A steaming cup of brew is an inexpensive way to warm up during November’s chilly days and nights. And today it’s super easy to find a coffee or tea that matches your taste and temperament. And while tried and true brands like Starbucks, Gevalia, Peets, Tazo, and Celestial Seasonings will always have a place on the shelves, over the past 10 years or so, new brands have cropped up at an astonishing rate.
Below are twelve of our favorites.
In the 1600s, the Turkish swept into Vienna. In desperate need of military assistance, the besieged citizens sought an emissary to contact the nearby Polish troops. A man named Koshitsky rose to the call. Disguised in a Turkish uniform, he broke through enemy lines and convinced the Polish troops to come to their aid. In short order, the Polish army expelled the Turks who, in their hasty retreat, left behind big bags of beans. The Viennese assumed they were horse feed, but Koshitsky, who had lived in the Arab world, knew better. With the money earned from his valorous deed, he opened the first coffee house in Central Europe. The name? Blue Bottle.
Take Away: History is full of wonderful material that can lead to very names. And great stories, especially when shared on a company’s website and across media, add luster to a name. So, when naming, don your imaginative scuba gear and dive deep into the pages of world history and the lore and legends of your industry. Naming treasure await you there!
Death Wish claims to be one of the strongest coffees on the market. While the name might seem negative, it instantly gets to the heart of the brand. So, while on superficial glance, you might be inclined to reject a name like Death Wish, think twice. What seems negative is often a positive. Which toy store name would you more likely remember–KidsRUs or Tantrum?
Takeaway: Depending on the industry, a name with negative meaning can be a good thing. Forté is an example of a clichéd name for strong coffee. Death Wish is anything but. Of course, edgy names must be used sensibly—Death Wish would be a terrible name for a surgical tool or saw—but it’s a grand slam for a high intensity coffee.
Little Red Cup
Little Red Cup draws on the positive meaning of red in Chinese culture—a color which symbolically points to many things, from luck and joy to happiness, celebration, and fertility. These positive associations, when blended with the image of a little cup, create a whimsical name whose charm is reflected in the company’s clean and simple red and white pack design.
Takeaway: Colors mean different things in different cultures. In China, red is an extremely auspicious color whereas in western cultures it can be associated with fire and blood. If you do decide to use a color in your name, be sure you’ve thoroughly researched its symbolic meanings in the cultures where your brand will be sold.
Driving and coffee are as connected as the sun and the moon—one implies the other—especially if the drive is a long or morning one. Road Trip also suggests adventure or encounters with new places, people, and things. All these associations make it a great name for a coffee subscription company.
Takeaway: When creating names, create an association map—think of everything tied to your product and write it down. And push the envelope. Get beyond obvious—in this case, saucers, cups, grinders, mugs, fields, plantations, and the like. Let your imagination travel freely in all directions. In naming, True North is also True South, East, and West.
Make Mine A Builders
Make Mine a Builders is an English tea company whose mission is to improve the quality and broaden the appeal of a strong tea known as “builders”, a potent brew traditionally enjoyed by construction workers during their breaks. According to the company’s website, the name originated when orders were going out during a meeting. Someone shouted: “Make mine a builders!” This piqued the founders’ thinking—sure, the fashionable fruity blends were pretty enough, but they failed to live up to the authenticity of a real “cuppa” British tea.
Takeaway: Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing inherently wrong with longer names. A good phrasal name can be as effective–and in some cases more effective–than a short name. To find such names, eavesdrop on conversations. And scroll through Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and other social media. They are treasure troves for hot hashtags and mesmerizing memes that could lend themselves to brand names. Just be sure to do a thorough legal search to ensure they are not already being used by companies or products that are the same or similar to yours.
Cat & Cloud
After months of fruitless searching for a company name, the founders finally landed on Cat & Cloud, a name inspired from a friend’s sketch of the two owners playfully interacting as a cat and cloud. Attracted to the personal nature of the drawing, the founders made it their logo. The naming inspiration came later, from an off-the-cuff suggestion of one of the founder’s wives. The mark’s quirky tone, along with its enigmatic meaning and spontaneous origin, perfectly capture the company’s homey style and the value the founders’ place on friends and family.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to look close to home for naming inspirations. And don’t shy away from the enigmatic. Mysterious names can spark curiosity and questions among customers. This provides a golden opportunity to talk about your brand. Cat & Cloud also has visual and sonic power: the repeated hard “c” and monosyllabic nature of the two words, creates pleasing visual symmetry and appealing music.
The name Juniper Ridge captures the concept that all the ingredients in this tea, from plants and sap to bark, moss, and mushrooms, are foraged in a very specific place—the Western mountain wilderness. And what better way to reference a region than through a native tree, in this case the evergreen Juniper which sweeps along the slopes and ridges of the area’s mountains. Beyond pointing to place, the word Juniper conjures up the “crisp, evergreen aroma” characteristic of the teas.
Takeaway: Pointing to the geographical place where products are sourced can be an effective naming strategy, especially for products that place a strong emphasis on the source of their ingredients. When using this approach, try going beyond the literal—you don’t need to stick to an actual place name. A strong name can be built through partnering two well-chosen nouns relevant to the place.
Pique was founded by a healthy Hong Kong native who moved to the U.S. Once here, he abandoned his Eastern health rituals, and predictably became stressed and ill. Determined to heal himself, he developed a series of medicinal teas and tested each one on himself. Health restored, he launched Pique. The name works on two levels. Pique means to arouse, awaken, stimulate, and excite–all functions or benefits of the teas. But there’s more. When pronounced, the name sounds identical to “peak”, a term associated with an optimal condition or state of being.
Takeaway: When choosing names, don’t reject words out-of-hand because they sound like another word unless the sound-alike isn’t relevant. But if the other word can relate to the brand, as with “pique” and “peak”, a sound-alike can add value. If going this route, be mindful of potential legal issues, as sounds-alike words, even with different meanings, can spell trademark trouble.
The traditional tea route is a long one, beginning in the garden and involving multiple middlemen. It takes between 6 to 8 months for teas to reach the consumer. Teabox shortens the journey to a few days. They also vacuum pack their teas to guarantee freshness on arrival. Given this, a name anchored in the product’s packaging works well. The pack theme is also expressed in the logo design as designer Natasha Jen took her inspiration from the stenciled letterforms found on traditional tea crates.
Takeaway: To ensure a good fit between your name and product, identify a chief characteristic of the brand. In the case of Teabox, the pack itself plays an essential role. Moreover, tea boxes have a fascinating history. In their earliest days, teas were transported in porcelain ginger jars. Over the centuries, the shipping containers expanded to include wood, pewter, tortoiseshell, brass, copper, and even silver.
Through shipping directly from their roasters to their customers, the company ensures customers receive the freshest coffee. A Bottomless cup suggests freshness because it would be in need of constant filling. The connection between flowing water and freshness is something our furry friends understand well—dog’s drink from toilets and cats from faucets because they know that moving water is fresher than the still h20 in their bowls. The brand’s logo—the symbol of infinity—further conveys this concept of endless flow.
Takeaway: Lateral thinking is a methodology that solves problems through an indirect and creative approach. Bottomless is born from such thinking. Rather than use on on-the-nose message like Fresh Direct, the company implies freshness through the image of a cup in need of constant replenishment.
Kicking Horse is clearly not about nuance—at every touchpoint, they project a confident, rough and tumble brand personality. Their motto, “Wake Up And Kick Ass”, perfectly pairs with the company name, as do the majority of their blends: Kick Ass, Grizzly Claw, 454 Horse Power, Cliffhanger, and so on. This high-octane energy finds further expression in their logo—the horse looks like a donkey (get it—ass?). And then there is the obvious connection between “kick” and “caffeine”.
Takeaway: When possible, express your brand’s personality throughout your messaging. This is especially important when you have an attention-grabbing name like Kicking Horse. A flavor name like Some Like It Strong, while conveying the intense coffee experience, would not be in synch with the bold, bring-it-on tonality of the brand.
Verve lives and breathes the coffee experience. As noted on the company website: “coffee is our craft, our ritual, our passion. It drives and inspires us.” The various meanings of verve– energy, enthusiasm, passion, vitality, drive, vigor–epitomizes the nature of the company’s coffees and the spirit of its team.
Takeaway: Besides capturing the character of the company’s product and its people, this mark holds visual appeal—the repeated “ve” in the name (Verve) frame the name in a pleasing symmetry. And while crisp, monosyllabic dictionary words have a steep climb when it comes to trademark clearance (especially in crowded industries like food and beverage), when they do survive rejoice! You’ve struck naming gold.