written by
Deric Loh

Jeffrey Borack: How to Stay Focused and Resilient

Coffee Chat 6 min read

There were two things that led to my venture away from the financial world to the coffee world.

  • As an investor in start-up companies, I was jealous of people I invested in. I really wanted my own chance to shine; to build something for myself.
  • As a Whiskey Explorers Club subscriber, I loved the idea of what they were doing but felt it was too expensive. On top of that, the blind tasting concept focused less on education but rather competition.
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Realizing these points, I launched an affordable blind coffee-tasting club where people could develop their taste buds and learn more about coffee than they ever thought possible.

How fun the hunt can be!

Through blind tasting, customers can experience different coffee without any bias and learn about its origins through the tasting number located on the packaging box.

Thanks to our black box offering, customers get the opportunity to try more than 200 types of coffee every year. This is more than enough to tantalize the taste buds and not something seen in your conventional subscription services. If you love coffee and love the idea of tasting it, you should always support your local roasters and use Angel’s Cup to experiment coffee you normally would not get a chance to.

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We’ve gotten a lot of respect from roasters even though we’re industry outsiders; simply for the fact that we’ve contributed to the increase in talks about coffee. This is certainly helpful to everyone involved in the industry- producers, roasters, etc.

Being a part of a community is great because you learn what customers say about each coffee.

What helps is that there are a lot of roasters who have subscribed, sharing their tasting experiences with their staff as an ongoing training tool. It’s a great way for them to stay on top of what other roasters offer and how coffee tastes. Being a part of a community is great because you learn what customers say about each coffee.

Working With Family…

It’s great to work with family (even though my wife Abby may feel a little differently). Our son Benjamin was born around the time I decided to leave my job to work with Angel’s Cup. By working at home, we can spend more of our time with him. This isn’t something that many parents are able to do, and it’s a real luxury.

Abby’s the perfect partner – we balance one another’s highs and lows. When Abby has a rough week, I pick up the pieces and vice versa.

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Since we work together on the weekdays, we give one another space on the weekends. Abby’s involved with a book club with a great group of women; I play D&D with a group of guys I met. We’re in perfect homeostasis.

In The Beginning…

When we first started, we have no investors, and we were bootstrapped. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing and sales. We started from zero, but thanks to word of mouth advertising, we’ve grown at a consistent rate.

When we first started, we have no investors, and we were bootstrapped.

The numbers were low early on, and every time something went wrong, it was treated as if it were a catastrophe. When numbers were down one week or month, we saw it as a catastrophe. If a customer was disappointed or someone unsubscribed, it was taken badly.

Think of it as a car with no suspension system – we felt all the bumps in the road.

Since the beginning, we’ve been extremely financially constrained, but, to me, the biggest growing pain is the reality of how many ideas we have – things we want to do and things we want to improve. In many cases, our hands are tied.

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However, we have a roadmap of new app features that will take us a decade to work through at our current pace. Hopefully, we will improve as time goes on and our subscriber base grows.

Angel’s Cup Community

Angel’s Cup has a fun app that lets users record tasting notes and compare answers with other community members and roasters. We also have a Facebook group, a podcast and a coffee-tasting meetup group in New York City. We try to connect with people any way we can. I’m not committed to just one platform. We want to be wherever people congregate and wherever we can generate conversations about their experience with coffee.

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We have noticed that people are not talking as much about coffee brewing devices but the coffee. I also feel more people are talking about brewed coffee, not espresso drinks. There are also seems to be a willingness to pay for great coffee, supporting the producers and value chain.

The Advice That Changed My History

When my parents were dropping me off at college, my father said, “Son, I Have one piece of advice for you. When in doubt, throw it out.” My father doesn’t typically give advice, which made it so profound.

Son, I Have one piece of advice for you. When in doubt, throw it out.

I honestly thought my father read that in a fortune cookie or something the night before. However, I took that advice to heart and applied it to every aspect of life – jobs, relationships, personal beliefs, material items, etc. It’s fundamental to my existence, and it’s something I’ve applied extensively to Angel’s Cup. I’m just as likely to delete an unused app feature as I am to add something new.

We’ve not capitalized on some easy revenue source because it’s a distraction from what I feel is a core principle of Angel’s Cup – to help people developer a sharper sense of taste. Years after I graduated, I asked my father what he meant when he offered his sage wisdom. He said it was all about dirty laundry – if you need to smell your socks to see if they’re dirty, chances are they are dirty.

What Else Has Been Influential On You?

If you’re mainly talking about coffee, I’d say two books have been the most influential – Adam Gollner’s The Fruit Hunters and Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork.

The Fruit Hunters is about traveling the world in search of rare and exotic fruits. There so many interesting fruits that cannot be exported for one reason or another – ripen in some odd way, too soft and can bruise or just can’t be marketed. The book opened me up to a wide array of experience that can help with exploring taste without all the fancy cooking.

Cooking is amazing too, but nature can be a one-stop shop for flavor and aroma. Cork Dork is about a novice’s entrance into the world of wine. I think coffee and wine share a lot of commonalities with regards to how consumers experience the product.

The question of “what is good wine/coffee” is so fundamental but answering it is difficult unless you reflect on it. I think Bianca does a great job answering that question after spending time with the best wine producers in wine-producing regions. She talked with producers in California that looked more like laboratory technicians than farmers.

They manufacture good wine and could be considered flavor architects. In their blind tastings, their wines are often indistinguishable and preferred over more traditionally-produced wines. At $10 a bottle, that’s a good value proposition. However, it fails to tell a story like a rustic wine from an old-world French vineyard would.

Coffee is the same way. Some larger producers do an amazing job in creating consistent flavor profiles that are palatable to a large portion of the population. However, you also have smaller producers, importers and roasters that work to produce unadulterated cups of coffee that are unique, distinctive and tantalize the taste buds.

This is something of beauty.

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Do you have a love for coffee? Want to learn more about the different types of coffee and even try a few of them? If you’d like to enhance your palate, then Angel’s Cup has the tools you need to get this and more.

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