Video: Cup Specialty Coffee


In the last year, there’s been an increase of well-produced coffee videos making their rounds on the internet, most of them from the US. However, in the 2011 edition of koffievidmania, I somehow missed this gem—created more than a year and a half ago for Brisbane, Australia based Cup Coffee. This beautiful short film has all the right elements for success—the hypnotic tone of The Album Leaf sets the mood for backlit shots of a Slayer in action and slow motion latte art. What more do you need?

With almost 15,000 views on Vimeo, this could very well be the blueprint for high-end coffee films. If you know of anything pre-dating this, send it my way!

Filmed by Paul Nevison of PSN Creative

posted by on 02.05.2012, under Misc., Videos

Why the Compleat Cup is Incomplete


There’s been a lot of buzz in both the design and coffee worlds this past week about an innovative take on the disposable cup called, Compleat. The concept was developed by Architect Peter Herman and refined by graphic designer Daren Bascome, both based in Boston. The problem behind it is a persistent one that many people have attempted to solve—reduce the waste from disposable cups.

Last year Starbucks sponsored the BetaCup contest on Jovoto, a forum for product design competitions, to develop a more sustainable to-go cup. The winner wasn’t a cup at all, but a game that served as an incentive to bring your own reusable cup. I found the winning solution quite admirable, but have yet to hear about it implemented in Starbucks stores.

The Compleat Cup is the latest attempt to solve one of the more annoying environmental problems in the coffee industry. While it’s a nice concept, I don’t think its ready for prime time and I wouldn’t expect to see them popping up in coffee shops around the world just yet.

While the main pitch is that you reduce the use of a plastic lid, which is of course a scourge in itself—many lids alone can be recycled. The cups are the problem, because the paper is fused to a thin plastic lining that most US recycling systems can’t handle.

Even if the lining used a bio plastic, those only degrade if they are properly disposed of, i.e. composted. Most places in the US don’t have compost programs in place. So while these cups will reduce part of the problem, it still leaves a pressing one that can really only be solved by bringing your own mug.

The design may be iconic, but what about the people—myself included—who prefer to drink without a lid? If you open the folds, I don’t see any practical way to drink from this like a normal cup.

When the cup is folded up to create a drinking spout, it forms a direct funnel into your mouth. While this may be a great idea for cold drinks on hot days, it makes me pause when considering hot coffee. There’s no longer a barrier to allow for the “is this going to scald my mouth” sip while drinking blindly.

Admittedly these observations have been made without having yet tried a Compleat cup, however, I feel that I’ve drank coffee from enough beverage receptacles to make an educated critique of it. Once I’ve had the opportunity to try one, I’ll be sure to follow up with the results.

The Compleat Cup

posted by on 12.12.2011, under Design, Misc., Products

Leslie Buck, designer of a NYC coffee icon, RIP.


If you’ve ever been to New York City, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the Anthora coffee cup. Leslie Buck, who passed away this week, initially designed the cups to target the large population of Greek Diners in NYC and it went on to become a coffee icon throughout the city for decades.

A pop-cultural totem, the Anthora has been enshrined in museums; its likeness has adorned tourist memorabilia like T-shirts and ceramic mugs. Like many once-celebrated artifacts, though, the cup may now be endangered, the victim of urban gentrification.

The Anthora seems to have been here forever, as if bestowed by the gods at the city’s creation. But in fact, it was created by man — one man in particular, a refugee from Nazi Europe named Leslie Buck. -NYTimes

Though their use has declined, the Solo Cup company, who absorbed the original maker of the cup, sold 200 Million of them up in 2005 when they began to only offer the Anthora design by special request. However, a few years ago, Graham Hill (founder of Treehugger) began making ceramic replicas of the cup for all those fans who want to reduce their waste, without giving up their sacred Anthora.

Photo: banjo D

posted by on 04.30.2010, under Design, Misc.

A solo opinion


While I recently posted about the beauty of a reusable lid for your ceramic mug, I was coincidentally sent this editorial, writen by reknown design writer Steven Heller, regarding his love for the Solo plastic lid.

Like Pavlov’s compliant canine, I salivate whenever I see someone walking down the street holding a paper coffee cup topped with a Solo Traveler lid. The various other varieties of plastic covers, including some that look like the Starship Enterprise, don’t move me at all. And Styrofoam cups are a total turn-off, but paper cups crowned with that raised, pierced rim make me want to bark at the moon — I mean, savor a hot beverage… -Times Magazine

While I admire Heller’s passion—I too prefer the simple Solo lid to the complex mechanisms in the fancier ones, which never seem to work correctly—I believe his article’s focus is naive and irresponsible. To praise the design of something that is meant to have a lifespan of less than an hour—only to sit for billions of years in a pile someplace, or float around aimlessly in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch—is wreckless abuse of his authority as a design critic. While the Mug Hug isn’t the most beautiful solution(though it’s clearly inspired by the Solo lid), functionally it’s far superior. It reduces mass amounts of unnecessary waste, which is a far more pressing problem designers should be focused on solving, not how well a lid, metaphorically, resembles suckling from our mother’s tit.

Thanks to Marc O’Brien for the tip.

posted by on 03.08.2010, under Design, Misc.

Mug Shot — Black President


While this isn’t an official Mug Shot, since I don’t own one(yet) and no one submitted this, it is one of the greatest mugs I’ve seen. Just brilliant.

A bit pricey, but the guys cleverness is worth something. For sale at Etsy.

Send us a photo of your favorite mug and look for it in a future mug shot.

posted by on 01.05.2010, under Products

The Beta Cup


In North America we consume 58 billion paper cups every year. This represents 60% of the worlds total cup wastage. Shockingly these cups are not being recycled and most end up in landfill. The problem is that as consumers we love convenience, and paper cups have become a symbol of how out of control our throw away culture has become. Adding to the problem is the fact that adoption of current, reusable alternatives is less than 2%, due in part to the fact that these alternatives are not as convenient as the paper cup. This means we have a serious problem on our hands.

That’s where the betacup comes in. Our goal is to eliminate paper cup consumption and create a more convenient alternative through a global collaborative design contest. The aim will be to invite designers and design teams all around the world to come together around this shared problem.

I believe design can solve a lot of problems, but sometimes the problem isn’t poor design, it’s people. While I strongly agree with the motivation behind this project, I don’t believe poorly designed travel mugs are the reason people don’t use them. “I am not a Paper Cup” (pictured below), for example, looks just like the cups we leave a cafe with, but most people won’t be bothered carrying an empty one with them to the store. It’s not because the cup is bulky or hard to clean, it’s because people are lazy and convenience is greater than reducing their impact on the environment. However, the Beta Cup Prize hopes to change this.


There is already an unlimited supply of manufactured ceramic and plastic mugs floating around thrift stores and Wal-Marts. To think about designing and producing even more stuff is not only irresponsible, but it’s not the solution. You have to change peoples behaviors—and this time—I don’t think a fancy new cup is the answer. Most Starbucks have stopped using ceramic mugs, so if I’m not getting my coffee to go, I’m stuck with a paper cup unless I’ve brought my own. While this makes the problem worse, it’s also inspired my solution.

Here’s my idea for Beta Cup. Get cafe’s to stop providing cups altogether. If you want your coffee, you provide the vessel. It doesn’t matter what shape, color, size, or material. You may loose some customers in the beginning, but at some point it will click, habits will form, people will change and if they really love their coffee they will bring their own cup. Give me $20k and I will use it to develop an awareness campaign and a countdown clock, to give customers forewarning. On zero day, all cups vanish from stores, peoples mindsets are reset, and new behaviors begin to take shape.

Find out more at or help fund the prize on Kickstarter.

posted by on 12.21.2009, under Design, Misc.

Far Coast



I’ve never been to a Far Coast, because I’ve never been to Canada where this chain is based. It’s owned by Coca-Cola and touts the company’s fair trade “ethics” on it’s website. The effort seems like a noble attempt to take on other global coffee chains, but it’s kind of like Clorox selling Green Works cleaning solutions, it’s a small drop in an ocean of other irresponsible business practices.

But I digress. I love their cups. The blue lids really set everything off, taking a drastic departure from the earth tones used by most coffee companies.

Has anyone been to one of these? I’d love to hear first hand experiences.

posted by on 12.17.2009, under Design

Cheeming Boey, coffeeless cups



Cheeming Boey doesn’t drink coffee, he prefers sake. But inspiration struck him while sitting outside a coffee shop that has led to an incredible collection of artwork on a unique canvas – styrofoam cups.

You don’t drink coffee, so what were you drinking the day you first started drawing on cups in a coffee shop? I wasn’t drinking anything, just sat outside the shop, picked up a cup sitting on top of a trash can.

Are all of the cups you draw on previously used or have you purchased new ones to maintain a consistency in your work? The first couple of cups were all recycled, until hygiene became an issue. The cups were not consistent in sizes too, so displaying them as a series of works weren’t pleasing to the eye. So I started buying them. Companies are going to keep churning them out, atleast when I draw on them, I like to think they aren’t disposed of.

Have any cafes been in touch about designing custom cups for them? Yes, some have contacted me, but many times there isn’t a lot of creative freedom. It’s almost like they just need a graphic/ product designer. I didn’t want to fall into that category. I like the freedom I have now. Some were willing to give me that freedom, but the pay wasn’t right, so I didn’t. It was less than what I would sell a cup for. A clothing company also contacted me, and they didn’t even want to pay, because they see it as a privilege to have my designs on their tshirts. I didn’t like that idea at all.

Have you ever considered creating and selling your own products, like reusable mugs for example, with your work on them? Or would you be worried that mass production would decrease the artistic value of your gallery work? If my works were on ceramics, then that’s just another cup. The thing with the foam cups is that it’s so common. Everyone’s held one of these before, before throwing them away. It is that idea, that I am willing to spend so much time on one that draws people to my works I think.

The foam cup isn’t any less durable. For one, the cup will last thousands of years, which is why it is an environmental issue. If you drop it, it won’t break like ceramic would. It’s really is how you choose to view it.

Just because it is labeled disposable doesn’t mean it has to be, right?

Do you still have a day job? Or have the cups allowed you to focus solely on your artwork? Yes, I still work as an animator.

You can see more of Boey’s cups on Flickr or check out his recently launched Etsy store. Also visit

posted by on 12.10.2009, under Design, Interviews, Products

Mug Shot — Mat Weeks



As a potter, I have an ever rotating gaggle of mugs to choose from, but this one is one of my recent favorites. Joyce Fujiwara has been one of my ceramics teachers on and off for a year now and she finally had an open studio where I could buy one of her beautiful pieces. This is now my go-to mug at home and helps make weekend mornings start a little easier. –Mat

Send us a photo of your favorite mug and look for it in a future mug shot.

posted by on 12.08.2009, under Misc.

Domo Arigato 7-Eleven



“Domo, the Japanese stop-action character and meme celebrity, is appearing this fall in an elaborate 7-Eleven storewide promotion, and his toothy brown face is plastered on everything imaginable. Tons of signage of all over, collectible Slurpee cups (and Domo’s own custom flavor, Fuji Frost), character straws, coffee cups, and some truly inventive and funny packaging design for the hot dog containers. There’s even Domo schwag like hats, t-shirts, and books. Evan Brody, the marketing manager for Slurpee, told Brandweek that 7-Eleven’s consumers “love crazy Japanese shit.”

I’m not a huge fan of “crazy japanese shit,” or 7-Eleven coffee, but I do love these cups. I haven’t been to a 7-Eleven in a while, but you can see more of the Domo madness on Lovely Package.

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posted by on 12.08.2009, under Design, Misc.