A guide to tasting cards for specialty coffee

Jane Merchant
August 13, 2021
coffee bags with pockets

As consumers become increasingly interested in the coffee they buy, they want to know more about it than ever before. This includes everything from its origin and varietal, to how it was processed and who roasted it.

However, while all this could be included on the coffee bag, too much information can quickly confuse and overwhelm consumers. What’s more, it can start to encroach on branding and sacrifice an otherwise minimalist design, leaving little room for creativity.

A popular solution is tasting cards – small cards that slot neatly into external pockets on coffee bags containing information about the coffee. Not only do they offer consumers a handy guide to the coffee, they also help specialty roasters maintain a simple packaging aesthetic.

But should all roasters offer tasting cards with their coffee bags? And are there any downsides to doing so?

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tasting cards for filter coffee
Tasting cards can include everything from origins and varietals, to processing methods and roast dates

What information do tasting cards include?

Over the last few years, consumers have taken a greater interest in the coffee they buy. They want to know about its entire journey from seed to cup, including where it was grown, who grew it, and how it was processed.

This level of traceability is particularly important to younger generations. According to a survey by Mintel, 35% of 16-24 year olds who buy coffee in the UK say “ethically sourced” beans are an important consideration when it comes to their purchasing decision.

As such, coffee bags carrying cards with additional information about the coffee have become an increasingly common sight. Known as tasting cards, they can feature everything from flavour notes and roast profile, to altitude and brewing instructions.

The level of detail on tasting cards varies depending on the preference of the roaster. For example, Röststätte Berlin includes a simple tasting card, featuring flavour notes, process, varietal, altitude, and harvest (pictured).

Ozone Coffee Roasters, on the other hand, includes more detailed information on their tasting cards, such as a full history of the coffee farm and the people who work there, as well as a mini map of the region.

This decision largely comes down to the brand’s target audience. There is little sense in adding information on factors such as varietal, mouthfeel, and processing methods if their customers are relatively new to coffee. It will only serve to confuse and intimidate them.

Similarly, if the target audience is experienced specialty drinkers, then information on brewing instructions might come across as patronising.

v60 and packaging
Tasting cards can help engage, educate, and entertain your customers

How can they benefit your customers?

The principal aims behind tasting cards are to engage, educate, and entertain your customers. 

Education usually appeals to new customers or those unfamiliar with coffee. It’s critical for winning over those who might not see the value of spending more money than usual on a specialty coffee.

As their palate develops, these customers will be able to differentiate between origins, varieties, and processing methods. This could help them appreciate the work that goes into producing these coffees, and better justify its price.

Once customers become loyal to your brand, they’ll be more likely to use tasting cards for fun or to find new coffees to try. For example, if they know they enjoy carbonic macerated coffee, they may look for ones from different origins or with slightly more unusual flavour notes.

This has become particularly important since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. With many coffee shops forced to close their doors, consumers began to recreate the coffee shop experience at home.

According to recent statistics, more than 40% of Americans bought types of coffee they had never tried before during the pandemic, and nearly one third tried to replicate a favourite coffee shop beverage at home.

Yet without the ready knowledge and expertise of baristas, many consumers felt a bit lost as to what they should drink. Tasting cards have been able to fill the void left by coffee shop closures by providing lots of details about the coffee so that consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions.

tasting cards for specialty coffee
Consistency is important when deciding what to include on your tasting cards

Tips for designing coffee tasting cards

Alongside QR codes, tasting cards are an excellent way for specialty roasters to maintain a minimalist packaging aesthetic, while providing their customers with all the information they need.

However, there are a few things to consider before designing your own. One of the most important is how you plan to distribute your coffee.

If you typically sell your coffee online or via subscriptions, then a pouch at the front might not be the best idea as the tasting card could fall out before it reaches the consumer. A flyer included in the box might be a more convenient way of offering the same information without the risk of it getting lost.

As mentioned, it’s crucial to analyse your target audience before deciding on the type and  level of detail you include on tasting cards. But once you have done this, then you need to ensure consistency across all products. This applies to everything from the volume of details to the way in which they’re presented. 

If customers come to expect a certain amount of information on the coffee they buy from you, yet some have more than others, then it can have a negative impact on your brand. 

That means you shouldn’t dive in and present a full story on the farmer and their family for one coffee if you’re unable to do it for every coffee in your menu.

coffee bag with tasting card
MTPak Coffee’s bags can be customised to include a pocket for holding tasting cards

Tasting cards are an effective way of enhancing the customer experience. They provide easy access to information about the coffee, while maintaining a minimalist packaging aesthetic.

Slotting neatly into the front pocket of coffee bags, tasting cards can contain as little or as much information as you like, from altitude and origin, to an entire background story about the people behind its production.

At MTPak Coffee, we can help you design the perfect tasting cards for your customers. Our team of expert designers can work with you to determine everything from text placement to colours and sizes. You can customise any of our sustainable packaging options to include a pocket for holding the tasting card on the front or back.

For information about our sustainable coffee bags, contact our team.

Photo credits: Röststätte Berlin

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