The folks at Denver, Colorado’s Novo Coffee, in collaboration with Matter Design Studio, have put together a 4-ounce taster that looks like a lovely little hardbound book. With a totally different approach to texture and surface than your average package, this “pressure-fitted, laser-fabricated box shell” helps Novo Coffee’s small-batch program stand out. The box itself is recyclable, but Novo’d prefer it if you upcycled them yourself, keeping the box around as a bookend or keepsake.
As told to Sprudge by Josh Taves.



When did the coffee package design debut?

We first released “The Small Batch” boxes in November of 2014 as a way to showcase higher-quality coffees that were cost prohibitive for most customers in a 12oz denomination. We use these boxes to showcase 4 ounces of higher-quality coffees that we can get small amounts of.

Who designed the package?

Rick Griffith and his team at Matter Design Studio designed and made the packaging for us.


Any design highlights you want to share?

We’re using the texture and the surface treatment as a color. The wooden and the burlap texture usually found with coffee culture are burned into the surface. “Our design approach is linked to the production of very rare coffees in small batches,” says Matter Design Studio’s Rick Griffith.

Please describe the look in your own words!

I’ll defer to the owner of Novo, Jake Brodsky, on this one.

“It is probably the only movie quote I have ever used, it’s from Pulp Fiction when Samuel L. Jackson is describing his wallet and he says ‘It’s the one that says bad motherfucker;‘ that’s what I think of when I think of these boxes.” — Jake Brodsky.


What coffee information do you share on the package? What’s the motivation behind that?

As with all of our coffees, we strive to showcase transparency and in that vein, point back to the work of the producer. We have the origin and producer, which in this case is pretty special because they are “family” for us, as well as the processing and varietals. We also include the nuances as a good starting place for what people should look for when tasting the coffee.

Where is the bag manufactured?

Our design studio, Matter, has laser production and digital fabrication capacity, and gives the parts to us (Novo) to assemble as needed. The quantities and cost are low and the impact is quite high. This aligns the value to the actual coffee.

For package nerds, what *type of package* is it?

It’s a pressure-fitted, laser-fabricated box shell with a series of modular paper templates color-coded for the origin of the coffee inside. The bag that actually holds the coffee is a silver foil bag, heat-sealed, with a one-way valve.

Is the package recyclable? Any other pro-environment info about the package you want to share?

The package is made from recycled materials, and it is not coated, so in principle if someone actually wanted to throw it away, it could go into a compostable stream. Most people will repurpose them into great things like bookends, card holders, collectors items (since we release new coffees in them every few months), etc.


What’s the story behind the coffee?

Joseph Brodsky (one of the founders of Novo Coffee and founder of Ninety Plus Coffee) met Semeon Abay in an Ethiopian restaurant in Denver in 2003. They connected immediately and soon, Semeon Abay became Novo’s first employee. He worked at Novo for 5 years packaging, delivering, and eventually becoming the roaster. In 2008, Semeon decided it was time to move back to his home country of Ethiopia. He now works as the Director of Profile Processing in Ethiopia for Ninety Plus Coffee.

This particular coffee is part of their “Maker Series.” These are coffees where they allow certain individuals to use their expertise to process lots of coffee in unique ways for the sake of flavor exploration and education. Semeon Abay is the “Maker” featured in this lot of coffee. Semeon took Ninety Plus’s popular Nekisse N2 coffee, and dried it non-uniformly with intention for the sake of producing complexity and uniqueness in the cup. This is the same coffee that Odd-Steinar Tøleffsen used to win the World Brewers Cup this year.

It is really great for us at Novo to see a coffee like this because it really brings a lot of things full circle in the history of our company. We are really proud of Semeon and Ninety Plus for producing such a great coffee and are really excited to share it.

Company: Novo Coffee
Location: Denver, Colorado
Country: USA
Design Date: November 2014
Designer: Rick Griffith and the Matter Design Studio team
ManufacturerMatter Design Studio

Coffee Design is a feature series by Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge. Read more Coffee Design here.