What the handiwork on the outside of your takeaway cup is telling you about the handiwork on the inside.
With the smell and taste of proper coffee finally starting to take hold in the UK, the discerning flat white fancier is getting pretty weary of the high street coffee chains and seeking out the establishments nurturing great baristas. But what was once a case of looking for the ‘anti-corporate’ coffee shop – handwritten boards, mismatched furniture and crockery – has been changed forever as large chains adopt signatures of the ‘independent look’.
But while the decor might be changing (some irreverent slogans on the wall here, distressed wood and up-cycled light fittings there) the coffee hasn’t, and neither have the cups.
Remember when you went on holiday overseas years ago and you came back with stamps in your passport? Seemed more fun didn’t it? Look at all the places I’ve been, you can see right here (cue emphatic page-flicking). Well, since that joy disappeared with smart passports, I’ve found my replacement in the stamps on the cups of the cafés I frequent.
Stamped cups brand your experience simply and affordably. But logos aside, the stamp is a brand in itself. Every cup is different. Sometimes the stamp is a bit wetter, the ink pad is running out a bit in one corner. The press is a bit uneven, slightly crooked or even upside-down. To look at a cup and know that there isn’t another cup identical to that is to know every coffee is crafted – the product of bean selection, roasting, the grind and the concentration and skill of the barista.
From the badge-styled logos referencing packaging and branding of a bygone era to some more elaborate designs that could even take you back to the start of the fanzine movement, the aesthetic of the stamp continues to conjure up the handmade and cared for – a feeling I certainly don’t get holding a printed-by-the-million cup.
So while you’re still enjoying the aftertaste of your next indie takeaway, savour the moment because the visual stimuli in your hand lives on long after your latte art has stretched, distorted and dissolved into the drips left in the bottom of your cup.
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