kuma mug and coffee bag ray and kandace on set

Ray: I’m Ray.

Kandace: I’m Kandace.

Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee this week.

Kandace: Kuma Coffee.

Ray: Seattle, Washington.

Ray: You know what the word of the day was on my dictionary app, I think it was bloviate.

Kandace: Oh.

Ray: That describes me pretty well.

Kandace: What does it mean?

Ray: Just to blabber and blabber.

Kandace: Well, let’s bloviate about Kuma.

Ray: Yeah, good segue. So Kandace, what can you tell us about Kuma?

Kandace: These coffee bags came out this month. This is another Unpacking Coffee exclusive!

Ray: Right on.

Kandace: Yeah.

peter mark during interview

Ray: Hi, I’m Peter Mark Ingalls, owner of Kuma Coffee. Mark Barany, founded of the company in 2008. He was working IT and roasting in his garage. That was his life’s passion. So, he ended up quitting his job and bought us a 12 kilo Probat [Roaster].

Kandace: The name means bear in Japanese. Mark had spent some time in Japan.

Peter Mark: He had a couple of kids and wanted to kind of live a quieter life. I took over from him last year and it’s grown from there. We bought a Loring Kestrel 35 K, that’s what we’re on now, and we’ve moved into Seattle where we live.

Brand Refresh

kuma bag and coffee mug, both with bear logo kuma coffee mug

Ray: I really liked their a redesign of their packaging. What can you tell us about that?

Kandace: Kuma just went through a brand evolution. This is not a completely new brand, his is moving the brand forward.

Peter Mark: We’ve hand stamped bags for many years. We were looking for a change and we tried a number of things over the years, but just nothing felt like a good fit.

This past year, we got in touch with the States of Matter here in Seattle. Rather than just thinking about what do we like a package to look like —which we never wanted to do anyway, we want it to just be about the coffee and not like how shiny the package is—we started with just a deep dive into  what our core values are, defining who we are and what we want to be in this world.

Kandace: That led to a packaging redesign.

Peter Mark: We wanted a package that was dynamic and representative of just the inside but not distracting, not flashy—just honest. The package is still very lean and minimal.

Ray: The first thing that struck me is the colors on these bags and the fact that the bags are not white, but then they use the white label, really nice.

Peter Mark: We have a whole lineup of seven different colors, which is also kind of a core thing for us. We’d pick colors kind of based on how the coffee tasted and we’re still able to do that and differentiate between origins with all these different colors.

Ray: All the little facts are there.

Kandace: Big facts, too.

Ray: Big facts, too.

Peter Mark: We didn’t change any of the data on the bag. It’s all exactly what it’s always been: talking about elevation, flavor note, the farmer, the region it’s from.

Ray: Almost a watermark of the bear is really nice. So the hand labeled Kuma is timeless and classy.

Kandace: Because they’re actually using the same bags.

Peter Mark: I really loved the feel of it, like holding a bag that shape in my hand. I have liked less square bags and I just really wanted a small rectangular package. It felt like food to me, too. I want it to just feel like food when you’re holding it. We’re really happy with how it turned out. I think it’s wonderful.

Top Tier Coffee

kuma with "balanced" belly band

Kandace: Their focus is on beautiful fresh washed coffee.

Peter Mark: It’s a wide world and there’s a lot of really top tier coffee out there if you know where to go and find it. We love high grown clean, mostly washed coffees.

Kandace: And, we actually spent quite a bit of time talking about what it means to have a fresh green coffee.

Peter Mark: We thought, “If we’re excited about like all these flavors that we’re tasting, the origin, why not try to have that be what our customers are tasting as well.”

The closer to harvest we can bring things in, the more vibrant they’ll taste.

kuma crew tasting coffee

So we ended up starting to ship our own containers from origin once we got to a certain volume.

Originally, we were only filling them like three quarters of the way, but we’d still ship them just to get them on the water as quickly as possible. Six to nine months is a good window. When you’re pushing a year coffees can just taste kind of flat and anything that was vibrant about them just turns a little bland.

Our focus and our values are just to bring in very high end coffees.

There’s so much dynamic, delicious coffee in the world that just clean, very top quality stuff and I’d love to see more of a focus on that in the industry and less on kind of novelty or all the different processing. It’d be great just to get back to kind of top tier wash coffees and that’s our value and our passion. I’d love to see more talk about that in the industry at large.

Location, Location, Location

two kuma bags kuma crew tasting coffee

Kandace: Kuma is 100% wholesale.

Peter Mark: We’ve never really had a desire to have a cafe. We just want to keep that focus and it keeps us very busy.

We have a pretty small team doing just sourcing and roasting we don’t need like a giant staff. It’s four of us. Zoe’s our roaster, Kylie’s our head of accounts and Cecilia is our production manager and then there’s me.

Our driving thing here has been just to make things more perfect. I’ve been with the company eight years and I don’t think there’s been a week that’s gone by that perfecting something hasn’t been discussed, make it better, make it better. I think that’s really what drives us. Each different person on the team tries to be  master a certain aspect of what we do here.

Zoe roasting

Zoe works on roasting, so we cup every batch should be roast and we’re just always fine tuning how can we make this better, sweeter, more extractable, while not overdeveloping it.

Kandace: Just this last year they started doing some popups so that people could come in and see what they had going on.

Peter Mark: We ship a lot nationally, but we also have a very big presence here in Seattle—especially with subscribers and online folks. We see these same names from around town over and over and we get emails from people asking to come visit us. We’re just in a warehouse in Inner Bay and it’s not a customer friendly experience. After enough time, we just thought, “Well, let’s do like a dedicated time where people can come say hey.”

So, this past summer, we did a series of popups right in our roastery. We kind of made like a mock cafe, had a GS3 from La Marzocco and filtered coffee. Every week we’d do a different single origin from our lineup. A lot of folks from around Seattle and the community and from out of town came to visit, too. We got to meet all these people that we’ve seen their names on orders for so long. We were finally able to see them face to face.

Ray: It’s very meta. That’s actually a really cool way to do a popup though, getting get a little behind the scenes tour and “oh yeah, there’s also a coffee shop here.”

Kandace: The one place you can go in and get coffee from them right now is that they are presently at the La Marzocco Café.

Kylie serving up a pumpkin latte

Ray: Oh, excellent. Well, can’t go wrong there.

Peter Mark: With both the popup and theLa Marzocco Residency, we were trying to highlight just our core values, which is just dedication to hard work and honest high quality coffee.

We have a very lean menu there, different single origin every week. No pour over is just filter. We feel like that adds a lot more consistency and repeatability, with a very big focus on just coffee. We did do a pumpkin spice just for fun, but that’s the only specialty beverage we’re doing. Otherwise, it’s just a straight coffee.

Ray: Kuma Coffee. Seattle, Washington.

Watch the Show

Without further ado, on with the bloviation – Daily Coffee News

Thanks to our guest Peter Mark Ingalls of Kuma Coffee. Behind the scenes photos and roasting video courtesy Kuma Coffee. La Marzocco Café residency photos courtesy Jenn Callender. All other photos Art Directed by Kandace Brigleb and photographed Raymond Brigleb of Needmore Designs.