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Cuento Coffee’s Quarantine Monster Opens Conversations About Mental Health

A bag of Quarantine Monster Coffee. Images courtesy of Cuento Coffee.

“It’s OK not to be OK.”

That’s the message printed on the back of each new bag of Quarantine Monster coffee from the Kansas City-based small-batch roaster Cuento Coffee.

While it’s a message that may resonate at this particular point in American history, it technically started appearing on bags in May, which is Mental Health Month.

With a portion of the proceeds going to Chicago-based mental health education and suicide awareness nonprofit Hope for the Day, the coffee offering was conceived simply as a way to further raise awareness about mental health and to encourage individuals to talk more openly about their own.

“I’m actually a survivor of losing a family member to suicide,” Cuento Coffee Lead Roaster Andy Gallant recently told Daily Coffee News. “I was adopted, but my biological father completed suicide. It has this tarring legacy in my family history, and honestly it seems like it’s somehow affected the life of almost everyone I ever talk to about it.”

The Quarantine Monster coffee itself is a single-origin, natural-processed coffee from Finca Los Papales in Nicaragua, sourced through importer Olam Specialty Coffee. Originally part of Cuento’s espresso blend called Kingdom, the coffee was repurposed as a standalone offering once the lights temporarily went out at Cuento’s retail bar inside the Crane Brewing taproom in Raytown, Missouri, due to Covid-19.

“When you open the bag of green, it hits you with this winey sweet fruit smell; it’s a real killer,” said Gallant. “It bursts with strawberry jam-type flavors, lots of chocolate on the deep side, and I’ve been getting this creaminess that really resembles cheesecake in my pourovers.”

quarantine coffee mug

quarantine coffee mug

The Quarantine Monster adorning the bag, meanwhile, was created by local artist Nathaniel Wendt, who is also a student of psychotherapy at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Since launching two years ago, Cuento has committed to featuring original artwork on its creative packaging.

“In our conversation, we came up with this idea about how hard this time has been for mental health, and I came up with the idea for a Quarantine Monster,” said Gallant. “It slowly developed from there into this big idea about doing a whole art piece, and adding it to a coffee bag.”

While proceeds from the Quarantine Monster sales will benefit Hope for the Day for as long as the coffee lasts, Cuento is also planning to give the group a portion of the proceeds from a forthcoming line of cold brew six-packs to the group.

“Having met Andy from Cuento and Chris and Michael from Crane Brewing, I knew immediately that we were all coming from a similar need to break the silence around mental health,” Hope for the Day Public Policy Director Joel Frieders told DCN. “I just didn’t know it would be so much fun to see all of these passion projects and products come to life.”

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