Earlier this year, we reported on the existence of Atomo Coffee, a “molecular” coffee that has, inexplicably, no coffee in it. Back in the halcyon days that were February, before Atomo’s Kickstarter had lapped its $10,000 Kickstarter goal a few times over, the only worry you had about “where's the coffee in my coffee?” was if you tripped and fell into the condiments bar. But things have quite literally gotten 1,000 times worse, as Atomo Coffee has just received a $2.6 million investment from Horizon Ventures, who just so happened to also be an early investor in Impossible Foods, makers of the Impossible Burger.
The Impossible Burger has been in the news as of late; the lab-grown “veggie” burger that actually bleeds has found a home at Burger King, taking this whole getting-too-close-to-Soylent-Green-for-my-taste experience to new levels. And now Horizon Ventures is getting into the “coffee” game. As reported by Grub Street, with this new round of funding, Atomo will be that much closer building their hot brown beverage “from the bottom up, using the building blocks that comprise it, including quinic acid, dimethyl disulfide, niacin, 2-ethylphenol, and a handful of other elements,” and doing it on a much, much larger scale.
According to the article, Atomo states they are not trying to “destroy the coffee industry,” but “offer a sustainable alternative,” which is a weird way to say “make it even harder for the already struggling farmers to sell their crops for a profit.”
The Impossible Burger comparison is low-hanging fruit, because Impossible are the investors here, and because we're talking about a lab grown thing replacing a real world thing, but that's pretty much where the comparisons end. I'm fine with a meatless burger made to taste like meat; people need to stop eating so much meat, like, yesterday, both for health reasons and to try and temporarily slow the all-knowing global fuck that is our coming climate change apocalypse. (The bleeding, though, is still extremely weird. If you're eating a burger, meated or otherwise, for the blood, then you're a monster.)
But coffee replacement tech like Atomo reeks of global techno imperialism. It looks at today's global coffee crisis—further exasperated by yes, more climate change—and says, “Gosh, you know what would be great? Let's just cut out that pesky farmer from the equation.” There's nothing left to feel bad about! What could be better?
Lab engineered coffee means nothing good for the environment or humanity, least of all for the farmers upon whose livelihood the coffee trade depends. It means only more money for western tech dorks with Mike Judge Silicon Valley sounding start-up names, and less delicious product in the cup.
There's a future in which a GenMod Impossible Clone Cow (Bovine Engineering Scientific SYstem, or B*E*S*S*Y*) gets a full dose of Atomo in a freak lab accident, gains cognitive sentience, organizes the rest of the cloned cows, and leads a GenMod ungulate army in a war against humanity. We are hurtling towards that future now and these Atomo chuds are lining their pockets along the way. Whose side will you choose?
Drink real coffee instead.