It’s summer once more, and here in the Bay Area that means longer days, warmer afternoons, and thick spells of fog that send a chill through the evening. Though it may be the naysayer of summer, the iconic San Francisco fog is also the namesake of Fogdog, a cold-brew coffee and tea company with a hydrodynamic patent-pending process that is set to change the way you sip this summer.
First conceived of by Winnie Yu, a long-time Berkeley resident and the owner of Teance on Fourth Street, the Fogdog process takes cold-brew to a whole new level by efficiently extracting aromatic oils and rich natural flavors that aren’t brought out in traditional brewing methods for iced teas and coffees.
Much like a stray spot of light that streams through a thick bank of fog (a “fog dog”), Yu believes that her process and the resulting beverages will be unexpected and out of the ordinary among cold-brew products. “We hope to be a light that’s breaking through the muddle,” she said.
Unlike many bulk and commercial cold-brews, which are either made at room temperature or flash heated and then cooled, changing the chemistry of the content, Fogdog is brewed at 38ºF — tops — with high-quality water. Fogdog says this water is “integral” to its brewing process.
According to Fogdog, the company’s patent-pending brewing mechanism “can basically understand water movement and enables the extraction of complex aromatic oils and distinct flavors that no other process can. This was inspired by how tea leaves were originally made at their farms to elicit the most aroma and flavor out of each leaf, while keeping the astringency locked away.”
It’s an unusual process for cold-brew coffee and is the first of its kind for cold-brew tea. There are no additives like sugar, chicory or natural flavors — just pure water and premium tea leaves or fresh-roasted coffee, which is sourced from Red Whale Coffee in San Rafael. The result is a beverage that is extremely rich in flavor and creamy in texture.
Yu developed the brewing technology alongside Alex Siow, an entrepreneur with experience in appliance technology, and his now her partner in the company.
The Fogdog process came about as Yu’s solution to long-time problem — iced tea that lacked the nuance and flavor of its freshly-steeped counterpart. Though Teance had regularly been serving iced tea, Yu felt it was never the same caliber as her other products. Hot tea, once iced, changes in flavor and complexity. Yu tried making iced tea using cold-brew methods, but was unsatisfied with the process. A twelve-hour steeping time required guesswork regarding and it sacrificed the freshness she wanted to offer her customers.
After decades of working with artisan tea growers, and watching them go to great lengths to perfect the art of drying and processing leaves, Yu became curious about the potential for a cold-brew tea product. Over the course of five years, she perfected a reverse engineering process and worked on a mechanization that would extract the aromatic essential oils and flavors in the tea leaf within a cold-water environment. The result was even better than she’d hoped.
The fact that the Fogdog process could also be used to make cold-brew coffee was a matter of trial, error and surprising success. Yu has partnered with friend and local roaster Sean Boyd, who owns Red Whale, to curate a selection of coffees to cold-brew alongside her teas. The Fogdog process can work for any loose leaf tea or roasted coffee bean, though Yu has been careful in curating her selection. She currently offers six to eight cold-brew teas by the cup, as well as one and a half and three liter pouches of cold-brew coffee and tea to go. Each pouch contains five or 10 servings and costs $16-30 depending on size and variety.
Customer favorites at a recent tasting event were a grassy, straightforward sencha; a simple, herbal buckwheat tea with toasty light notes of dry hay and wheat; and the Formosa black, a Taiwanese black tea that is elegant and soft, with hints of honeysuckle that carry through each sip. As opposed to a bitter, bold Ceylon, which is commonly used in iced teas and has a flavor that hits hard and then falls away, the gentle flavor of the Formosa starts subtly and then lingers.
Teance is offering a wide rotation of different teas and coffees each week.
The difference in coffee is perhaps even more notable. A Fogdog coffee tastes very little like anything you’d order at Peet’s or Blue Bottle. The Fogdog extraction process brings out oils and flavors you don’t normally get from cold-brew. It’s a little funky and far less bitter. It has also has 75% less acid, which is good news for anyone who struggles with acid reflux or heartburn. The coffee is good in its own right — cloudy in appearance and creamy in texture — just don’t expect it to taste like the coffee you’re used to sipping.
Fogdog is neither a subsidiary of Teance nor is it exclusive to the Teance store. Yu and Siow plan for the beverages to be available in the mass market, in cafés, restaurants, office campuses and supermarkets (in bottled form). It is currently establishing distribution on both the east and west coasts, and will launch nationwide next year. For the time being, you can currently find it at Teance, where you’re welcome to sample, sip and swirl before swilling.