Barcelona-based artist Ricardo Cavolo was born in his father’s painting studio, and he’s been surrounded by art ever since. The visual style he’s become known for throughout his career is explosively colorful and wildly playful, yet with a soulful gravity in every piece.
Ricardo’s artwork is storytelling through portraiture that exhibits an extraordinary amount of warmth, depth and personality. It’s no wonder his illustrations have been featured in so many books and magazines, on the sides of buildings and train cars, and on everything from tattoos to tarot cards. His famous collaborations so far have involved partners like the Cirque Du Soleil entertainment company and musician Kaytranada, as well as high-fashion brands like Gucci and Alexander McQueen.
Art isn’t the only thing Ricardo has been passionate about since his youth. He loved the smell of coffee so much as a child that he would steal the beans from his grandmother and carry them around in his pocket. Little did he know that the roasting process those beans had undergone was precisely what gave them their distinctive aroma.
This lifelong devotion to coffee and the fact that fire is a consistent theme in his work made Ricardo a perfect fit for illustrating the roasting chapter of our Coffee Stories series. So we invited the artist to visit our Seattle headquarters to experience the roasting process firsthand.
“Roasting coffee is just like art. For both, you need instinct and technique, and to be constantly evolving and adding new ideas to your process,” said Ricardo.
It begins when top-quality, ethically sourced coffee beans make their way from farms like the one Tristan Eaton visited in Chapter 1 to a Starbucks roasting facility. At that point we prepare the beans for the roasting process that will dramatically enhance their flavor, fragrance, body and acidity.
This involves discovering and understanding the true essence of each coffee bean and letting it shine. And speaking of shine, it’s the high temperatures of roasting that release the oils inside each bean and cause them to move to the surface. The longer the beans are roasted, the oilier they appear.
The knowledge and intuition of our master roasters are essential to this process. These highly trained artisans evaluate and nurture the beans every step of the way, finessing the temperature and speed of the roast as needed to create a spectrum of Starbucks coffees ranging from mellow blondes to smooth mediums to rich darks.
“Seeing how complex the actual process of roasting is made me think more about each cup of coffee that I drink,” said Ricardo.
“Once I understood how fundamental roasting is in the coffee process and to its final result, I decided to do something similar when creating the colors to paint with. I carefully mixed colors until I found the one I was looking for, in the same way that at Starbucks they experiment with roasting until they reach the flavor and aroma they desire.”
“Above all, I wanted to nod to the nuances of the smells from the roasting process and have my chromatic palette offer a clue to the world of coffee aromas,” said Ricardo.
In his bold, bright and almost vibrating visuals, Ricardo emphasizes the prism of human touch that controls the fire of the roast in taming the coffee bean. He portrays the master roaster as a thousand-year-old deity with immense wisdom and uses birds to represent drops of coffee flying joyfully onto one’s palate.
“Drinking coffee is an experience that can connect us at a psychic level and I want customers when they see my work to be full of joy, strength and optimism,” said Ricardo.
Up next: two more Coffee Stories about fascinating artists experiencing coffee blending and connection in the weeks to come.