It has been a long time coming, and since launching in November, there is a good chance you have seen our new retail packs out in the wild, from Glasgow to London and Helsinki. We have the privilege of working closely with our incredibly talented pals at DR.ME to bring this project to life. Working with Eddy and Ryan seemed like a no brainer from the start. We love their graphic style and this collaboration has proved to be a natural fit. Together we have devised a retail pack that is more than simply a vehicle for carrying coffee beans. We have questioned and probed every single aspect and each element has been devised from scratch to balance beautiful aesthetics, practical functionality and environmental viability.
Why a box?
Our distinctive retail box is a practical way to present, package and ship our coffee. Our choice of presentation is a way to break from conventions entrenched in the industry’s and public’s historic approach to coffee.
Vertically oriented coffee packaging is the norm. It is rooted in coffee’s conventional role as a commodity, ie. a basic foodstuff that is a product of mass production with its quality defined by price point. Think about it. Supermarket shelves lined with rice, pasta, flour, stock cubes, sugar, tea bags. Even corn flakes. And coffee. If we want to elevate great coffee to the status it deserves we need to present ourselves differently.
So we said to hell with convention, had some custom boxes made and now we present our coffee it in a way more suited to the context in which it belongs. Our coffee is not meant to be sold from an anonymous supermarket shelf. It belongs on a counter. It belongs on a brew bar… It belongs wherever coffee lovers gather!
Structurally, the box itself is a great barrier, protecting its precious cargo from bumps and has the added bonus of being the perfect size to fit through a letter box. Imagine finding a beautiful box of coffee with your post and brewing yourself that perfect cup… That is a treat.
What do we communicate?
On the front of our boxes we prioritise the information that is most likely to inform a person’s choice of coffee. Firstly, the name of the coffee. This puts the producer front and center and distinguishes one coffee from another.
Next up come region and country. This is a key factor in many people’s choice of coffee as we will have certain expectations of a coffee based on its country of origin and even a sense of regionality in the same way that we expect wines from different parts of the world to have broadly distinct characteristics.
Lastly, we try to communicate some of the unique character of each particular coffee we produce. We base this brief description on our experience of cup-tasting each coffee, without any of the variation inherent to a particular brewing recipe.
Of course, there is a lot more we want to communicate, but nobody actually thinks “Hmm, I really fancy a coffee grown at 1950 meters above sea level this morning”… The information is there though. Every box contains a beautifully illustrated card to accompany each coffee. Here, we explore our connection to each lot, what it is that makes it special. We also set out some other things that we think are worth highlighting. Producer, cup profile, country of origin, preparation, terroir, genetics, altitude, cup score, sourcing and a freshness graphic are all things we think are worth communicating, weather the person opening the pack attaches meaning to them or in order to raise a question. We will talk about why each of these is important in more depth in another post.
What are the different patterns on the labels about?
We have to praise Ryan and Mark from DR.ME for being so creative in putting together beautiful patterns to illustrate each box. They were not designed to represent specific flavour profiles, but, in a wider way, to suggest that a single coffee can fuse several different taste notes, creating a very diverse experience. They’ve repurposed small sections of various images to speak of the idea that a coffee can taste of, let’s say, peach, praline and pistachio at the same time.
You know that feeling of going “…where did all that coffee go?” Yeah, so do we… So we thought we would put some more in there for you! 350g allows you to share more brews and, if you are an espresso drinker, you will have enough coffee to find a recipe and keep it dialled in so it tastes great for longer!
What is the freshness graphic?
Best before dates never describe very accurately how coffee behaves over time. Coffee is a complex ever-changing fresh product and it won’t go off just like that, but it’s flavour changes from week to week. You wouldn’t drink coffee that was just roasted as it might taste grassy or dull and different brew methods work better within different time frames. That being said, most of our coffee will be drunk within a couple of weeks of roasting. This simple graphic shows what happens to coffee over four weeks, a window when flavour and aromas are still peaking.
What about the one way valve?
A one way valve, vacuum packing and flushing with inert gases are great if you really want to prolong the nominal shelf life of a coffee well beyond its prime. Sounds like overkill to us… So we left it out. Now our bags are recyclable. Simple.
Is it friendly to the environment?
This was a major concern for us as the future of coffee is so closely linked to the future of the environment. Our retail packaging made up of a cardboard box and an odourless, food safe LDPE bag (Low-density Polyethylene). As this is not a multi-layered bag, it can be recycled anywhere that recycles plastic bags. Paper and cardboard? You can recycle that too.