In April 2014 Sprudge.com was first to report that our friends and partners at Blue Bottle Coffee would be acquiring both Handsome Coffee Roasters and Tonx.org, in a move following their recent round of funding and planned expansion to Japan. In a series of blog posts yesterday, both Blue Bottle Coffee and Handsome Coffee Roasters have updated the public on that transition process; several members of the food & coffee news media also received an update on this process from Di Moda PR, a firm that has worked previously with Handsome and will assist on brand transitioning in the coming months.
We now know more about what that transition will look like. According to Blue Bottle, regarding Tonx, the brand has “successfully migrated their ordering, roasting and shipping operations to our Oakland roastery.” In the coming weeks, “Tonx customers will begin to enjoy more ordering flexibility on their deliveries, along with new Blue Bottle packaging that’s designed to incorporate the best of both companies’ design thinking.”
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Handsome Coffee Roasters is now serving and selling branded whole-bean Blue Bottle Coffee, along with coffees from Handsome as well as Tonx. The coffee bar has added almond milk and sugar to its condiment bar, a departure from the original ethos at Handsome. The environment right now is, according to Handsome, “A case study in collaboration…you can grab a macchiato from a Handsome barista, then turn around and say hello to a member of Tonx’s L.A.-based team, then tell a visiting Blue Bottler where to park her rental.” Air conditioning is being added to the offices at Handsome LA, and an organic certification is in the works.
A significant amount of staff from both companies were retained in the acquisition, with employees at Handsome being “hooked up” with health, dental, and vision benefit packages. This includes Handsome Coffee Roasters co-founder and 2010 World Barista Champion Michael Phillips, who will be handling education and training for Blue Bottle LA, and Charlie Habegger, who joined Handsome's roasting team in 2013 and will be managing the coffee program in LA for Blue Bottle, as per Di Moda.
For his part, Michael Phillips had this to say on his new workplace: “Getting to meet everyone at Blue Bottle has been an incredible experience. It is probably the healthiest internal culture I have ever seen. They are extremely supportive of staff and are very progressive in how they approach things.
“It’s like if you walked onto the set of Mr. Rogers. James has this sort of media image of cardigan and glasses, a nice husband/wife duo that has this really sustainable tasty coffee oriented company. And it is 100% true. The more I get to know coffee companies the more I realize the brand is only successful if it’s a manifestation of its leadership.”
But as for the future of these multi-branded identities, Blue Botttle's blog post states: “By late summer, it will all fall under the Blue Bottle banner.” Handsome's Tumblr mentions the coming change thusly: “Once it’s all Blue Bottle in August, we intend to throw a party. You’re invited, of course.” Di Moda's PR info is perhaps more matter of fact: “Handsome Coffee’s social media channels will be completely transitioned into Blue Bottle LA channels by August 2014…We will be changing over all brand identity (including SM handles, blog, and eventually merchandise) to Blue Bottle Coffee completely by late summer.”
So yes, the day is fast approaching when Handsome Coffee Roasters will remove its iconic sign, and the brand will cease to exist. On the coming change, Mr. Phillips told Sprudge, “It will be bittersweet. In some ways I am looking forward to it. The people who made Handsome Handsome are still here and are still doing amazing things. Ultimately we are going to have more influence than we ever had before in the overall conversation about what coffee is.”
Merchandise and beans from Handsome Coffee Roasters are still available for sale online. Buy yours now; in 30 years, when specialty coffee is incalculably 3 gajillion times more popular than it is today, these babies will fetch a pretty penny on eBay.
Photos by Julie Wolfson for Sprudge.com, who also contributed to this reporting.