This coffee bag release is intended to open up tricky conversations about mental health.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Cuento Coffee
Throughout shelter-in-place and quarantine restrictions under COVID-19, the conversations around how they are affecting individuals’ mental and emotional health have become louder. Unlike a time in which you may feel like “you’re alone” and scared to express this when it comes to your mental health, some of us now experience a reverse situation. We may think, “Is my emotional health actually validated and worth expressing compared to what others are facing right now?”
Both situations should be addressed with the same kind of respect and empathy, and Missouri’s Cuento Coffee has found a way to do that—in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this past May, they released a coffee bag as a collaboration with the nonprofit Hope for the Day and local artist/UMKC psych major Nathaniel Wendt called the Quarantine Monster.
“It’s okay to not be okay,” says the Quarantine Monster, a fictional character that Nathaniel illustrated and created for Cuento’s special release, and to encourage dialogue about quarantine, anxiety, and our mental health. The coffee is a natural Nicaraguan from Finca Los Papales, and a percentage of each bag sold goes to Hope for the Day, which raises awareness about suicide prevention and mental health education. Their policy director Joel Frieders wrote a statement on the opposing side of the bag, which says:
“The Quarantine Monster isn’t real. It only exists in our minds.
When the distractions of self-expression and the healing power of self-care run out, and we’re left to our own thoughts, the Quarantine Monster stands over us, making fears feel realer.
Cuento Coffee and Hope For The Day want you to talk about it, because the only real defense against the beast is just that, talking.
Talking about isolation. Talking about fear. Talking about what gives us anxiety.
Through talking, we defeat the Quarantine Monster. Pour a cup of this inspiring Nicaraguan coffee from Finca Los Papales, and start talking. And then? Keep talking.”
Joel explains, “[Cuento owner] Andy Gallant had this idea to approach the topics of isolation and anxiety from a visually creative place, and he invented the Quarantine Monster as a representation of the feelings many of us are experiencing while being quarantined at home. He knew exactly what sort of artist could capture what he was conceptualizing and tasked Nathaniel with bringing the imaginary character to life.”
“We need to keep talking about our anxiety and our fear, and we need to raise the visibility of the mental health resources available to us through this pandemic and in the years after,” says Andy. “This isn’t going away any time soon, so we might as well express ourselves, and support the groups that inspire us at the same time.”
As for the creative process of creating the monster, Nathaniel wanted to create a piece that would be both a cartoon and something unsettling at the same time. “I felt it would match the feeling of the quarantine, which may seem like a fun or relaxing break from work on the surface, but as many of us know, the quarantine has been dark and difficult for many people,” says Nathaniel. “I wanted to find a way to convey this contradiction within his design. He was originally a bit more creepy, but Andy and I were able to fine-tune the design to reach a striking balance.”
Although Mental Health Awareness Month has passed, the bag is available for purchase on Cuento Coffee’s website.