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Joe's Tea Co.

by Richard Baird on 09/18/2012 | 4 Minute Read

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Joe's Tea Co. is a new brand of premium organic teas created by former supply chain manager Joe Kinch that combines high-quality Sri Lanka leaves with a variety of fruits, herbs and chocolate. Design and innovation consultancy Echo, a company that specialises in bringing brand and product together, was tasked with developing an identity and packaging solution that would appeal to the 'newfound and more adventurous younger tea drinker'. Based around playful interpretations of classic heraldic liveries, inspired by the City of London, the design delivers a distinctive mix of contemporary illustration, traditional typesetting and Victorian themes.

“Its niche is offering organic fine teas without fuss, or any of the bravado or pretentiousness normally associated with premium products.”

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“The design took its inspiration from traditional ‘City of London Liveries’ protecting the professionalism of key trades (e.g. the candlestick maker, butcher, baker) and added a contemporary twist. Led by Echo’s in-house designer and illustrator James Pearce, a range of ‘Joe’s crests’ were created to characterise individual flavours and enhance the expertise behind each blend. A cut-out on the side of the packaging allows a glimpse of the whole leaves Joe uses to maximise flavour and creates a window into the heart of Joe’s Tea where the illustrations continue with a bespoke ‘Joe’s Map of London’.“

“The Joe’s Tea Company range consists of ten different blends including quirky re-inventions of Earl Grey and English Breakfast, and flavourful explorations of fruits, herbs and even chocolate. All promise to ‘excite and surprise everyone who loves a brew’.”

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Echo's illustrative work is wonderfully detailed and neatly juxtaposes fine organic strokes and heavy geometric fills that manage to capture the delicate and earthy qualities of the tea and the distinctive characteristic of each infusion. And while these are consistent in their style and heraldic composition, thematically these deliver a fantastic degree of variety between flavours, confidently mixing traditional floral flourishes and ornithological detail, an almost story book aesthetic that includes toy soldiers, dancing lions and clockwork mice, the walking sticks, gas lamps, top hats and music box of Victorian London and the more conventional but relevant use of fruits and herbs. It is a diversity that cleverly reflects tradition (knowledge and experience) and craft (creativity and quality) with a light and whimsical personality that is both visually and conceptually rich. Printed across a bleached mixed fibre substrate with a range of pastel colours and subtle gradients these appropriately reflect the refreshing, fruity/floral and earthy profiles of the tea.

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Like the illustrative detail the type manages to resolve past and present through the contemporary interpretation of the wide and slim letter-forms and underline detail of a humanist typeface (perhaps a reference to old victorian transport signage). A more recent utilitarian typewriter choice captures the commoditised and imported nature of tea while a classic script and the use of plenty of line spacing introduces a more straightforward sense of high quality and heritage. The type-size appears a touch light in places and struggles alongside some heavy line work but follows a clear hierarchical structure. 

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The result is a clever contrast of a modern aesthetic and traditional themes, and while not conventionally premium the time spent delivering such distintive and individual illustrative character across a broad range of flavours is clearly evident, setting a high and unique standard for the sector.

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Opinion by Richard Baird - Twitter @richbaird

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