#CuppaTurns4: How we started this humble coffee start-up

#CuppaTurns4: How we started this humble coffee start-up

Warehouse shot with first Cuppa boxes 

It’s funny how time flies sometimes - six years ago we were just starting to get into our coffee journey and trying out different methods of brewing coffee: the classic Vietnamese style drip coffee we first tried out in a company visit to Vietnam, experimenting with V60 methods, using an Aeropress, and destroying multiple french presses. Like most people, we always thought that espresso machines were reserved for the “big boy” coffee shops and were certainly not accessible for mere coffee mortals like us. Looking at the options for espresso machines back then was a little daunting, but we quickly realized that yes, these machines were in fact only for professional cafes and those with enough money to throw around. 

It wasn’t until we met up with a friend living abroad who owned a to-this-day unidentifiable Gaggia espresso machine that both of us realized just how fun and amazing it is to make your own espresso at home. This was the moment it clicked in our heads that 'YES, it is possible for mere mortals and coffee noobs like us to make our own espresso at home.'

And this has been our all-consuming passion since.

We still remember those early days of trying to start our own espresso machine brand in the Philippines. There were so many questions we needed to answer like, could we really do this? Two guys who were new to coffee starting an espresso machine company? Could we even compete with the big international brands?

At the end of the day, we decided to jump in and go after our goal. We still fondly remember those early days of Cuppa: we would order different samples of espresso machines from different suppliers all over the world and the moment it would arrive, we would meet up at each others’ houses and just start pumping out different shots of espresso, taking apart and putting each machine back together to learn about the different parts and types of espresso machine just to find the sweet spot we liked. Some days we would take 10 espresso shots each just to get a good understanding of one machine.

An over-caffeinated Kyle and Aaron

Everything was new to us at the beginning, Aaron was the master mechanic taking apart the machines and speaking with suppliers, while I was working on starting the sales, branding, and marketing aspects (in fact, the original Cuppa logo was sketched in one of my old coffee notebooks).

handwritten, raw sketch of the original Cuppa logo

It took us almost two years from inception to selling our first product--two years of testing and retesting and iterating through different machines and swapping different parts that we wanted to have. We had to bootstrap ourselves and learn a lot in that time: doing our first photoshoot with friends and rented equipment, designing boxes and user manuals on our own, figuring out how to do logistics and customer service, and everything in between. Some of the foundations of our guiding principles of customer service and quality were laid in those early days.

Looking back, it was from the very beginning that this spirit of adventure and passion for excellence began for Cuppa. To this day, when we launch new products, the first question is always: “How can we do this better?” At Cuppa, we’re obsessed with making espresso machines accessible to everyone--it’s always been our goal to have everyone experience the joy of making coffee at home for themselves (this was the inspiration for Cuppa’s original tagline “espress yourself”).

Front of Cuppa HQ

It’s been quite a journey so far, from our first shipment of our CEM-101 espresso machines to developing new products like grinders and water kettles, hiring our amazing team (shoutout to Daisy, Deina, and Alice--the MVPs of Cuppa), moving into an actual office/warehouse--Cuppa HQ, and to this day, still working hard to keep our mission of providing accessible, quality espresso machines for everyone.

Cuppa team photo from left to right: Deina, Kyle, Daisy, Alice, and Aaron

We can’t believe how lucky we have been the past four years of Cuppa, and we’re forever thankful for our small community who continue to believe in us and support us in our goal. We’re very grateful for the journey so far, but there’s so much more we are looking forward to. From day one to today, our passion for creating new products and making them accessible to everyone is still intact.

We’re excited for where Cuppa will be in the next four years and we hope to see you there.

Our very best,

Aaron and Kyle

Co-founders, Cuppa Espresso

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