A new startup wants America’s coffee drinks to ditch coffee beans for a more climate-friendly “beanless” alternative to stop deforestation.

Atomo, a Seattle-based company, wants to replace Arabica beans, the go-to coffee bean for baristas, with their beanless variety. Why? Climate activists say continually relying on this bean species—used in 60-70% of coffee consumed worldwide—will cause coffee to disappear by 2050. They argue coffee is the second biggest polluter after fossil fuels.

The upstart coffee alternative claims their beanless espresso has 83% fewer carbon emissions and will cut farmland usage by 70%.

Who is behind “beanless” coffee and what ingredients does this product contain? Reuters reported last fall that investors behind the fake meat company, Beyond Meat, have also invested in this company.

As for ingredients, this “beanless” coffee reportedly contains similar key ingredients found in Beyond Meat’s plant-burger—specifically pea protein. The company website lists the following ingredients as contained in their “beanless” espresso: Date Seeds, Ramon Seeds, Lemon, Pea Protein, Fenugreek, Guava, Millet, Caffeine (from green tea), Fructose, Sunflower Seeds, and Baking Soda. 

The brand claims its coffee boasts “the same molecular structure” as conventional coffee, but, unlike fake meat, says it wants to coexist with—not replace—coffee.

How much will this climate-friendly, non-coffee coffee cost? Atomo is selling its product wholesale for $20.99 per pound. In comparison, a typical American coffee shop pays $10-14 per pound for beans.

This beanless coffee approach carries many unknowns and could be a lot of trouble for Americans. And it’s unnecessary: deforestation is already being combatted with better and smarter forest management practices. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment report found deforestation is decreasing in North America, including the United States, thanks to smarter forestry practices. 

“North and Central America had an average annual net loss of forest area of 293,000 ha (hectares) in 1990–2000, a net annual gain of 184,000 ha in 2000–2010, and a net annual loss of 148,000 ha in 2010–2020,” the report noted. The same report said the U.S. ranked No. 7 in Top Ten countries “for average annual net gain in forest area, 2010–2020.” 

The UN report added the U.S. saw the most significant increase in land occupied by trees in urban settings, noting, “The area of land occupied by trees in urban settings, as reported by 36 countries and territories, increased by 7.45 million ha between 1990 and 2020, from 9.66 million ha to 17.1 million ha. There were increases in all regions, with the largest in North and Central America (up from 7.66 million ha in 1990 to 13.8 million ha in 2020), mostly in the United States of America.” 

Even the progressive outlet Vox recently pointed out the Earth is naturally greening, despite characterizations of there being a climate crisis, due to carbon dioxide. 

Like plant-based meat fads, beanless coffee is a niche trend that few will embrace. Some Americans may imbibe it, but it will unlikely displace conventional coffee given its exorbitant costs and relative unknowns.