HUNTSVILLE – FigBrew had its third anniversary recently, celebrating the occasion with an intimate party at their office on Leeman Ferry Road that drew friends, reporters and even Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle to have a sip of the company’s java offerings that included its Figgee mixed into the regular, decaffeinated or straight up brews.
But also know this – fig as an alternative, or “Coffee’s Mellow Mate’’ as FigBrew subtitles its brand, is much older. Andy and Marianne Whitehead co-founded their business based on an ancient health secret that was originally misunderstood.
“It’s been around for hundreds of years, so we’re not inventing anything,” Andy Whitehead, who along with his wife Marianne co-founded FigBrew a few years after he sold his research company in Research Park. “We’re just reintroducing it.”
Fig as a coffee additive got a bad reputation when it was first introduced in olden times. Coffee sellers used it to “cut” their supply with fig to stretch it for bigger profits. A funny thing happened on the way to riches for the merchants, however, when it was eventually discovered fig was benefitting coffee drinkers.
“These coffee supplements originally had a bad connotation because hundreds of years ago, the coffee manufacturers would add them to the coffee to increase their margins and they wouldn’t tell the customer,” Whitehead said. “So it got a bad rap, yeah. But as it turns out, there’s a very good reason to do it and it’s actually very healthy.
“Figs are remarkable for many reasons.’’
Whitehead explains the benefits, not just for health but environmental reasons as well.
“It’s a coffee supplement made from a single ingredient, figs that are roasted and ground,” he said. “It looks like coffee, brews like coffee, smells like coffee. It’s intended to be as much like coffee as possible, but you add it before brewing to your favorite coffee to make it more sustainable, healthier, tastier, less expensive and more inclusive. I mean, the coffee culture itself has real sustainability issues, right? Industry forecasters say coffee will cease to exist as we know it by 2050 because of deforestation, climate change and disease.
“So before that happens, it’s gonna get very expensive. On top of that, you have a subset of hardcore coffee drinkers. You’re just gonna age out of coffee because of adverse health conditions. They develop heart arrhythmias, gastric reflux, and high blood pressure. And so they need to scale back. So this not only makes the coffee culture more inclusive to accommodate those kinds of drinkers, it also makes it more sustainable so that going forward into the future you can still drink your morning Cup of Joe at a reasonable price.”
Health claims of adding figs to a diet include:
- Acid and caffeine reduction
- Reducing inflammation and nervousness
- Improved heart health
- Lower blood pressure
- Immune system boost
- Better circulation
- Increased stamina
- Combats cell damage
- Supports brain health
Figgee is added to espressos or drips by replacing part of the coffee before brewing. It can also be brewed solo, and it also comes in K-Cups.
FigBrew was recently selected as one of five Huntsville-based companies to join a cohort by gBETA Huntsville, which is under the umbrella of national venture capital firm gener8tor, to participate in its accelerator program. The initiative is a combined effort by gener8tor and Apollo Foundation to create the accelerator in partnership with Innovate Alabama.
The nationally ranked firm gener8tor supports startups, workers, employers, artists and musicians across race, place and gender.
The gBETA Huntsville program is a seven-week accelerator designed to set a path for startups to pursue investment opportunities. Startup founders receive intensive concierge coaching and access to gener8tor’s national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners and investors.
“Our goal is really to connect these companies with 30 mentors, 25 investors, and help the companies to work in and on the business to be ready to talk to investors,” Rochelle Silvieira, project manager for gBETA Huntsville/gener8tor, said during FigBrew’s birthday bash. “Our goal is to prepare them and get ’em ready to talk to people with the money.”
Of gBETA and gener8tor’s recent presence in Huntsville, Silviera said, “It’s an acknowledgement that now all the good ideas are thought of in Silicon Valley. There’s smart people in other places.”
At www.figbrew.com, customers can purchase 6.5-ounce refillable tins or bags, single-serve pods and 2-pound refill bags. Currently, Harrison Brothers downtown and Star Super Market in Five Points carry some of the products. Offerings include Mellow Mix, Cacao Blend, Beetroot Blend and Chai Blend.
“We have very lofty goals to change the way that people look at coffee,” Whitehead said. “It is a one of a kind product. It’s very unique. There’s not another coffee alternative or coffee supplement out there that I’m aware of that they advocate to add before brewing.”
To view and/or order FigBrew products, visit www.figbrew.com or follow on social media.