A coffee’s flavour is determined by several factors, such as growing conditions, processing methods, and brewing techniques. Yet, other external influences are often overlooked, such as the texture and colour of takeaway coffee cup lids.
Several studies show the colour of takeaway coffee cups and lids can significantly affect the drinker’s perception of everything from flavour and acidity to body and sweetness.
So, what if your choice of takeaway coffee cup lids is preventing your customers from enjoying the full effect of your coffee? More importantly, is there an “ideal” colour for coffee cup lids, and should you invest in it?
To learn more about whether the colour of takeaway coffee cup lids actually matters, I spoke with George Van Doorn, a senior lecturer at the Federation University Australia, and Erik Busch, the owner of LongStory Coffee Co.
Understanding takeaway coffee cups and colour
In a research paper titled ‘Does the colour of the mug influence the taste of the coffee?’, George, along with other researchers, observed how the colour of the mug can significantly affect a customer’s perception of coffee flavour.
Therefore, he emphasises the importance for café owners to consider the colour of their coffee cups to ensure customer satisfaction.
“In much of our work, we experimentally show how people’s perception of various drinks are nearly always influenced by the combination of product and packaging qualities,” explains George, who also taught cognitive science at Monash University. “Be it colour, temperature, material qualities, or texture.”
The research paper investigated whether the colour of the mug would influence consumers’ perception of a café latte beverage. The mugs ranged from transparent, white, and blue in colour. Results found the white mug increased the ‘intensity’ of the coffee’s flavour in comparison to the transparent mug.
Due to minor variations in the physical attributes of the mugs, a follow-up experiment was carried out using identical glass mugs with coloured cup sleeves. Once more, the mug’s colour impacted how participants rated the coffee.
“Pink cups tend to promote expectations of a sweet taste, while yellow and green cups prime notions of acidity,” George says. “The same would likely be true if it was the takeaway coffee cup lid colour that was pink, green, or yellow.”
So, how can coffee shops determine which coffee cups and lids align with their visual identity and customer preferences? George emphasises that this appears to be a case of trial and error. In his opinion, it may not always be sensible for establishments to choose unconventional colours.
Does the colour of your takeaway coffee cup lids matter?
It’s important to understand how research findings, such as those mentioned previously, translate to the real world of coffee shops.
Erik Busch, head roaster at LongStory Coffee Co. believes coffee cup aesthetics can play a significant role in how consumers perceive the taste of coffee. He stresses how consumers don’t simply rely on their taste buds, but also consider factors such as the coffee shop’s aroma, atmosphere, and visual appeal.
When compared to a stock takeaway cup, coffee cups that have branded or feature a meticulous design can convey the care and dedication put into the beverage. Furthermore, it can help shape consumers’ expectations of flavour and quality.
“I think the colour of coffee cup lids has less of an effect on the coffee drinking experience, but still has one nonetheless,” Erik says. “If the lid colour is drastically different to the feel of the cup, it could take away from the perceived quality and togetherness of the overall product.”
He further explains that when it comes to cold beverages, he believes there’s less of an effect. “This is mainly because the majority of cold takeaway coffee is served in clear plastic cups that come with clear lids.”
Like most brands, LongStory Coffee Co. uses a particular colour palette, which Erik describes as New Yorker: the colour of washed-out greens, yellows, blues, and browns. “Our branding of books and plants made it easy for us to use these brand colours on our cups,” he says. “This makes them easily identifiable even when the consumer can’t read the name of our cafe on them.”
What to consider when investing in takeaway coffee cup lids
Clearly, the colours and textures of takeaway coffee cups and lids go beyond mere aesthetics; they are integral components that can shape the coffee-drinking experience.
That said, the majority of takeaway coffee cup lids come in either black or white. For cold beverages, there’s a choice between completely clear flat and domed lids or ones that are slightly opaque.
It’s important to remember flavour is often a matter of perception. Every detail, from the colour of the cup to the texture of the lid will play a role in shaping that perception. Essentially, the studies and opinions mentioned above should be a guide, not a rulebook, to how specialty coffee roasters and cafe owners should choose their colour palettes.
Additionally, as concerns around the sustainability of these takeaway accessories increase, it can be beneficial to make environmentally conscious choices. At MTPak Coffee, we understand the importance of providing sustainable solutions for specialty coffee roasters. We offer fully sustainable coffee cups and lids to meet all your business needs.
Specifically, we have collaborated with barista champions and cupping experts to create the SensoryLid. This coffee cup lid was designed to allow consumers to enjoy the aroma of their coffee with the lid on, thanks to an innovative sensory hole. Our SensoryLids are made from eco-friendly recyclable plastic or compostable PLA materials. Furthermore, they are available in a range of sizes, and colours, and we offer custom embossing.
Images by LongStory Coffee Co.