Clover-Stornetta teams with Blue Bottle Coffee for new product (w/video)

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Petaluma-based Clover Stornetta Farms is using its North Bay organic milk to manufacture a new iced coffee beverage for Blue Bottle Coffee, a venture-backed Oakland company that inspires devotion among the coffee cognoscenti on two coasts.

For the 37-year-old Clover, which last year released its first line of cheeses, the iced coffee offers a chance to enter new markets across the country.

"This could be the first product that we have that has national reach," said Clover President and CEO Marcus Benedetti, whose extended family owns Clover.

Blue Bottle's New Orleans Iced Coffee, selling for about $3 in a 10.66-ounce milk carton, went on sale last week in the region's Whole Foods Markets. But on Monday, the all-organic beverage was sold out at the retailer's two stores in Santa Rosa.

"Yes, product is flying off the shelf and the demand has exceeded expectation," said Joanie Benedetti, Clover's director of marketing.

The beverage's white carton prominently features the Blue Bottle name and icon, but it also notes that the coffee is blended with Clover organic milk. Not to be found is an image of Clo, the iconic bovine that has long graced Clover milk cartons and the company's pun-filled billboards.

Clover makes the beverage once a week at its Petaluma processing plant using coffee from Blue Bottle, which enjoys a "cult-like following" among its customers, Marcus Benedetti said.

The coffee company was founded in 2002 by James Freeman, whose website describes as "a slightly disaffected freelance musician and coffee lunatic."

Blue Bottle operates a dozen cafes in the Bay Area and New York. Long lines are common at both its Ferry Building espresso bar and its Mint Plaza cafe in San Francisco.

The company made news this week for buying two Los Angeles businesses, the online subscription coffee service Tonx and a popular cafe and roasting company called Handsome Roasters. Quartz on Tuesday said the Tonx purchase amounted to Blue Bottle's plan to "become your coffee-snob friend wherever you are."

The company has drawn interest from Silicon Valley venture capital firms, raising $26 million in January and $20 million in late 2012.

Blue Bottle is considered part of coffee's third wave.

The first wave is said to have arrived with the widespread availability of home coffee blends like Folgers. The second wave involved the growth of specialty roasting companies like Starbucks and Peet's.

The third wave's promoters seek a status for coffee akin to premium wine, where coffee is often sourced from individual farms and care is taken to roast the beans to an optimal level — and nothing more.

Even some who warn of snobbery think that Blue Bottle makes some of the best coffee in the United States.

On Tuesday, Blue Bottle spokesman Byard Duncan said the coffee company has used Clover Milk for some time in its retail outlets. A Blue Bottle promotion notes that Clover "beat every other milk brand we tried in a blind taste test.

"Their milk is delicious, and their operation is impeccable," Duncan said. "We're thrilled to be working with them."

Blue Bottle and Clover began to talk about iced coffee a year and a half ago, Joanie Benedetti said. The beverage was unveiled last month at the Expo West natural products show in Anaheim.

The organic beverage has but four ingredients: milk, coffee blend, cane syrup and roasted chicory.

The resulting blend has a longer shelf life than regular milk because the coffee acts as a preservative, Marcus Benedetti said. That will allow the product to be shipped safely throughout the U.S.

Even so, Clover first wanted to make sure it could produce the new beverage without any deleterious effects on its regular milk products.

It was a prudent course of action, said Marcus Benedetti. After all, "we've never run coffee through a milk plant before."

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or

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