2020 – The Year of the Coffee Box

Is it safe to say that 2020 has been the year of the coffee box?

Coffee packaging has always been one of the greatest mediums for a coffee roaster to express their creativity when it comes to branding. And while there is no question that we have seen some great innovations in packaging in recent years, especially in the areas of compostable & recyclable materials, it seems like this year has been the year of the box!

Let me share with you three prominent coffee roasters who have certainly embraced this trend and have designed some truly remarkable packaging.

Image courtesy of Luminous.coffee

Luminous Coffee Roasters

Yes, Luminous Coffee is the roaster whose iconic take-out containers are hard to miss.

Packed full of “always extra”, Lexus & Mason have sought to always ensure that the entire user-experience of opening up one of their boxes is something that brings great joy to their customers. From their caricatures that adorn the front of the box, to the subtle nods to the ceramicists they work with along with favourite brew gear on the box these tell a story of who this dynamic-duo is, and what they love.

Their current takeout container is the third iteration, and I only wish I had held onto the two previous ones from earlier orders of their coffee. I feel like the best part of ordering coffee from Luminous is the fortune cookie inside the box. How could you not put your coffee in a take-out container and not have a fortune cookie?! Not only does their box contain a cookie but also a water sachet from Perfect Coffee Water, a pack of their Instant Coffee, and stickers. They really are in a league of their own with all that they include in each order.

What I appreciate as well about Luminous is their commitment to using easily recyclable products. When you’re done with their box, simply put it into your recycling bin…that is if you can part with such a gorgeous piece of art. I’m keeping this one for the foreseeable future.

Image courtesy of Harken Coffee

Harken Coffee

Hailing from Vancouver, BC, Harken Coffee is one roaster that burst onto the scene in 2020 and from the get-go pushed the boundaries of specialty coffee. Their choice of packaging was no exception.

I can still remember the very first time I got my hands on a box of coffee from Harken I was genuinely thrilled to open it up. With elements like each box being hand-signed by Stacey Lynden (their head roaster) these are the elements that set roasters apart. Again one innovative concept Harken has sought to introduce is their “Best After/Best Before” philisophy.

What you won’t find on their boxes are roast dates. Instead their focus is on ensuring your coffee has sufficient time to rest and a mindset that lighter roasted coffee does not immediately become stale and the 4 week mark. Their window is closer to two months of where they feel their coffee is at its optimum for brewing.

What else is truly unique is Harken has not included ANY tasting notes on their boxes. Instead Harken has opted to simply attach a coloured sticker that contains the farm(er), origin, varietal, and processing method. The colour of the sticker will reflect the general “theme” their customers can expect from the coffee. In an interview I did with Stacey earlier this year she had this to say “We have chosen not to put tasting notes on the packaging of our blends, but instead allow for the colours of the packaging to speak to how we believe the coffee should taste. Sometimes tasting notes can be intimidating, especially when a consumer doesn’t taste those same flavours; we are hoping that the colours of the packaging can be a guide for our consumers to discover what that particular blend tastes like for them.

Their commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship is clear as each box is made entirely of cardboard and is fully recyclable. What is even more encouraging is that this also applies to the plastic bag inside that holds the coffee.

Image courtesy of Onyx Coffee

Onyx Coffee Lab

There was perhaps no other brand re-design that was more anticipated then that of Onyx Coffee Lab.

While it truly is what’s inside that counts there is no mistaking their new boxes have quickly become the darlings of Instagram with killer content being published by some great people like my buddy Jerney and his iconic window-blinds shots.

Onyx’s departure from its bags to boxes swept the internet and social media feeds. I can still recall the first time I held a box, it reminded me of a luxurious cologne box you’d find at a high-end department store. The embossed elements on the exterior add that subtle texture and the fit and finish of them is second-to-none.

Sustainability was as well a core element they were conscientious of as they designed their new boxes. Advancements in materials now includes compostable, plant-based mailers; biodegradable, recyclable boxes; and 60% compostable and renewable bags. While perhaps not obvious, the colours of each of their boxes tells a story and reflects to the customer what they can expect in the coffee contained inside.

In an interview with Daily Coffee News, Onyx shared the following info:

Here’s the colour key, according to Onyx:

  1. Black = Foundation and Rare
  2. Concrete / Dark Gray = Complex
  3. Green = Natural and Origin-specific Processing
  4. Light Gray / Stone = Balance
  5. Mustard = Spicy
  6. Peach = Geometry Blend 
  7. Pink / Rose Quartz = Tropical and Floral
  8. Red = Limited-run Micro-lots
  9. Royal Blue = Long-term Producer Partnerships
  10. White = Developed Roasts and Rich Flavours

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BONUS FEATURE: also the year of the can?

Image courtesy of House of Funk Roasting

House of Funk Roasting

In as much as this article is all about the rise of boxes in 2020 there is NO WAY I couldn’t give a nod to one final coffee roaster whose packaging has also been at the forefront of innovation this past year.

The team at House of Funk Roasting with the release of their iconic coffee cans have proven that there is still innovation to be had when it comes to coffee packaging. And when you crack the top of the can and hear the pshhht sound, it’s like a little COFFEE ASMR to sooth the soul.

A huge shoutout to Vancouver Coffee Snob who graciously hooked me up with a can when I was in Vancouver this summer. It was an incredible coffee and I look forward to getting my hands on more of this coffee again sometime.

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So there you have it. Four incredible coffee roasters who embraced the coffee box (or can) in 2020 and clearly it seems like this was the right call.

So what do you think? Are there other coffee roasters who embraced the mindset of “boxes are better” that I missed? Do you think that this surge of boxes as coffee packaging will be here to stay? Any other roasters whose unique coffee packaging sparks innovation & creativity?

What was your favourite coffee packaging of 2020? Leave a comment below or feel free to contact me. I would love to hear what you think.

Stay Caffeinated,

Tyler


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