Celebrating culture through custom coffee bags: Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters

Holly Szakal
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January 24, 2024
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Just over a decade ago, Namrata Asthana and her husband Matt arrived in the abundant country of India. The pair were blissfully unaware they’d be embarking on a journey that would forever alter the perception of coffee in the bustling streets of Delhi. 

The couple struggled to find a satisfying daily cup of high quality, freshly roasted coffee. As they dived into the reasons behind this, the duo uncovered a stark reality. Despite being a hub for exceptionally high-quality coffee beans, India was exporting a staggering 70% of its top-tier coffees overseas. 

This has resulted in a complete absence of a thriving coffee culture in the bean’s origin. Therefore, locals are left with limited caffeinated alternatives, often resorting to the likes of instant coffee. This has shaped coffee as a daily necessity and instead of a luxury.

Driven by a passion to reshape the coffee culture in India, Namrata Asthana and her husband launched Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters. The brand has quickly become a beacon for Indian coffee culture.

To learn more about how Blue Tokai uses custom coffee bags to showcase its roots, I spoke with the brand’s co-founder, Namrata Asthana.

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Building a brand that celebrates Indian specialty coffee

From the brand’s blends through to its custom coffee bags, Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters is a celebration of specialty coffee in India. Namrata explains that the brand began in roasting in a home kitchen before the team could build a cafe and online presence. 

“As the demand grew, we expanded our roastery and used the spare space for a cafe—that was the first of our cafes in India,” she reflects. “We were able to give customers a sneak peek into the world of specialty coffee and address their curiosity about roast levels, brewing methods, and flavour profiles, amongst several other things.”

In just 10 years, Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters has become the largest specialty coffee supplier in all of India. The brand has operations spanning three major roasteries and 90 cafes in 10 cities throughout the region. Additionally, it has roasted over 1.2 million kilos of high-quality, Indian-bred coffee and served over 5 million cups, making it India’s most loved specialty coffee brand.

So, what did the brand prioritise during this remarkable transformation? And how was it able to transform the local love affair with instant coffee into a consistent relationship with the specialty sector?

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Creating a consistent brand image with custom coffee packaging

The brand’s comprehensive involvement from bean to cup has shaped a brand synonymous with Indian coffee as a whole. Blue Tokai describes itself as a brand that prides itself on putting equal emphasis on coffee, culture, and community. “We believe that a cup of coffee is an experience that lasts long after it’s been consumed,” Namrata says. 

Therefore, the brand strives to expand far beyond just the taste and quality of the coffee it brews for daily consumers, although in no way is this quality compromised.

Over 11 years of operations, Blue Tokai has celebrated Indian coffee farms and the country’s art forms through everything the brand does. Notably, the brand has injected a dose of community through its slogan, which reads: ‘Truly Indian, Honestly Crafted’.

“Our focus since the beginning has been to cater to the larger coffee-loving population, no matter where they are in their respective coffee journeys,” Namrata explains. “This meant creating products that are preferred by not only highly aware home brewers but also customers who are looking for high-quality, hassle-free, ready-to-brew, or ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee experiences.”

“Our depth of offerings is one of the key factors that sets us apart,” she adds. “From coffee and equipment to in-cafe offerings and knowledge-driven experiences, our wide range of unmatched offerings ensures we have something for everyone.”

In addition to offering roasted and ground coffee, coffee in a can, and easy pour options, the brand offers consumers coffee education kits, brewing guides, and a variety of branded merchandise. 

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Custom coffee bags that celebrate Indian culture

To reflect its love for the Indian coffee community, Blue Tokai ensures its visual appeal is consistent across all platforms. The brand’s approach to its custom coffee packaging is all about celebrating Indian artists and the country’s own natural art forms.

Namrata reveals a question the team is frequently asked is what the word ‘Tokai’ means. In ancient Malabari, which refers to the historical and ancient cultural aspects associated with the Malabar region along the southwestern coast of India, ‘Tokai’ means the plume of the peacock.

The Indian Peacock is the country’s national bird, and a species that inhabits coffee farms throughout the region. It’s also the brand logo for Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters: a bright blue peacock in a black circle. It is a nod to the heritage and unique characteristics that have evolved over time in Malabar, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of its past. It’s these small touches that make Blue Tokai ‘Truly Indian’.

From the brand name and logo to the artwork on the packaging and the illustrations donning the walls of their many cafes, each element signifies the brand’s fondness for its Indian culture.

“When we started working on the look and feel of the brand, we knew it had to be a reflection of who we are as people, the coffee farms we source from, and what we wanted to achieve as a community that believed in shared experiences,” says Namrata.

“These elements have helped us carve a strong brand recall, making us truly Indian across
the brand and product spectrum.” 

Blue Tokai also uses a unique colour system that makes it easy to identify its offerings: six broad flavour profiles. From bold and bitter to chocolatey and nutty, and even its own experimentals, the brand has used colour to simplify the complexity of its profiles.

Beyond this, Blue Tokai has wanted to retain the Indian artistry that had become associated with the brand. Thi is to ensure each coffee flavour profile and colour were associated with a distinguished art for the ease and convenience of consumers. Notably, the brand’s new custom coffee bags feature illustrations inspired by various Indian regional art forms. 

The brand recognises that the country of India is no stranger to plastic waste issues. Research shows the country produces around 26,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste daily. To mitigate the environmental impact of the brand, Namrata and Matt invested in sustainable alternatives during the recent redesign.

“Our new packaging uses low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which can be downcycled in a few simple steps,” Namrata explains. ‘Downcycled’ refers to being recycled into lower-quality products. The brand has a dedicated page on its website, explaining how consumers can recycle their custom coffee bags responsibly. 

Owing to its affordability and high barrier properties, LDPE has become a particularly popular choice for coffee bags. It effectively keeps out external factors that can damage the beans, such as oxygen and moisture, while also offering a recyclable option for customers.

At MTPak Coffee, we understand the importance of offering consumers a sustainable product that they can dispose of easily. That is why we offer a variety of custom coffee packaging structures made from recyclable LDPE. 

Our custom coffee bags can be tailored to your business needs and can include recyclable components such as resealable zippers and BPA-free degassing valves.

For more information on custom coffee bags made from LDPE, contact our team

Images courtesy of Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters

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