I’m excited to announce that starting next week, Highwire has a new bag for our coffee beans.
Big whoop, right?
Here’s the thing. Rich and I are constantly talking about ways to shrink the carbon footprint of Highwire. A few years back, we went with a compostable coffee bag when many of our peers were moving toward high-barrier, foil-lined pouches. Why? In our view, the goal of sustainability weighs more than the goal of preserving the freshness of coffee beyond its typical shelf life. We will just continue to emphasize buying what you can use while coffee is still fresh without artificial assurances of extended life. So we went with a more sustainable option.
(There’s always a “but”)
Being a small company with limited funds, we compromised and had to print labels to apply to the compostable bags. These labels are not compostable nor are the tin tie or one-way valve, so it was a case of two steps forward, one back.
So we’re making another step forward. The new bags.
These bags are printed in significant quantities, with considerable upfront cash outlay in order to print the graphics on the compostable bags. We thereby save thousands of non-compostable labels for Blend bags per year from becoming landfill. We’re happy with that.
But that’s not the half of it. While we were madly scrambling to get proofs to the manufacturer and order in time to not run out of bags a few months ago, Rich had the idea that we could do a better job telling the story of our beans on the bags. I was in a hurry, so didn’t initially warm to the idea. In retrospect, I’m really glad he was persuasive.
The new blend bags have a three-word flavor descriptor in place of the old taglines that will help a person quickly decide what sounds tasty to them. In addition, there is a statement on the back of the bag that spells out our point of view when it comes to blending. We’re proud of our blends, but until now you’ve needed to have a lot of faith that the coffee inside the bag would be something you liked. Now we give you more to go on.
Then it got weird. Not content to just clean up the old designs, we reimagined the whole single origin thing. “Fingerprints” is the new name of our Single Origin line. The name is a reference to the fact that in our view, every cup of coffee has the signature or fingerprints of many people on it but especially: the farmer and the roaster. The farmer’s fingerprints determine the potential of this cup based on their decisions of what varietal to plant, how to care for their plants, when and how carefully to harvest and sort, etc. The roaster’s fingerprint is all about seeing and realizing the potential through its development during roasting. How will that acidity express itself? Will the body be in balance with the other components? That’s the roaster’s work. They get to decide. When these are in balance, you have Highwire's sweet spot. Balance.
The bag graphics were designed by former Rockridge barista/ designer extraordinaire, Katie Miller (Highwire freshman class of ‘13) as were the rest of Highwire’s designs. They were intended to unify the lineup of Single Origins under one banner rather than the more abstract graphics that delineated African, American or Pacific origin coffees. Did you ever notice the internal logic behind those graphics? Take a look and see if you get it. Pretty cool. And subtle.
Starting next week, all single origin coffees will be sold under the “Fingerprints” label, with language on the back expressing what these coffees represent to us. The detail label (couldn’t totally escape them. dang.) still has the farm, region or country of origin, altitude grown, varietal and three-word flavor description. The three words are intended to represent what anyone paying attention ought to be able to find in the cup rather than an exhaustive list of what someone might find there. It’s the way we’ve always preferred to sell our coffee.
Anyway, that’s the news. We’re excited and hope you will be too. It’s a big deal as we move incrementally toward shrinking our carbon footprint while more coherently telling people why we do what we do.