These two latté beakers, espresso beakers and ringed saucers are examples of those from the 'Cup Suite' that Sydney coffee company, Manfredi Enterprises, commissioned in 1998 to herald its new brand of coffee, 'Espresso di Manfredi'. Designed by NSW ceramicist, Rod Bamford, the entire suite includes a cappuccino cup, an espresso beaker, a latte beaker and a rimmed saucer, each made in alumina hardened porcelain with a chip resistant glaze. Blank suites were made for general sale (2003/166/1 is an example) while suites with the Manfredi decal were distributed to cafes serving the company's coffee. For Manfredi, the suite would serve as a canvas for the company name, it would have a creative impact on the cafe environment, and it would help promote Australian design. These two beakers represent both the blank and branded varieties.
Working from his studio at Macmasters Beach (NSW), Rod Bamford designed the suite to reflect past and present coffee traditions. The porcelain surface and strong lines recalled the crockery of centuries past yet, at the same time, produced a minimal and contemporary appearance. This image was enhanced by the tapered bodies and pedestal footrings. For Bamford, the blend of old and new aesthetics was essential for creating 'a clean contemporary feel but also a timeless quality'. Importantly, it also alluded to the Italian heritage of the Manfredi family and its continuing influence on the cafe culture of Sydney.
Bamford refined the design for eighteen months, referring to an evolving design brief and conversing with coffee specialists and the Manfredi company. The result was a durable suite that catered to the frenetic cafe environment. Developed specially for the project, the hardened alumina porcelain and chip resistant glaze ensured that the crockery would withstand many years of use. In addition, the compact handle on the coffee cup and the absence of handles on the two beakers reduced the potential for breakages.
With advice from coffee machine companies, Bamford designed the cups to hold specific volumes of liquid, fit comfortably under the coffee machine heads and stack discreetly on top of the coffee machine. With its rippled centre, the saucer was perhaps the most important innovation in the overall design - it held the three cups of different sizes and acted as an attractive serving plate, thereby reducing production costs for cafe suppliers. Combined, these features reflected Bamford's focus on utility, affordability and function.
In late 1999, the Cup Suite went into production at Royal Thai Porcelain in Bangkok, and this particular suite came from the first batch off the production line. Manufacture was initially delayed by a disparity between the finished product and Bamford's designs - the subtlety of his work was being lost in production. From Australia, Bamford remained involved in the manufacturing process and advised on many aspects of production. He made models and master moulds for the porcelain company and explained the complex technique that would pin the beakers to the footrings.
By late 2001, more than 20,000 suites had been distributed worldwide and Manfredi Enterprises had received great praise for Bamford's designs. Manfredi marketing manager, Sally Hunter, explained why the company was immensely pleased with the commission: "the cups have given the coffee the modern edge that we had hoped for and the consumer feedback has been positive. The cups are beautiful to look at, smooth and sensual to hold and they can only enhance the experience of coffee drinking".