The sincerest form of flattery

by JulieCraves on May 1, 2009

Last year, Counter Culture Coffee launched its Direct Trade program. They also strarted rolling out their current line of packaging: brown kraft-like valve bags with a sleeve that has nice origin-appropriate art, a map on one side panel showing the source, tasting notes on the other side, and a good description of the farm or co-op on the back. I believe they won an award at a coffee trade show for this labelling.

This year, Starbucks debuted “seasonal coffees.” These coffees are only available for a limited time, and are “harvested in-season when they are at their peak of flavor.”  I’m not sure what Starbucks is really trying to say, since all coffee is harvested “in season.”  Coffee is at its peak flavor when it is fresh — when the green beans have not been sitting around for ages, and when it is freshly roasted. Maybe these seasonal coffees are not as stale as the Starbucks coffee often found on store shelves. But I digress.

What I really wanted to point out was that the packaging for the new Starbucks seasonal coffee line looks very familiar. A brown (non-valve) bag, with a printed wrap-around-look label with art on the front and tasting notes and a map on the side… You get the picture. If not, here you go:

Revised on December 1, 2018

Posted in Retail and specialty roasters,Starbucks

Stephen Leighton May 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I know which one I'd rather have. Has some fantastic Counter Culture in Octane in Atlanta that blew my mind (the Ethiopian misty valley).

Mug arrived safely thanks so much coming soon on a video :)

Julie May 1, 2009 at 4:35 pm

It goes without saying that there is no comparing what is in the bags, that's for sure.

Mike May 2, 2009 at 10:44 am

You definitely can't judge a book by it's cover, or in this case a bag of coffee.

Mark Overbay May 4, 2009 at 9:50 am

Greetings friends,

The packaging pictured above in the first photo, which we launched as "Source" to emphasize its steps toward connecting coffee lovers with producer communities, actually launched in June 2007. It's hard to believe that it will have been two years ago next month!

Our Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification launched in 2008, as you correctly stated above.

Best regards,

Mark Overbay
Counter Culture Coffee

Julie May 4, 2009 at 11:55 am

Thanks, Mark. Time flies when you're drinking good coffee!

Mike White June 21, 2009 at 9:55 am

Why don't the Starbucks bags have a valve?

Julie June 21, 2009 at 10:16 am

I presume because of cost. I also have to wonder if the coffee is not bagged shortly after roasting, or it would need to have a degassing valve. Good question.

Klaus June 22, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I can't believe how similar those bags look. You'd almost think there were grounds for legal action.
And how's Starbuks' bags going to last without a valve? Do they let it de-gas completely before packing?

l June 23, 2009 at 1:28 am

stumptown has been doing kraft bags since they started in 1999, right? so is starbucks copying counter culture copying stumptown?

Julie June 23, 2009 at 6:43 am

The similarity between the Counter Culture and Starbucks packaging goes well beyond the color of the bag. Aside from the type of bag, neither Stumptown's old packaging or new packaging looks like either the bags of Counter Culture or Starbucks.

Mark Overbay June 23, 2009 at 10:35 am

To address any confusion related to the anonymous post above about kraft packaging: Counter Culture used kraft brown paper packaging before we launched the "Source" look highlighted in this post. We started using it in latter 1990s, soon after our founding and well before my time here. An affinity for brown is one of many things we have in common with our friends at Stumptown, for whom we have nothing but love and respect.


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