Storyville – Chapter 2: Coffee

12.21

After Storyville’s essential hardware is in place, then comes the Storyville software—two bags of coffee packed as delicately as a cashmere sweater. The same design detail found in the hardware packaging is present throughout the coffee as well.

The clear plastic, resealable bags are printed in metallic ink with a knockout of their logo, allowing a preview of the product inside. The typography is nicely considered and the roast date is printed right on the front of the bag—just as large as Storyville’s name—making it easy to find and stressing its importance.

Nestled underneath the coffee was a nicely wrapped DVD with the videos from the website teaching you how to brew the perfect press pot as well as the short film about “Big Coffee” and the burnt bean cover-up.

The coffee itself wasn’t as exciting for me as everything else. Not that it was bad, I know a number of people who this would make a great gift for, but I’m not usually in the market for a comforting, earthy morning blend.

The aroma is nice, full of chocolate and spice. There’s also a bit of cinnamon, a hint of clove and honey sweetened nuts that make their way out of the cup. The coffee is full bodied with a bit of a dry mouthfeel. Spiced walnuts are the most prominent flavor, while some lemon zest add a bit of brightness to the cup. As it cools, the coffee smoothes out and ends with a red wine finish.

The last thing I want to share about Storyville, which could be another post in itself, is their Storyville Live initiative. Chad Turnbull, Co-President of Storyville, calls themselves a “for profit, for good” company. What this means is that their success is not determined by profit alone, but also by how they can contribute back to society. I am a big proponent of this type of business. When I’m not writing about coffee or doing design work for clients, I’m actually a bit of  a social entrepreneur myself.

Storyville Live is an intimate concert in the home of a generous host, completely organized by the company with the help of a guest list. During an event, fresh coffee is served up to fuel the live music and conversation that ensue, which allows Storyville to personally introduce new customers to their product. This intimate setting also gives them an opportunity to share their passion for another cause—to see an end to human trafficking and slavery. While this seems like a heavy topic, what better place to discuss an important global issue than over coffee with friends? What’s better, is all of the proceeds made from coffee and hardware sales go directly to the International Justice Mission, who are fighting to end such oppression.

There are many coffee companies who use their sales to promote the well being of people in coffee growing regions (which is fantastic, we should all be doing that), but I find Storyville’s unique approach to raise money for an unrelated issue, a very sincere effort to improve the world we live in. Storyville’s heart is clearly visible in everything they do. From the studio they roast their coffee in, to the way it’s presented when you receive it in your home, it’s obvious that Storyville cares deeply about what they do, which is not only great business, but a great way to live.

visit Storyville

posted by on 12.21.2010, under Coffee Reviews, Design, Recommended Roasters

Storyville – Chapter 1: Hardware

12.17

Storyville is a small coffee company in Seattle, Washington doing big things. Their mission is simple, “the best beans, artfully roasted, and rushed to your door while they’re still fresh.” They only offer one coffee, a regular blend called Prologue and its decaf counterpart, aptly named Epilogue. The goal at Storyville is not to offer the newest or largest selection of blends and origins, but instead provide the fresh and consistent cup of everyday coffee that their costumers enjoy. They also make an effort to educate new customers about the crimes of “Big Coffee” and their bitter, over-roasted beans.

Storyville knows that in order to best enjoy fresh coffee, you need to have a few essentials—a good grinder and a press pot. That’s where their newest, soon to be released, offering comes into play. Introducing Storyville Hardware—or as I call it, “the mind-blowing home coffee transformation kit.” It provides you with the elements needed to grant you freedom from bad coffee.

When I first discovered Storyville a few years ago, the high quality of their design made a lasting first impression. It’s obvious that design shapes every aspect of the company, even though none of the owners are formally trained in the arts. From their identity, packaging, and website—to their roasting studio, which looks more like a Maserati showroom than a roastery. There is an attention to detail you don’t often find in the coffee industry and the design and experience of opening the Hardware package is no exception. If Apple started a coffee company, it would look like Storyville.

When brewing at home, the most important thing you need after fresh roasted coffee, is a solid burr grinder. The consistency of the grind will make all the difference in the extraction, while excess powder from a poor grind can add unwanted sediment and bitterness. So Storyville built a custom grinder to provide this vital piece of equipment.

I spoke with Chad Turnbull, Co-President of Storyville and he told me that they collaborated with a German designer, think BMW and Porsche, to help develop their grinder. The construction is solid, and the body design is more streamlined than similar grinders on the market, while reflecting the essence of the Storyville brand. The internal components are on par with those of a Baratza Virtuoso. It includes a timed on switch, but no pulse button. The polished finish and laser-etched logos are a beautiful touch that almost make you want to cherish it more than use it.

After you grind the beans, you need a proper way to brew. There really isn’t an easier way than with a press pot. It’s one of the most basic and transparent brewing methods, that’s difficult to mess up. No paper filters to impair the taste, and nowhere for bad beans to hide. The oils that aren’t filtered out by the mesh, provide full flavor in the cup while a bit of sediment adds a pleasant texture to the body.

While you can pick up a basic press for about $20, Storyville wanted something that would look nice on the counter next to their grinder. So they partnered with Bodum to offer a custom, 12-cup Columbia press pot. The stainless steel matches the accents on the grinder, and it makes enough coffee to serve everyone at your dinner party.

The design and consideration doesn’t stop at the packaging and the products, but continues through the literature as well. The instruction guides are nicely illustrated with pleasant typography to guide you through using, cleaning and maintaining each piece of hardware. When an instruction guide is so beautiful that you actually want to read it all the way through, it says something for the power of design.

On Monday, I’ll talk more about some unique things Storyville is doing as a company, as well as review the coffee itself. Until then, check out their website to watch a video tour of their amazing roasting studio and a fun parody about ex-employees of “Big Coffee.”

Visit Storyville Coffee

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posted by on 12.17.2010, under Design, Products