Remember fun? We do. We miss it. Sprudge Media Network's global series of coffee design features offers a deep bench of archives to explore, which means we're able to peruse stories of a carefree nature published in the Before Times, the Long, Long Ago, all the way back to 2012. You can trace trends, check out how coffee companies explore the intersection of functionality and design, and learn more about the extraordinary artists working in the medium of commercial packaging—”Consummable Art” you might call it. It's free to submit your own work, just drop us a line.
But fun—well, there's a lot about today's world that feels un-fun. I know that's not much of a Friday carefree attitude but here we are. October 2020 feels like staring into the solar void and taking notes in real time as it laughs back a ceaseless mockery. That's why we're here today to talk about Superthing Coffee Roasters, because if there's one thing that's clear with this company's design: they know fun design. Working with the designers at Futura, the four-person team at Austin's Superthing Coffee Roasters created branding that's bold, colorful, but above all, a pleasure and joy to behold. You can't help but smile looking at this design work, a sunshine daydream in tempestuous times.
We spoke with co-owner Tony Smith via email to find out more.
As told by Tony Smith.
Tell us about Superthing Coffee!
Superthing was born by accident. It turns out that when you schedule two coffee nerds together full time on slow closing shifts for long enough, a hole in the universe opens up and those nerds will walk into said wormhole and come out the other side as coffee roasters. Don’t ask us about the science on that.
The two roasters/co-owners Kyle and Tony, worked together as managers at a coffee bar in Austin called Patika Coffee. They were both looking for the next logical step in their coffee careers, and roasting is the place that baristas go to get really nerdy about coffee. So after tinkering around with it for a while, they asked Patika owners Andy Wigginton and Nick Krupa to team up on a new venture.
Who is on the team?
We are (super) small. There are four co-owners: Kyle Smith, Tony Smith, Andy Wigginton and Nick Krupa. We’re all super opinionated about good coffee and harder on ourselves than is probably good for us, but we think we’ve figured out how to roast coffee we _don’t_ want to spit out more often than we do.
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Are you dressing up for no one at home for dinner like a crazy person by now? We know we are. As you can see, we’ve moved on to dressing up for coffee too. 💃 We have two coffees from Costa Rica right now, both different, both really cool so we thought we’d highlight them together to battle the crushing 2020 loneliness. The San Diego is a naturally processed microlot from the Tarrazú region. The Beneficio San Diego wet mill where it is processed was established in 1888 and now is an extremely modern mill focussing on extraordinary quality. This coffee has incredibly bright notes of pineapple and plum but it's no slouch in the sweetness and deep bittersweet chocolate end of things either. It sings on espresso and makes a great filter coffee. It does it all! The Finca Bernina Gesha is a really special coffee. Geisha has been a much hyped varietal for decades since it stunned judges in the early 2000’s. They are hyped for a reason. It’s usually synonymous with loads of fruit and character. This coffee definitely is wild. Finca Bernina is a family-run 460-hectare farm, located on the foothills of the highest mountain peak in Costa Rica: Chirripo. It’s run by the three generation coffee farming Homberger family. They chose to dedicate a small portion of the farm to growing this coffee and we are stoked to be able to offer it as a very limited offering. It’s delicate but potent with notes of black tea, peach and jasmine. Get yourself something to dress up for in the morning! Photo as always by the very fancy @half_cat_half_pizza
How are y’all doing here in October 2020?
We’re hanging in there! We’ve had to adapt a ton like everyone, and our retail shop (Patika) has managed to reopen with a walk-up ordering window, so we can’t complain. We feel very grateful that we’ve been able to weather the storm, and have gotten a ton of local support from wholesale partners who started to focus on ordering more locally, which has helped our wholesale business grow quite a bit, and a ton of retail customers have signed up for weekly subscriptions from us, so we feel pretty lucky to be where we’re at (and in a place like Austin) right now.
Who designed your branding?
A design company in CDMX called Futura. We came across their work, particularly what they did for Blend Station in Mexico City. Their coffee packaging was just a black bag with a pair of cartoon cat eyes on the front and we knew Futura was going to give us something bold. Luckily they were available at the time!
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The name SUPERTHING was the starting point for our creative process; by trying to define what this "superthing" actually was, we explored the effect of coffee through different expressions and hyperboles, which gave form to the illustrations and led way to a visual universe of exaggerations in all shapes and forms. @superthingcoffee #branding #byfutura
What are some of the inspirations y’all drew for the colors/artwork?
The big thing for us when we were figuring out who we were was that we wanted something that wasn’t like coffee packaging. We absolutely love minimalist design, but we felt like that had been done really well already in coffee and we thought it was time for something different. We looked to other parts of the beverage industry for inspiration in what we were seeing in contemporary beer and wine packaging. You see more loose, colorful, and expressive artwork in a lot of those companies’ approaches and that fit us like a (power) glove.
We came to Futura with a loose idea of what we thought it should be and they fired back with some really trippy ideas, and surprised us with a cartoon cyclops mascot in high heels and a pink chicken sidekick. They totally understood us and came from a place of really elevated design with a hint of comic book and Atari 2600. It’s also sort of unlike a lot of the work they’ve done too so I think we hit on the right group of people. Our early feedback on the branding was really mixed. One friend told us if we named the company “Superthing” they would hit us with their truck. Whether or not they were right about the branding is yet to be seen, but the truck thing so far has been an idle threat.
Where is your coffee currently available?
You can find it always at www.superthingcoffee.com and all over Austin at our shop Patika or our awesome wholesale partners like Flitch, Mañana, Stouthaus, Brew and Brew, Better Half, Lamppost, and a bunch of others.