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A TASTE OF WHERE COFFEE BEGAN

An Interview with Nespresso and Mariana Rodrigues

To celebrate the launch of the Limited Edition coffees Arabica Ethiopia Harrar and Robusta Uganda, Nespresso partnered with London based illustrator, Mariana Rodrigues who designed the coffee capsule sleeves.

This is the first time you have worked with Nespresso; why did you want to collaborate with them?

It is a brand I respect a lot and the briefing was really captivating and caught my attention right away. I felt that together we could create some interesting visuals to help share the stories behind these amazing coffees.

The Nespresso ‘Discover Coffee Birth Places’ range is about finding out the stories behind the coffee, is this something you’re interested in?

 Absolutely. I think this isn’t talked about enough. It’s amazing how this little bean means so much to so many people! And to be able to tell the story of how it came to be and where it all started is a privilege. This range makes us more conscious consumers, hopefully, this trend will continue.

 Do you usually draw your inspiration from stories? If not, what else inspires you?

If the subject I’m drawing has a story behind it, of course, it’s inevitable. But usually, the bulk of my inspiration comes from nature and from what surrounds me.

The work of Ernst Haeckel, William Morris and Josef Frank, fashion brands like Valentino and Gucci, the botanical artist Azuma Makoto and the music of Bjork are also a big source of inspiration.

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Your art often includes elements of nature; how does wildlife inspire you?

 Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved watching wildlife documentaries, especially the ones with Sir David Attenborough. It still fascinates me how the world works and how other living things have so much in common with us humans.

The Biophilia hypothesis says “there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems” and there’s “an urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. This is how I feel about nature. An urge to always be around her, a natural attraction and curiosity, a bond, a deep love and respect. Nature is my home, my happy place.

I’m also very attentive to detail — it’s the thing that gives me the most joy. Working on detail upon detail, things so small that nobody else notices — and nature also hides a lot of details that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

 The colours used in your illustrations are so unique and vibrant, how did you choose them?

 The sleeves for Arabica Ethiopia Harrar and Robusta Uganda were inspired by their origins and distinctive flavours.

The Arabica Ethiopia Harrar grows on an arid and mountainous landscape and it’s much lighter and flowery than the Robusta — so I used shades of ochres, orange, yellow and light brown to transmit this.

The Robusta Uganda grows near lakes, low mountainous landscapes and lush vegetation and it’s more intense and deeper, with notes of chocolate — this translated into darker browns, deep greens and blues.

 Are you a coffee lover yourself?

Oh absolutely! I LOVE coffee. Nothing beats the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

I can definitely say it’s one of my favourite things in the world. When I was a little girl, my grandfather always left a small amount of coffee at the end of his cup so I could drink it with a small spoon — I loved that daily ritual and the taste of coffee.  

It’s amazing how a simple bean can taste so differently because of its origin.  

 Were you aware of the history behind Arabica and Robusta before you started the project?

No, I didn’t know. Besides the myth of Kaldi and his goats, every fact was new to me.

But it’s was really interesting to read and learn about the history behind something that is part of our everyday life — how it was discovered, how it spread across the globe and what it means to so many people.

 Nespresso is passionate about sustainable coffee, are you also interested in sustainability?

Yes, and it’s irresponsible not to be in these days where information is so widespread. It goes beyond coffee, to everything we buy and consume really. Consumers should lead the way and buy more sustainable products — buy less, but better.

The coffee is a great example where, 10, 20 years ago, the production was through unsustainable methods and practices. Today, we can buy coffee knowing exactly which farm it comes from, who produced it and even what altitude the beans were grown.

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