I’m James. I’m the founder of Glaze and I’m on a mission to make sipping your daily cup of coffee better for you, your health and the planet.
My journey to Glaze began at a tough time in my life, after battling Long Covid for over 2 years. This is the story of how the idea for Glaze came about and how our mission has been a driving force in my recovery.
My first love, coffee
I believe a lovingly-made, quality coffee is one of life’s great simple pleasures. Coffee is the fuel that powers you through busy days. It awakens the senses, inspires action and brings moments of peace and connection in a hectic world.
Though I preferred to savour coffee in a proper cup, I often grabbed disposable cups on the go, unmindful of their impact on the planet, my health, or the sanctity of my coffee experience.
My world turns upside-down
In 2020, my life hit rock bottom. I was struck down with a debilitating case of Long Covid. I went from being a super active entrepreneur to homebound and so weak that I could barely walk for the next 2.5 years.
It was the hardest thing I've ever endured. I experienced a myriad of debilitating symptoms. I was unable to work, socialize, or exercise and with no proven treatments or cure, I was losing hope.
Month after month, I watched the world move on while my life had ground to a halt.
Through adversity came perspective
On my better days, I'd visit my local café, my lifeline to the outside world.Café culture is special because of more than just the coffee; it's about connecting with our community.Forced to slow down, I began to notice the sheer volume of disposable cups.
The sight of so many disposable cups made me increasingly curious of their impact.I dug into the data and discovered an alarming statistic: 7 million disposable cups are used in the UK every day.
A shocking fallacy
I was shocked and disgusted by what I learned next: Less than 0.25% of disposable cups are recycled.
Even plastic bags, once banned in supermarkets, can be recycled. But not paper cups?
I learned that the plastic lining inside paper cups, necessary to hold liquid, makes them unrecyclable. Plus, the plastic can leach into hot liquid, releasing thousands of microplastics into your body.
Even compostable cups, while better in some ways, often end up in landfills, releasing even more harmful chemicals than regular paper cups.
There has to be a better way
Most coffee drinkers, like me, are unaware of their contribution to a damaging single-use culture.
I believe that if people knew the facts, they'd think twice before grabbing another disposable cup.
Would more people change their behavior if they understood the facts better? I believe so.
Light at the end of the tunnel
After two gruelling years battling Long Covid with little to no progress or hope, I stumbled upon a body of work that showed how chronic nervous system disorders could be successfully treated with mind-body techniques such as brain-retraining, polyvagal theory, and somatic practices.
For the first time in over two years, I felt a glimmer of hope.
While I had no control over falling ill, the empowering realization that I had agency in my recovery was a game-changer.
With the unwavering support of my loved ones and a community of fellow chronic illness survivors, I embarked on a challenging yet rewarding journey of healing. Over the next twelve months, I harnessed the brain's remarkable neuroplasticity and its innate healing power to retrain my brain, calm my nervous system, and gradually began to alleviate my symptoms.
A sense of purpose
My recovery from Long Covid required a conscious focus on activities that brought me joy and purpose. As I considered returning to work, I realized that the career I had left behind no longer resonated with me. My symptoms would flare up whenever I engaged in work that lacked authenticity and fulfillment.
Being an entrepreneur had always been my passion, but my recent experience taught me the importance of a greater purpose. The solace and connection I found in cafes during my illness sparked the idea for Glaze, a mission I was deeply passionate about.
A new calling
I started work on Glaze in the hours my health permitted. A fine balancing act that anyone with a chronic condition will understand.
I started researching the different materials that we could use. One of the reasons I never had a reusable cup of my own was that I didn’t like the taste or sensation when drinking coffee from a plastic cup.
I considered glass but prefer the tactile feel of ceramic. Plus I feel coffee tastes better from a ceramic cup.
Could we produce ceramic cups as a reusable alternative to truly drive behavioural change?
Designing the Earth’s favourite coffee cup
Ceramic cups have been around around for 1000’s of years.
Ceramic is produced with natural materials from the earth and is very durable so it lasts lifetimes making it a very sustainable, planet-friendly option.
It is more porous than other materials meaning it will keep your coffee hot for longer.
Unlike plastic or metal, ceramic is a neutral material that will not absorb or impart flavours so coffee tastes as it should.
Lastly, ceramic allows for unlimited styles and glaze designs to represent any personality or taste. To drive real behavioural change, you need to LOVE your cup.
After weeks of meeting with manufacturers, we found a partner that could produce the cups we wanted using sustainable practices.
Our first samples arrived in July and we added a silicon lid to compliment the glaze design and transform the coffee vessel into a reusable travel cup.
Now to get some feedback.
The response from independent cafes has been phenomenal. Many are aware of the impact of single-use culture but feel helpless to change their customers' habits.
Cups often cost more than the beans themselves and even cafes that invest in more expensive compostable cups are aware that it’s not a perfect solution.
The early feedback from baristas and coffee drinkers has been better than I could have hoped and has fuelled my journey to realise my vision.
Ready for launch
Weeks of experimentation with firing temperature, glaze mixture, and kiln positioning refined the look of our first 6 glaze designs.
Every hand-finished cup is unique.
Our first cup's rounded base ensures a gentle pour and its lip provides a smooth sip.
The 8oz size accommodates personal preferences for milk or coffee, slightly exceeding the traditional 6oz standard for specialty coffee.
Excited for the future
Working on Glaze has been an integral part of my recovery from Long Covid, giving me a renewed sense of purpose and igniting my entrepreneurial passion.
I believe in our mission to create a more conscientious and sustainable coffee culture, and I know that with your help, we can achieve it.
I am excited to share Glaze with coffee drinkers, elevating your daily ritual and aligning your coffee consumption with your values of style, wellbeing, and care for the planet.
I hope that owning a Glaze cup will not only enhance your daily coffee but also inspire conversation to drive behavioral change, reduce single-use culture, and help you feel more connected to your café community.