The Ebb filter is a reusable coffee filter made from organic cotton, sourced, milled and sewn in the U.S.A. We catch up with GDS Cloth Goods founder Geana Sieburger to learn more.
The slow coffee movement has caused a lot of coffee drinkers to switch from a machine to a pourover method. Whether it’s a Chemex or a V60, or some other form of pourover, there is something meditative to the morning coffee making process when you slow it down a bit.
But if you are an avid pourover brewer, have you considered how many filters you go through in a week? A month? A year? Paper filters and grounds can easily be composted, but often they make their way straight into the garbage can. Geana Sieburger wants to change that, while at the same time bringing us a closer connection to sustainable textiles.
The founder of GDS Cloth Goods, Sieburger is the creator of the Ebb filter, a reusable cotton coffee filter whose cotton is grown in Texas, milled in South Carolina and sewn in the GDS Cloth Goods studio in Oakland, California.
Coffee and textiles may not be where most people see an immediate crossover, but as an avid coffee drinker it is one that I have been drawn to (A few months ago I wrote a piece about a brand in Taiwan making textiles with upcycled coffee grounds), and for Sieburger it’s the same. With a passion for sustainable textiles, she began making aprons, and eventually tried her hand at small batch coffee filters. She’s ready to take those filters to the next step, and after a long time of working with baristas and the mill to develop the right fabric, she is running a Kickstarter to raise the funds to bring this second version to market.
I caught up with Sieburger to learn more about her brand and the new coffee filters.
Tell us a little bit about GDS Cloth Goods and why you launched the brand.
GDS is a design and production studio. What that means is that both the designing and making are happening in our studio. This is one of the reasons why we’re able to guarantee the quality of our products but also keeps us in full control of how the people who make our products are treated. We make for people who work with their hands–people in food and craft who engage with the world through their practice. These are often female entrepreneurs building meaningful community-focused businesses.
I started GDS to build connections that initially were about myself and my community and turned into a much larger system of connection. Today the focus is just as much about offering sustainable alternatives to my community as it is about making visible the connections between the products we use and where they come from.
Tell us about who you source cotton from and why those relationships are important to you.
Of all I do at GDS, sourcing is the piece I’m most proud of. My first job out of college was as assistant buyer at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, so you can imagine, I’ve never had trouble sourcing textiles. The problem is that as soon as the sustainability bar goes up an inch, nobody has fabric for you unless you’re prepared to purchase hundreds to thousands of yards or buy from China or India. Don’t get me wrong, there are worst problems than buying perfectly sustainable textiles from China. What I’m not ok with is not being able to guarantee that the workers growing that fiber and making the textiles are being compensated fairly, which is usually not the case.
That’s why we’re starting to source from fabric producers and mills we trust, can build relationships with, and who work with farms we can visit in person.
You’ve made some beautiful aprons, and your next project is a cotton coffee filter. What inspired you to go in that direction?
I couldn’t help but be influenced by specialty coffee here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of my apron clients where cafes and I was beginning to experiment with pourover brewing a lot more at home. Then there was a moment of epiphany one day when a friend asked why I don’t just make cloth filters. I started making them in various fabrics and asking friends in coffee to try them. A few years later we have Ebb.
There are also some personal connections to coffee which I think is really beautiful and have kept me invigorated by the project. First off, I’m Brazilian and Brazilian love coffee so much that there is a meal in the day named after it–café. There are four meals in a day. Café is the second. My grandmothers made café pasado (pourover) with cloth filters long before pourover was a trend. And, where cloth filters are big, is in Japan. If you know the history of the relationship between Brazil and Japan, than it’s no surprise that brewing with cloth filters was probably introduced to Japan via Brazil. All fascinating things that keep me feeling like I’m at the right place at the right time to bring back an old method of brewing that is still praised by coffee buffs.
This coffee filter is useful, but I think it’s also a conversation piece. What conversations do you hope to spark in people using it?
I hope that once people begin to see the path of products back to land and people at the very beginning stages, that people will have more appreciation for things and our planet. I always say it’s hard to exploit people we know. Sadly it only takes a few layers of separating before it becomes easy to believe that no-one is being negatively affected. I hope that Ebb encourages people everywhere to begin asking where more of the things they use come from, and to begin to wonder how the planet and people far away are being affected.
What do you see as the intersections of food and fiber?
The most obvious intersection to me is that fibers come from land whether it’s agricultural, from pastures, or petroleum-based. Because of that connection and the fashion and textile industry’s need for a sustainability overhaul, there’s a movement in fashion (and therefore fiber) that is similar to the organic and slow food movement. I look forward to the day when fashion is as informative as food–a day when a label tells us where the fibers came from, not just where the garment was assembled, and what chemicals where used in the making and dyeing of the fabrics.