Visiting a coffee festival when you are trying to dial back your caffeine intake is a challenging endeavor. As many of you know from some of my previous posts, this year I’ve been working on reducing my coffee consumption to help alleviate stress and improve my sleep. Aside from being at odds with my chosen career path in coffee media, consuming less coffee has meant I’ve had to explore other cafe menu options when taking a meeting or checking out a new shop. So, you can imagine my relief when I ran into a colorful booth serving up caffeine-free spiced lattes among the sea of roasters featured at Toronto’s Beanstock Coffee Festival in May. This is where I first met Karen Danudjaja (pictured above) the co-founder of Blume and had a chance to sample her delicious turmeric and beetroot latte mixes.
My preferences aside, health and wellness is undoubtedly a current driving trend in cafe food and beverage menu design. With a growing population of people taking interest in—and spending dollars towards—their well-being, this kind of colorful coffee alternative is becoming more and more relevant to coffee purveyors. Blume is a great example of flavor packed superfood product that can slip relatively easily into a cafe’s existing bar flow.
After the festival, Karen and I met up at Sorry Coffee Co., where I had the opportunity to learn more about how she and Ella Dalling founded the Vancouver, British Columbia based company. It was such a treat to connect with Karen, hear about the ethos behind Blume, and learn about what inspires their blends. I hope you enjoy this Q & A with Karen, along with a few photos I took of her during our meet-up. Special thanks to the folks at Sorry for kindly whipping up a beetroot latte for us to photograph and taste.
tLBCC: What compelled you to launch Blume?
Karen Danudjaja: I have always wanted to do something entrepreneurial and creative. I would brainstorm ideas, research them, and then forget them or move on. I didn't really have an idea that I felt passionate enough about to quit the security of my 9 to 5 job. Ella, my co-founder is the creative and spontaneous to my analytical and pragmatic. We connected instantly over a common vision of living life in a full and vibrant way. Blume was originally born out of that feeling, which is also the rough origins of the name. We wanted to create and share things that were important to us.
tLBCC: Can you share a little bit about how you and Ella met? How does your partnership work? Who takes care of what aspect of the business?
Karen Danudjaja: Ella and I met through a friend ages ago and then reconnected on a Canada Day camping trip.
We work incredibly well together, we both respect each others strengths and let each other play to them. Ella focuses on our marketing and helping us connect with our community. I work the operations and logistics side of the business. Defining our roles to the business has allowed us to have fun with it. We do our best to not creatively limit each other or our content. We want our consumers and followers to feel like knowing Blume is knowing us. It is supposed to be as silly as we are, we think our customers respond to that voice.
tLBCC: What life experiences did you have before the launch that prepared you to 'seize the moment' and start a business almost overnight?
Karen Danudjaja: We were both exiting long term relationships which is such a great time for reflection both on your own needs and what you want your future to look like. Blume was this amazing focus for my energy that was positive and community building. It aligned with personal goals to focus on eating healthy, living more creatively and incorporating more wholistic rituals in my everyday.
tLBCC: Do you have any words of wisdom for people interested in starting their own business—particularly in the food space?
Karen Danudjaja: Have confidence not just in yourself but your community. From day one we had incredible entrepreneurs reach out to us, push and support us. There is a wealth of knowledge in the people around you. Don't be afraid to ask questions, because people love to share their knowledge. I think the biggest mistake you can make is thinking you have to do it by yourself or know all the answers on your own. Be the type of person that knows they don't have all the answers but also knows you can find them.
tLBCC: How do you develop your Blume formulas or recipes?
Karen Danudjaja: All of our formulas come back to our mission to offer healthy but accessible alternatives to coffee or tea. We want our blends to be friendly both in taste and delivery. The idea is that they are simple to use, they can be used in a variety of ways, and they are delicious. We draw inspiration from traditional Ayurvedic drinks, nutrient dense foods, and more. Our mission is to make drinks you can enjoy everyday without any guilt.
tLBCC: Where do you source your spices from?
Karen Danudjaja: All of our ingredients are 100% organic, ethically sourced and non GMO. Our turmeric comes from Sri Lanka. Curcumin content [the substance in turmeric which gives it it’s health benefits], farming practices, colour, time and texture of grind are all things that are heavily weighed into all our buying decisions. We are incredibly proud of the spices we use, we think you can taste the difference in the end product.
tLBCC: Blume is now on the shelves of health food stores and sold in juice bars, and it's also being prepared and retailed in specialty coffee shops. What has your experience been working with the specialty coffee community across Canada?
Karen Danudjaja We are available in specialty boutiques, juice bars, cafes, yoga studios and more. Our experience with the coffee community is that it’s overwhelmingly passionate about creating an inclusive coffee culture. Cafes understand that products like ours are about providing more coffee alternatives for guests who are becoming progressively more conscious about what they are consuming. It allows people to enjoy cafe culture and have options if they are limiting their sugar and caffeine intake.
tLBCC: Blume isn't just a latte mix! Lots of people are using Blume in their recipes—I've made a really delicious and easy chia pudding using the Turmeric Latte Mix—do you have any favorite recipe to make with the blends?
Karen Danudjaja: I love using the beetroot blend in energy balls, oatmeal, or a berry smoothie. I use the turmeric latte mix on popcorn, hummus, salad dressing and tropical smoothies. Adding a teaspoon of our blends is such an easy way to add nutrients and flavour to your go-to recipes. We’ve also recently started including recipes on our website, so be sure to check it out!
tLBCC: One of the really neat things you mentioned when we were chatting was a monthly event you attend where women get together and share about a particular topic they find interesting—can you tell us a little bit about this event?
Karen Danudjaja: The topics are so broad. The basis of the event is just curious women coming together to encourage sharing knowledge. Anyone could start a group like this at home with their friends. Just bring together a few friends once a month—where people come prepared with a topic they have researched and want to share. Do it over a bottle of wine and see conversation flow. What I have enjoyed the most is seeing people take these topics and keep going with their own research after the events are over. It is just about creating an environment that encourages an open mind and continued learning.
tLBCC: What's next on the horizon for Blume?
Karen Danudjaja: Blume just hit one year on October 1st, which is incredible for me to think about. We have new products coming out that are all sugar free and caffeine free. We want to improve the way we communicate the high quality sources of our ingredients and provide recipes for our consumers to play with. We want turmeric lattes to be available on cafe menus all over the country and we are continuing to work towards that in our second year of operation.
tLBCC: Where are we most likely to find you when you aren't working on Blume?
Karen Danudjaja: I can in 99% of cases be found in one of two locations. Either you can find me can find me in my kitchen, experimenting with ingredients and recipes or outside, hiking. I live in Vancouver and there are amazing trails so close to the city centre, we are truly spoiled.
tLBCC: Is there anything that most people don't know about Blume? Or anything else that you'd like to share?
Karen Danudjaja: Most people don't know that all our blends are produced in small batches and are hand packed in Vancouver, British Columbia. We are 100% Canadian made and on a mission to redefine what healthy choices look like on a day to day. We are going to be launching a matcha blend next month so look out for that! I also want to offer a discount code to your readers. You can use the code BLUMEFRIEND on our website to save 25%.