Art as Original as the Coffee: The Story Behind Starbucks Reserve Packaging

No two Starbucks Reserve® coffees are ever the same. They are among the rarest and most exquisite coffees, with limited harvests from small producers in coffee-growing regions in Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific. Every coffee, every harvest, is approached with a fresh perspective.

Since the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery in Seattle opened in December 2014, Starbucks Reserve® coffees have been roasted and packaged onsite in small batches. And paired with each one is a coffee card design that is as unique as the coffee – an original piece of art.

For the Starbucks Creative Studio team based in Seattle, their visual approach for each card takes a cue from the story behind the coffee. It could be the tire tracks imprinted on the mud roads that bring one coffee to market, or the colorful birds that roam the fields for another. Each piece seeks to capture the local culture and the art, science and craft that go into every cup.

These cards have become keepsakes among customers, who tuck them in books, collect them in binders and pin them to walls. Some have even upcycled them into notebooks or greeting cards.

“Designers across the Starbucks Creative Studio create each Starbucks Reserve Card as a stand-alone work of art," said Ben Nelson, Starbucks creative director. "We aim to put as much care into the design process as we know our farmers and roasters put into these special coffees. Seeing the passion and creativity that the designers infuse into each card inspires all of us.”

Here’s the story behind the design of a few Starbucks Reserve® coffees currently available in select Starbucks® stores in the United States and Canada and online.

Starbucks Reserve® Sumatra Lake Toba

Created by the largest volcanic eruption the earth has seen in 25 million years, Sumatra’s Lake Toba gives farmers an extraordinarily fertile ecosystem for coffee cultivation. The region’s geologic history also served as inspiration for the card design for Starbucks Reserve® Sumatra Lake Toba, with a vivid illustration of its volcanic lake surrounded by explosive colors and swirling clouds of ash.

Starbucks Reserve® Cape Verde Fogo Island

Located in the remote Cape Verde archipelago off Africa’s western coast, the island of Fogo is characterized by rocks and black sand. Its coffee is an intensely sweet, full-bodied cup with mild florals and sparkling acidity as remarkable as its distant island home. The artwork for Starbucks Reserve® Cape Verde Fogo Island is a reference to seismic mapping techniques and data visualizations used by geologists and seismologists to monitor the island’s highly active stratovolcano.

Starbucks Reserve® Perú Chontalí

Hard work and passion are behind Starbucks Reserve® Perú Chontalí from the remote and rugged landscape of the Chunchuca Valley in Peru’s Northern Highlands. This design depicts the region’s steep-walled terrain, with its vibrant colors reflecting the coffee’s bright acidity and lemon-lime flavor.

Starbucks Reserve® Rwanda Maraba

This design for Starbucks Reserve® Rwanda Maraba coffee was inspired by the coming together of the Rwandan people. The hundreds of dots signify the hard-working community that comes together around one cause and purpose of creating not only a livelihood for them and their families, but also a delicious coffee for the world to enjoy. The colors and energy of the art signify the people and culture who make this coffee possible.

Starbucks Reserve® Nicaragua Monimbo

Vibrant colors celebrate the pride of the Monimbo farm, where Starbucks Reserve® Nicaragua Monimbo coffee is grown under 95 percent shade cover. The design conveys the idea of looking up through the forest canopy at the rich life that thrives there.

About Starbucks Reserve

Starbucks Reserve coffees are available in select Starbucks® stores in whole-bean, or brewed by the cup, and online. Customers can also enjoy exclusive Reserve coffees at home with a monthly subscription.

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