Henry Hargreaves’ Coffee Cups of the World

The photographer's new site documents hundreds of designs put on the disposable vessels

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During his travels, professional food photographer Henry Hargreaves has kept an extensive, related hobby: collecting and photographing to-go cups from coffee shops. Now showcased on a recently launched website and Instagram, Hargreaves shares hundreds of these disposable items which he has gathered over the last year and continues to collect from countries all over the globe. Hargreaves took interest in the branding that encases the contents and how the two correlate, drawing comparisons to the way book covers can indicate or mislead. Coffee culture is booming and shows no signs of slowing, and Coffee Cups of the World represents a new perspective.

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“I’ve always been interested in coffee shop culture,” Hargreaves shares with CH, and it was one cup at NYC’s The Smile that initiated the project. “They’ve got a nice little stamp. It felt like something beautiful. As I was walking around the city, it caught people’s eye. The to-go cup is the best piece of advertising for coffee shops, but not everyone gives it enough attention.” Reactions to the cup and its stylings intrigued Hargreaves and he began wondering about how the rest of the world was branding cups, even asking, “Can you tell a coffee by its cup?” An additional observation that there is a level of curiosity (sometimes judgement) passed on people carrying coffee cups finalized Hargreaves’ commitment to a global comparison—and an accompanying site.

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“I have a friend in Cape Town who sent me a few,” he says. “The rest of it was me. I do a lot of travel, so I pack them up everywhere I go.” From his gallery opening in Germany to a trip home to New Zealand and then Australia, he’s been collecting and documenting cups from Europe to the States. “A lot of my work is food-related. I like to use food in order to make people look at it in different ways,” he continues. “I want people to look at the coffee cups and be conscious of them. The coffee itself gets so much hype. This is part of the package as well.”


During his explorations, Hargreaves has also observed the environmental impact of such cups. “If beautiful cups are being used, people are more conscious of waste and trashing it. It’s not so easily discarded.” Such awareness encourages reuse and at times recycling—and in many ways his site does the same. As Coffee Cups of the World continues to grow, Hargreaves is also encouraging
submissions to show cups from the corners of the globe he hasn’t managed to visit to yet.

Images courtesy of Henry Hargreaves