When we went to Austin, TX earlier this year we knew we had to make a pilgrimage to Patika and meet the Superthing Coffee crew in person. It was definitely worth the trip. We also had the opportunity to chat with Kyle & Tony recently on an episode of Aloha Live. We hope you enjoy getting to know them through this Q&A as much as we have!
Who makes up the team behind Superthing?
There are four of us. Nick Krupa and Andy Wigginton, who own a local Austin retail shop called Patika, along with two long-time Patika managers: Kyle and Tony Smith (no, not related). The four of us spun off Superthing as a separate sister company.
Origin story: How/when/why did Superthing get started?
We've all worked in coffee for over a decade and Tony and Kyle have long been interested in roasting. They did several trainings with 2018 US Roaster Champion Ian Picco at the Topeca Coffee training facility and we started phasing in Superthing at our Patika retail shop.
You have such a quirky, creative brand from your name to your design to even your tasting notes. We obviously love it. What inspires that and how did you land on "Superthing" as your name?
Thanks! Our main goal was to do something fun and eye-catching and weird, since we’re all weirdos. We were trying to do something where every aspect of the design and packaging — flavor descriptions, coffee names, all of it — is ‘turned up’ all the way. We worked with a Mexico City-based firm called Futura - we had seen their work on a retail shop called Blend Station and it really resonated.
We let Futura guide us through some pretty trippy stuff, and ended up close to what would become the final product on their first go-round. They created a universe of cycloptic creatures and portals that felt like Salvador Dali designing games for the Atari 2600 — so, obviously you couldn’t find a faster way to our hearts.
As for the name Superthing, as y’all probably know naming things is hard. We kept meeting with a list of one or two dozen names each and wrote them on a large mirror in the house, and we’d review them every week and as we became uncomfortable with them we’d eliminate them. This was all before the design work was done, so the name had to conjure something all on its own, and somehow Superthing just kept not being eliminated!
Tony pulled it from a Devo song and it was easy to get behind. It had the right mix of not-serious or pretentious and exciting in a sort of comic book sense. Once Futura gave us the initial design ideas based on the name Superthing we never looked back.
How does that brand vibe influence the way you source, roast, and present your coffees?
We were always inspired by the coffees from roasters that really popped and came alive in the cup. Some roasters seemed to just always find something unique and huge in a coffee's flavor profile and we are always pursuing that goal. In order to do that you have to source from passionate importers. We aspire to make every coffee as colorful as the branding.
What do you find most rewarding about running a specialty coffee roastery? The most challenging?
We started with Patika, our shop in Austin. It’s really rewarding to be part of a good coffee scene like Austin has, and for many years we’ve been lucky enough to be counted among the best in the city. So when we started roasting, it was incredibly rewarding to be adopted by a lot of other coffee professionals in the city again in a new way. It’s cool when people think your coffee is as exciting as you do!
And part of the challenge is balancing being our super coffee nerdy shut-in selves with also having a product to sell, without losing some authenticity.
Of course now everything else seems pretty easy in hindsight compared to the current reality. Like everyone, we’re trying to figure out how to be useful to our community and still keep growing this new brand with what’s appropriate in this weird climate we’re all living through.
We're stoked to be serving your Ethiopian Sidamo natural this month. Tell us more about what makes this coffee special!
Yeah we’ve been enjoying it - Sidamo’s long been lauded for its speciality coffees, and Ethiopia Naturals are often so special. They’ve been an important part of coffee farming around the world, with the demand for natural processed coffees of that quality now popping up in far away regions. This one certainly does the thing!
Part of what’s cool is that The Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative returns money to organic farming practices and food security programs in the area as well, and supporting things like that with your everyday work makes roasting a really rewarding thing to do.