Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the popularity of online coffee sales and at-home consumption have skyrocketed.
Just as these two trends are likely to continue throughout 2022, so is customer experimentation with single origin coffees and brewing methods. One way roasters and cafe owners can boost online coffee sales is by offering monthly mystery or “blind tasting” coffee boxes.
Typically, blind tasting boxes contain a variety of sample-sized coffees, all of which have the same branding. Information such as tasting notes and origins is usually omitted to ensure the customer’s experience is unbiased.
Blind tasting boxes can help customers deepen their coffee knowledge and appreciation at home. Furthermore, they are a unique way for roasters to entice new customers, while engaging with existing ones.
Read on to discover the benefits of offering blind tasting coffee boxes and what roasters must consider when offering them.
Why offer blind tasting coffee boxes?
Many customers assume that being able to determine a coffee’s flavour notes and aromas is a skill people are born with. In reality, it is something most people can learn with enough practice.
The specialty coffee industry typically uses blind cupping to objectively evaluate and score coffees, regardless of its origin, branding, and costing.
While customers may not typically taste coffees to enter them into competitions, the principle of blind tasting is the same. For instance, customers may struggle to differentiate a coffee’s objective qualities from their own subjective perceptions.
While there are limited studies around customer sales and specialty coffee blind tasting, coffee is similar to wine in the sense that it hinges on sensory evaluations for product assessment.
As research shows, when tasting wines consumers often associate a higher price with better quality. Furthermore, unless they are knowledgeable about wine, they can be easily influenced by expert recommendations.
On the other hand, those familiar with a brand are more likely to evaluate its quality based on their experience with that particular brand. This shows how blind tasting can help new customers make genuine choices about what they like.
For existing customers, blind tasting can highlight the difference between a coffee’s perceived quality and that of the brand itself. This, in turn, may help roasters determine the strength of their brand identity.
Blind tasting coffee boxes can also help roasters determine whether a new offering will be popular among a certain audience, including the attributes they should highlight when marketing it.
Tips for offering blind tasting coffee boxes
Recently, many roasters have added blind tasting coffee boxes to their online offerings.
For roasters who are considering the same, here are some examples of how to implement this service:
Reveal the coffee afterward
In addition to helping roasters test new coffees, blind tasting boxes help customers draw their own conclusions based on a coffee’s aroma and taste.
Typically, the boxes contain only a little information about the coffees inside to avoid influencing the customer’s initial perceptions. However, roasters should provide some sort of product information.
To make the blind tasting a fun and exciting experience, it is recommended this information is shared via a physical or online reference guide.
For example, the taste box from Rosetta Roastery in Cape Town, South Africa contains four 75g samples of mystery coffees. They also provide a flavour guide with space for customers to take their own notes.
Each sachet is marked with a number so customers know whether they’ve tried it before. Once the customer has tried a coffee, they can reference the guide book or website for the coffee’s name, altitude, harvesting methods, and flavour notes.
Let customers buy more of what they like
Blind tasting boxes are an effective way to help customers develop an idea of their favourite coffees.
Roasters can facilitate this by providing them with an easy way to order more of the coffee they have enjoyed.
For instance, Italian coffee startup Essence Coffee offers customers a mystery tasting box that contains six coffees from different roasters. If a customer likes a particular coffee, they can scan a QR code on the sachet, which takes them to the online store.
From there, customers can order ground or whole bean coffee. Additionally, the QR code provides customers with additional information, such as origin and processing methods.
Note customer preferences from their choices
A customer’s choice during a blind tasting can show a preference for a certain origin of coffee.
Roasters can use this as an opportunity to engage with customers and discover their likes and dislikes. This can further help roasters pair customers with coffee they like, helping to increase customer retention and brand loyalty.
An effective example of this is Canada’s Matchmaker Coffee. Customers receive six coffees that showcase the brand’s range of taste profiles. Customers provide the business with feedback by scoring the coffees.
Then, the businesses algorithms and coffee-matchmaker programme designs a custom coffee for the customer. Additionally, the website allows customers to take a coffee quiz to help them determine what they like.
Offer different tasting levels
For new coffee drinkers, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information around specialty coffee.
Here, roasters have an ideal opportunity to encourage customer retention. They should consider offering boxes with content aimed at beginner, intermediate, and advanced coffee drinkers.
Angel’s Cup in the USA offers blind tasting coffee boxes that contain four coded sachets. When buying a box, customers are encouraged to download a companion cell phone app. This app provides access to different levels of analysis depending on the customer’s coffee knowledge.
Then, once a customer has tried a coffee, they can search for it on the app using the code on the sachet. As their knowledge grows, customers can choose to upgrade their box to the next level and indulge in completely different coffees.
Finding the best packaging for blind tasting boxes
Before roasters can offer customers a subscription to blind tasting coffee boxes, they may need to evaluate their packaging options.
First, roasters choosing to use ground coffee in their boxes will need packaging with strong barrier properties. This is to preserve the freshness and prevent the coffee from going stale before it reaches customers.
Multilayer packaging offers a flexible and versatile option for many specialty roasters. It enables them to choose eye-catching designs using kraft paper or rice paper, while ensuring their coffee is well protected against moisture, heat, light, and oxygen.
Second, roasters must choose a suitable sample-sized package. Furthermore, they must ensure the collective box is suited for home delivery through post boxes and letter boxes.
Third, the sample bags and the collective box will need to be branded. While this will include the roaster’s details, it will not give away any details about the coffee itself.
This will likely mean roasters may have to invest in custom packaging that differs dramatically from what they use to package standard coffee offerings.
Therefore, it is essential the chosen materials are sustainable and recyclable, and do not contribute to the increasing plastic waste crisis.
At MTPak Coffee, we can help create your blind tasting coffee box from the design stage through to execution. Choose from a range of materials, including kraft paper or rice paper, reinforced with multiple layers that can be easily separated and recycled.
What’s more, our water-based printing inks use low volatile organic compounds, which are compostable and easily removed during the recycling process.