S.Café seems like one of those ideas that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wishes he'd come up with. Sounding like Nescafe, it's the trademark name for a composite fiber used to make yarn which is then knitted or woven into fabric and is made from coffee grounds and plastic bottles.
It's garnering a reputation as the foundation fabric for 'green' comfortable clothing that offers odor control, UV protection and quick-drying features. It's now used by apparel brands including North Face, Mizuno, Puma, Wacoal and Timberland, which describes their jacket using the fabric as “our most environmentally conscious performance jacket ever.”
The already brewed grounds, collected from coffee shops as waste, require less energy in the production process, which is highly calibrated as too much java in the fiber would make it easily prone to snapping.
It's the result of dedicated research since 2005 by Taiwanese Singtex Industrial Co., which transformed its original textile factory, founded in 1989, as a supplier of outdoor and sportswear, into a state-of-tomorrow purveyor of green fabric, “relieving our planet of used coffee grounds.”
"We have done business with almost every one of the world's top 100 outdoor sports brands," said Jason Chen, founder and general manager of Singtex.
Chen calls his campaign “drink it, wear it.” His business philosophy is that owning the technology and integrating research is foundational to his company and he spends 30% of annual revenue on research and development.
Singtex’s success is due in part to selling its product, like java jeans, as part of an overall commitment to environmental concerns. “This is a smart marketing strategy. It speaks directly to the hearts of environmentally conscious consumers everywhere,” comments Cheng-ta Yin of the Taiwan Textile Research Institute.
S.Café plans to bring its own brand to the retail market and is already on the list of "Top 100 Taiwan Brands" announced in July.
The only drawback is olfactory. You’ll never know if your duds came from Jamaica Blue Mountain or Hawaii Kona as the coffee grounds are ‘emptied’ during the production process of phenol, ester and oil, the chemicals which make that irresistible aroma.