sustainability || about a bag.: The Reverse Orangutan

an interview


The Reverse Orangutan



I first met Reverse Orangutan’s Jamil Radney at a coffee function at the ROW DTLA in Downtown Los Angeles.  I’ll never forget the moment or him. He was quite kind, introduced himself to me and a chat ensued about our mutual time in coffee. On that occasion he officially introduced me to Reverse Orangutan, which was not on my radar up until then.  When he gifted me a couple of bags of coffee to explore, even then, the bag design was visually arresting – I loved the font – and it felt organic and definitely looked different from most coffee bags sitting on a shelf.

Since that introduction, I’ve since become a subscriber, featured one of its coffees in my Patreon club, and I am now excited to highlight Reverse Orangutan again for its updated bag design.

This interview includes Reverse Orangutan’s return to a fully recycled and biodegradable bag as well as shedding light on the powers that be in waste management to get recyclable bags actually recycled.

The C:  Can you first share how much time you allowed your previous design to be the brand signature? What inspired this design?  

Jamil Radney: Keeping it a hundred, we kept our previous design to be our brand signature until we got bored with it. We try not to change things too often, so pink bags and this current design will be here for a good majority of 2021. A lot of our design inspiration is from utilizing color palates, and type fonts. We want our bags to be a reflection of our brand. Soft and approachable but with an edge. Soft pink bags, modern colors bring you in; then you realize the “Serious Gourmet Shit” Tagline and a lot of people connect with that straightforward and honest promise. Plus, Pulp Fiction.
The C:
Design plays a pivotal role in a product. In specialty coffee, design plays a role for consumers, its increasingly becoming as much about what a coffee bag looks like as what it’s made of, especially when considering sustainability and its visual shelf presence and life.  

Radney: I agree! Specialty coffee drinkers are a conscious demographic. Things like social equity, fair wages, environmental sustainability are things that I associate with a specialty coffee drinker.  I think because of that, bag design is a hard balancing act. As your design has to be engaging, but also give consumers the information that lets them know their purchase is the right one. We tried to use a recyclable and biodegradable bag in the past, but unfortunately at the time we couldn’t find a way to make the shape of the bag and the texture work for our business. They looked cheap and people didn’t resonate with them. As we grew we knew that we would find space to use an eco-friendly bag again. It’s always a balance between what you can do to improve your brand and what you can do to improve your brand. With this bag we finally we able to both, and that is a big success for us.

“We hope the colors of the label emote how we feel about the coffee.”


The C: Can you share what were factors in approaching the visuals of this design. What do you hope this design evokes when sitting on a consumers cupboard at home to in a café in your shop or another’s?

Radney: We want our designs to be concise enough that customers know what they’re getting from their coffee. Ya’ know, the meat and potatoes; The elevation, farm name, process, the varietal if it’s appropriate. The roast date. At the same time. We hope that the colors of the label emote how we feel about the coffee.  I’m brought back to this washed Ethiopian coffee that we had called Konga, a washed Yirgacheffe that tasted like earl grey tea and deep stone fruits. The label color was a shade of grey that I think from an emotive sense was spot on. We want bright coffees to have bright colors schemes. things that are straight forward to not have a random accent color. that by looking at the bag you have an idea of something that once you open it up looks exactly the same… cuz let’s be honest the layman doesn’t notice the difference between Peaberries and Pacamaras (no shade yalls).

The C:
What do you think coffee bag design communicates about brand intentionality or lack thereof in our contemporary specialty coffee culture times where we have social platforms to help spread the images to an innumerable audience at any given time?  

Radney: You know, that’s an interesting question. I think that some businesses’ bag designs don’t do anything in their branding to spread a platform. I think other brands make sure that they are intentionally showing their opinions on their social platforms. I think as a brand we personally would put our social platforms and messages through our website, or through our social media before we put it on our bag. I think we can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and fun engaging branding can get people excited about your brand compared to a stump speech.

The C: Additionally, Jamil gave me a second answer to this question which I’ve included because at times, a question has more than one answer as he expresses below.

Radney: I think our coffee bag design let’s people know that drinking coffee can have a specialty coffee level of information, without the pretension that is often seen in coffee brands. I think the Orangutan and our slogan “Serious Gourmet Shit” really takes a light-hearted approach to what I think can be a very methodical industry.

“Things like social equity, fair wages, environmental sustainability are things that I associate with a specialty coffee drinker. “

The C:
Lastly, can you inform our readers about the sustainability measures that characterize this bag and what their support of this bag means environmentally?
Radney: Our bags are back to being 100% Recyclable and Biodegradable, which means a lot to us. Sustainability is important to the health of the industry and to the health of the planet. Lower carbon footprints, and products that can be recycled is a great step towards having a more sustainable environment. I’d stress to your readers though, that waste management is a municipal issue. Recyclable bags need to be recycled. We have waste management/environment issues that need to be addressed by our local, state and federal governments or the bags that they’re purchasing will be nothing more than a feel-good piece.

Shop The Reverse Orangutan’s  here