Over the holiday season, we received numerous questions about our burlap wrappings — why we use burlap, where it came from, and what to do with it after you unwrap your coffee. In this blog, we are going to answer all of these questions, starting with my favorite thing about burlap, the data map.
Burlap is a natural fiber made from jute, hemp, or flax that is generally handwoven into fifty-pound sacks that hold and transport coffee and other crops. Once woven, the bags are handpainted or hand-stamped by local artisans and day laborers. If you look closely at the markings on any given bag, you are likely to find a personal mark left by the artist or maker. In addition to unique markings, each bag is adorned with import stamps, export stamps, and with a unique International Coffee Organization mark used to identify the bean source*. Essentially, each bag is like its own passport, and each has a unique story.
Some bags, like our bags from Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, are painted by local artists that paint imagines of their surroundings, including the farmers and lots that grow the coffee the bag will hold. While these highly decorative bags are rare, every coffee bag boasts unique markings, including the country of origin, and many provide key coffee characteristics such as bean grade, size, growing plot, and processing and / or decaffeination method. Some bags, like those with the Queen Bean or Mills Coffee logos on them, even list the destination. Other bags contain seemingly random but important-to-someone information (like the ones we received with our dog, Choppa’s, name on it). These bags, we assume, will present a mystery to anyone who happens to receive one. All of the information included on the burlap sack helps bridge the data and distance gaps between roaster and grower.
At Queen Bean Coffee, we started using burlap to extend that grower-roaster connection to the consumer by giving them a piece of the bean passport (the cute packaging and random green bean caught in the burlap are added bonuses!). In addition to wrapping coffee bags with burlap, we also honor this great material by upcycling and recycling it in our gardens, homes, and as one-of-a-kind tote bags. To learn about how to use this strong, breathable, naturally water-resistant material, please visit our blog entries below.
*The International Coffee Organization mark has three sets of numbers. The first set contains three digits and represents the country code. The second set contains four digits and represents the exporter or grower. The third set contains four digits and represents the growing lot number. Each ICO mark is unique. See page twelve of this document for a country code list.