Pair Cupworks is a two-person operation out of Mesa, Arizona. The company got its start in 2016 and things have picked up quite a bit since then, with a new coffee bar inside Cider Corps’ Tasting Room in downtown Mesa. Kimhak Em and Eugenia Tai tell us they “want to make specialty coffee and tea approachable for our customers without compromising on quality, and our motto is spreading happiness through coffee and tea!”
This happiness is evident in their colorful branding, complete with attention-grabbing anthropomorphized coffee beans and cups. We spoke with them via email to learn more about what makes them tick.
Tell us about the team behind Pair Cupworks!
It’s just us two, Kimhak and Eugenia! Kimhak is our roaster/barista, and Eugenia takes care of background tasks and design work. We are still pretty small and trying to find our place in this industry. Luckily, being on the smaller side lets us be flexible, and we have the freedom to do what we want, which keeps us engaged and excited. It also makes it a lot easier for customers to reach out, give feedback, ask questions, and we are more than happy to share brewing tips and other coffee advice!
How are y’all doing here in October 2020?
Dang, times are nuts, and we’re trying to stay positive. We are doing okay though; looking forward to some fresh changes, and we wish for the best for everyone.
Who designed your packaging?
Coming up with the overall packaging concept was a group effort. We want to be more eco-conscious and were leaning towards getting custom biodegradable bags. However, we noticed that some of the bag samples would start disintegrating on their own after a while, and considering the minimum order quantity (MOQ) required by manufacturers, we were doubtful that we could use all of the bags before the end of their shelf-life.
This summer, our friend at Harken Coffee sent us some of their coffee, and we were inspired by their bag-in-box concept. Around the same time, we finally found an LDPE zip bag that was also “biodegradable” (ASTM D5511) and had no MOQ. Going with a petrochemical bag is not ideal for us, but at least LDPE is 100% recyclable—most grocery stores have a bin to collect these kinds of soft plastics. There’s no valve on the bag, but our portion sizes are purposefully smaller, 8oz (226g), to be easily consumed while the coffee is still pretty fresh. The paper box prevents the bag from bursting open during shipping, which was our main concern about not having a one-way valve. Eventually, we do want to go with some kind of plant-based plastic bag like PLA.
Tell us about the different colors and how they relate to the coffee offerings!
The colors we choose are slightly arbitrary, but we always save our red label for the fanciest coffee in our line-up because red is festive and reminds us of Lunar New Year and the tradition of handing out red envelopes to spread happiness and fortune—just a subtle nod to our Asian roots. For each label, we come up with a unique illustration that tries to capture the spirit of the coffee. For geshas, we usually draw a coffee mug being a diva, but other than that, there are no real rules, just whatever feels right.
Where is your coffee currently available?
You can grab some beans at our bar while Kimhak whips up a tasty drink for you. You can also check out our website, www.paircupworks.com.
When it becomes okay to travel again tell us how we’d spend the perfect day in Mesa!
You would of course start your morning off by getting a great cup of coffee or tea from our shop, then you could walk around the beautiful downtown area, do a little window shopping. Afterward, you could stop by Worth Takeaway to grab some lunch and take it down to Chupacabra and enjoy it with some craft beer, or swing by some of the local museums. Around dinner time, you could head back to our shop since we we’re in the shared space with Cider Corps and Myke’s Pizza. There’s no better way to end your day with a pie and crisp hard cider.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.