Here we are in a new year, as we continue Coffee Design, an international survey of coffee arts through the medium of bags and packaging. To kick things off in 2022 we’re visiting New Orleans, a remarkable city of food, music, culture, and yes, coffee, to learn more about the design work at Alinea Coffee Roasters.
As told to Sprudge by Michael Matthews.
Tell us about your company Alinea Coffee Roasters.
Hey everyone! My name is Michael Matthews and I’m the owner/roaster of Alinea Coffee Roasters here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I started Alinea at the end of 2018 when I purchased my first Arc 800 roaster to start roasting coffee as a hobby selling to family and close friends. The name comes from the Alinea symbol ¶, also known as the paragraph symbol, used in writing rough drafts to signify the start of a new idea or new way of thinking. We are founded upon the idea of starting a new conversation about coffee by educating the consumer on where their coffee is from, who it’s produced by, and the price paid to the farmer. Each offering is roasted to emphasize sweetness and balance in the cup while highlighting terroir at the same time.
Aside from roasting, I also work as the coffee director and lead barista at Bearcat, a high-volume breakfast and lunch restaurant located in downtown New Orleans. At the start of COVID-19 pandemic, Alinea really began to take off by offering free coffee deliveries around the New Orleans area while most shops and restaurants were closed. Once Bearcat opened back up, I took over roasting and supplying all of the coffee for the downtown location. As the orders began to grow, it became clear I had outgrown my Arc 800 roaster, so I made the move to a Diedrich IR-12. By 2023, I would like to have a brick and mortar roastery and cafe with a Loring S15 roaster.
When did you launch the packaging?
Our new packaging launched in April of 2021 after about eight months of development from the initial concept to a physical product. I pushed the initial launch date back a few months to make sure everything was perfect with the custom bags since I had to commit to a design for the next few years buying in bulk.
Who designed it?
I worked with my friend and graphic designer Taylor Morgan from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Prior to my coffee career, I was a full-time touring drummer in multiple bands and I crossed paths with Taylor when he was helped design tour posters and album artwork for me. I reached out to Taylor blindly to help design my initial logo and labels and he instantly jumped on board. Taylor’s approach to design is spectacular and eye-catching, especially when when you dive into the small details. It was fun to get another chance to work together in a completely different industry seven years later.
Tell us about the design.
Designing bags and labels has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of this whole creative process since I started Alinea Coffee Roasters. From the very beginning, my goal for my coffee packaging was something simple, minimal, and aesthetically-pleasing to the eye. I wanted a bag that captured one’s attention and stood out from the rest. I spent countless nights researching bag designs online and even went to multiple coffee shops and grocery stores around New Orleans to stare at bags on the shelves. I wanted to see what they looked like from the customer’s perspective. Everyone had the same style bags with a similar shape and color. Something had to be different! I was looking for a pouch-style bag that was resealable, but I didn’t like the tall versions offered by most companies.
Another entry barrier to custom bags was that I wasn’t ready to buy 10,000-20,000 custom bags at once, a common minimum order quantity which most U.S. and overseas manufacturers require. As I came across Dutch Coffee Pack in the Netherlands, I instantly fell in love with all of their their uncommon bag shapes compared to most manufacturers. Their 250g K-Seal Pouch bags jumped out at me because they were pouch bags, but they were short and wide. The matte texture also felt really good in your hands. After discussing custom bags with Dutch Coffee Pack, they informed me that their minimum for custom bags was 3,000 bags that were customized using their hot-plate stamping technology. After getting the template and playing with some logo placements, I decided to shift the design off to the right to allow for a single wrap-around label that went from the front to the back of the bag. The lined Alinea logo is kind of a play on the word “Alinea” containing the word “line” in the middle if you were to remove the first and last “a”.
Introducing color into my packaging was phase 2 of my design journey. The initial packaging was just black and white and I knew I needed to have some color differentiation for each different coffee offering once the business began to grow. Color had to be minimal and more of an accent so we decided that the vertical rectangle behind the country name would get a unique color from a palette that we picked. For the rear side of the label, I wanted a spot to feature each farmer or producer so that customers can get a glimpse of who grew and/or processed their coffee, instead of just seeing a farmer name on the bag. This picture is printed in high-resolution bright color. These bags were fun to shoot with my close friend, former bandmate, and photographer Michael Comeaux. I had an idea and he really helped bring it to life. The minimal color really stands out against the white bags. The goal is to do a similar photoshoot for all of our new releases coming up.
Where is your coffee available?
My coffee is available for purchase online at AlineaCoffees.com and also locally in New Orleans at both Bearcat locations where I run the coffee programs.