Thread Coffee Roasters, roasting in Baltimore, Maryland since 2012, launched a fresh design this month with gorgeous illustrations and bright silver and pink colors on a matte black bag. Thread commissioned artist Caleb Luke Lin along with Baltimore-based and women-owned design house Gilah Press + Design for the packaging. We reached out to Thread to find out more.
Tell us more about Thread Coffee Roasters!
Thread Coffee Roasters is a women and queer-owned coffee roasting company based in Baltimore, MD. We are an employee-owned company and use a transparent model of trade, buying coffee from farmers that we want to be in solidarity with. At Thread Coffee, we provide the opportunity for employees and farmers to become shareholders. We strive to provide living-wage jobs to women and queer workers in Baltimore City with an end goal of co-ownership and equal stake in the business.
Thread Coffee was founded by Casey McKeel in 2012 when it joined the Red Emma’s Family of Projects, which acted as a business incubator for the company. From the start, it was formed as a worker-cooperative, where every worker has the opportunity to become an owner and has equal access to decision making processes through a horizontal and democratic model. In 2017, Thread Coffee expanded out of the incubation process and moved into its own roastery/cafe space in the newly founded mixed-use makerspace called Open Works.
Thread Coffee currently employees eight full time and part-time workers and has three worker-owners.
Casey McKeel founded Thread Coffee Roasters at the age of 25 in 2012, roasting on a homemade set up in her backyard. She has overseen every stage of the project from the first years of incubation in Red Emma’s, to the expansion into Open Works, to the spin-off into an independent C Corporation in July 2018. From traveling to origin to source the beans to facilitating roasting workshops with farmers, Casey has fostered Thread’s long-standing relationships with farmer cooperatives. With over 15 years of experience in the coffee industry, Casey also holds a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Outside of work, Casey is also an accomplished photographer and dedicated activist; she recently organized a powerful exhibition of diverse artists at the Peale Center entitled, “No Walls, No Bans, No Borders.”
Nani Ferreira Mathews has extensive experience in sales and account management in New York’s highly competitive specialty coffee market. As a salesperson for industry leaders such as Joe Coffee and Unique Coffee Roasters, she developed a keen sense of effective marketing strategies, and worked to ensure enduring wholesale relationships. While honing her skills as a barista since 2012, she has taken on many roles within specialty coffee including trainer, lead educator, and production roaster. She moved to Baltimore in 2017 after accepting the position as Coffee Director for Foodshed restaurant group. During this time she helped open A Rake’s Progress, The Cup, and managed Bird in Hand, a locally-sourced farm to table cafe. Nani’s leadership cemented Bird in Hand’s reputation as a coffee destination in the city: she revitalized the coffee program with specialty drink development and extensive barista training. Returning to her roots in the production and wholesale side of the industry, she joined Thread in July 2018 as a salesperson and roaster. A published author and recording artist, Nani brings her creativity and graphic design skills to the project.
Holly Kent-Payne spent several years as an adjunct professor teaching English Composition and Literature to non-traditional students before beginning her specialty coffee career as a barista at Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago. Moving to Baltimore in 2017, she established herself as a lead Barista at Bird in Hand cafe, training new employees and ensuring the maintenance of specialty coffee standards. She joined Thread Coffee Roasters in March 2018 to gain production experience, and is now the head roaster. Holding an MFA in Fiction, she brings her writing and illustrating skills to bear in Thread’s promotional materials.
Y’all had a few folx work on the design of the package—please tell us about them!
Designers include Caleb Luke Lin (a brilliant and accomplished illustrator) and local Baltimore and women-owned design house Gilah Press + Design. Caleb created the hand-drawn elements on the sides of the package. We asked Caleb to capture Thread Coffee’s commitment to women’s empowerment from seed to cup. He used photos we took on our farm visits for inspiration. The roaster illustration was meant to evoke the ethos of #shestheroaster campaign. Though not the original intent, the illustration looks an awful lot like our head roaster Holly Kent-Payne.
The bag design was brought to life by Gilah Press and Design’s head designer, Nathalie Cone and owner Kat Feuerstein. We challenged them to create something new and eye-catching and to both utilize blank space and allow the bag material (aluminum in color), to shine through. They were able to deliver beyond what we had imagined by showcasing a vivid lacing of pink and silver lines in the bag front that draws the eye from a distance. Its pattern in playfully hidden on the bottom of the bag along with the word “enjoy” in our logo’s recognizable script.
In our original creative brief with Gilah Press and Design, we asked them to utilize design elements that capture our commitment to transparent trade, worker-ownership, and the City of Baltimore. They captured this with our own official badge found on the back next to the Made in Baltimore logo. The simple illustration of hands, leaves, and coffee cherries encapsulated with the phrases “Transparently Traded” and “Cooperatively Roasted” are all unique elements to the Thread Coffee’s brand and model.
The Made in Baltimore logo is used in conjunction with a Baltimore city program with the same name. The Made in Baltimore program is a branding program that supports locally made products and aims to spur reinvestment in Baltimore City through uplifting local producers and makers. Their network has given Thread Coffee access to anchor institutions and large grocery procurement and buyers through their abundant and creative networking events.
Tell us about the name of the espresso blend!
We try to have fun when naming our blends and also find ways to draw attention to our commitment to horizontalism and worker solidarity. May ’68, our espresso blend of Peru and Rwanda, is named after the student and worker-led protest in France in May of 1968. This two month period in France’s history of civil unrest led to social and cultural change and unified the people in struggle. Thread Coffee unites with many social movements around the world. This is our nod to an oldie but goodie.
Where is your coffee available?
Thread Coffee can be found in local grocers in Baltimore and D.C, including Mom’s Organic Market and Whole Foods (this spring). Our nitro cold brew cans are available in the mid-Atlantic and northeast from NYC to Richmond, VA.
For our national customers outside of our region, we are always open online at www.threadcoffee.com and have a successful and affordable monthly “Roaster’s Choice” club.
What’s next for Thread Coffee Roasters?
We are very excited to announce, for the first time, that we are giving a panel/lecture at this year’s 2020 Coffee Expo in Portland, called “Re-Defining Sustainability: Quality of Life vs. Quality of Coffee.” In an effort to help mitigate risks to smallholder farmers, we are launching a shareholder program with some of our producer partners. We are headed to SCA this year to share these plans, among others in our re-defining sustainability vision. Our panel is Sunday, April 26, 2020, from 8:30 am-9:30 am. Find the whole rundown here!
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.