OSAKA, Japan >> To combat the waste of disposable tableware, edible tableware has been on the upswing.
R.J. Cafe in Osaka serves drinks in two types of edible cups, one made of cookie dough and the other a gluten-free alternative.
It all started in 2012, when Machiko Hayashi opened the espresso cafe.
At first the cafe struggled because many customers were not familiar with the rich taste of espresso. They would complain, “It’s bitter,” or, “The serving size is too small.”
One day the cafe took part in an environmental event that featured reusable tableware. But Hayashi became concerned at the amount of water and detergent it took to clean the dishes.
Then she hit on the idea of pouring espresso into a cookie cup. It was a reverse way of eating sweets while drinking espresso — the sweets are usually dipped into the beverage. Hayashi used pudding molds to create the cups, coating the inside with sugar to make it more durable.
She named the cups Ecopresso, and they went on sale in 2016. The cups became popular on social media.
Then Hayashi’s company won a government subsidy and developed a machine to produce the cups. Now Ecopresso cups are sold to cafes and at retail.
But Hayashi is not done yet. Next, she’s developing a cookie cup machine for home use.
Kimura Alumi Foil Co. in Osaka manufactures small cups for separating food in bento boxes. In recent years some of the company’s bestselling products have been edible cups made of nori (dried seaweed), oboro-kombu (thinly shaven dried kelp) and soybeans.
The company originally made cups with aluminum foil. But as microwaves and convenience stores became common, the liners could no longer be used in bento boxes sold in the stores, where food is often microwaved. So the company manufactured plastic cups.
But as the world became increasingly eco-friendly, company President Yuichi Kimura began to consider the concept of the edible cup, and in 2008 it turned out the nori cup.
Today, as the pandemic continues, demand for the bento cups has increased.
Other edible tableware: edible e-trays by Marushige Seika, which come in flavors such as shrimp cracker, onion, sweet potato and grilled corn (the company also produces edible chopsticks and spoons); and “Corone Cookie,” a tubular cookie by Bourbon Corp. that can be used as a straw.