cup of coffee made with Via or Nescafe, and at least $1.50 more expensive than using ground coffee and a GSI coffee maker – which is my preferred method of making coffee on the trail at this point – per cup.
When the ‘strong classic flavor’ is available that will help reduce costs and the amount of cubes I have to carry – and I am very much looking forward to the black flavor, in hopes that a single cube will be enough.
I happen to enjoy both mild flavor coffee (the best I’ve had was on the Island of Trinidad) and really strong flavor coffee. When I am at home I typically consume Dark Piñon from New Mexico Coffee Company for dark/strong coffee, and Jamaica Blue Mountain ‘Peaberry‘ for mild/high-flavor coffee). I do like Starbucks Via, but only the Christmas Blend, which I usually order a case of each year.
Overall the ‘classic flavor’ falls somewhere in between the Peaberry and the Dark Piñon that I use at home. Compared to the semi-strong and spicy Christmas Blend Via, the Jiva ‘classic flavor’ loses big time – and is almost twice as expensive per cube/package.
Ok, if you care about any of this… you should be ashamed to call yourself a coffee drinker :-p
Each cube will give you an extra 30 calories for your overall daily intake of the ever precious calorie count we hikers face.
The 6 grams of sugars comes from the panela, which is used to bond together the soluble coffee.
The 25 mg of sodium is somewhat surprising. Suppose that is also a result of the panela.
What Other Hikers Have Said:
Most hikers I know like their coffee and like it strong.
When compared to taking ground coffee and the GSI coffee filter, the Jiva Cubes (classic flavor, again, that is all that has been available) there is just no comparison – the ground coffee wins by a mile.
When compared to other soluble coffee on the market, I find Starbucks Via (I have tried every flavor released) to be stronger, but also more acidic – so a win for both (via for better flavor/strength, jiva for having a milder acidity). I do not like the soluble coffee from Nescafe at all, so not even worth comparing in my book.
From a cost perspective Jiva needs to work on bringing their pricing down by about a third in order to be competitive. For a weekend hiking trip the extra cost might not be noticeable, but for a 30 to 100 day hike, the extra costs for the Jiva would add up very quickly.
From a convenience perspective I think the Jiva falls in between Via and ground coffee. Via is crazy fast, just open pour, stir and drink – waiting 30 seconds for it to dissolve is just not necessary. Compared to my favorite method of using ground coffee and the gsi filter, well, that takes a fair amount longer than 30 seconds.
Should you buy some? If you are somebody that does not mine drinking soluble coffee and are willing to try something new, sure, go for it and order up their sample pack when it is available. Personally, I will not be placing any more orders until their much stronger ‘black flavor’ is available, for as I said above, the cost of using two cubes to make it semi-strong is just not economical in my mind – the exception would be if you like fairly weak coffee.
What I do plan on ordering is their Hot Chocolate cubes. I really do loving having hot chocolate while out hiking (at night, so it warms me up, but doesn’t keep me up like coffee would) and normally the package of hot chocolate is perfectly fine to take with me, but I am thinking that the size of these little cubes, along with the less amount of trash to carry out, and the less mess (if you have ever dropped your open package of hot chocolate inside your tent while trying to make it, you know what a mess a package of hot chocolate can make) means the Jiva Hot Chocolate cubes could win out big-time. It would still be significantly more expensive than normal packaged hot chocolate (~$0.25 cents for marshmallow hot cocoa) when the Jiva hot cocoa cubes end up costing $0.79 cents per cube shipped to my door – ouch!
So, all said and done, do I like these Jiva Cubes?
Yes, I do. They have a nice flavor and are very convenient. If their pricing can be brought down to a more market-competitive price and they get a stronger flavor cube available, I would very likely switch over to these Jiva cubes.
In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.