mela crane coffee cup

Malta is best known abroad for Valletta’s iconic UNESCO-protected skyline and its garigue countryside landscape, residents are well aware that another feature dominates the view wherever you look – construction cranes (video below).

While cranes are visible from any vantage point on the islands, a symbol of Malta’s rapid economic growth and surging – though not uncontested – development, you might not have expected to see them while looking down at the take away coffee you got while on the way to work.

When dreaming up a new cup design, Ben Farrugia, owner of the Qormi-based catering supplier Longbow, thought of the features that visitors to Malta mention most often, starting with the word that, as foreigners love to point out, is ubiquitous to the point of parody.

Mela, mela, mela,” Mr Farrugia tells “Whatever other memories, friendships, and experiences expats take back home with them after living in Malta, ‘mela’ will definitely be imprinted in them.”

In fact, Malta’s favourite word has graced many mugs, t-shirts, and other paraphernalia before, and Longbow’s coffee cup certainly won’t be the last.

Making it on to Mr Farrugia’s design, of course, is Valletta itself, with the dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the steeple of St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral standing out as they do in innumerable other illustrations and photographs.

An element that does not generally make it to so many designs, however – at least not promotional ones – are the cranes that dot Malta’s landscape.

“Whether you like it or not, cranes are synonymous with Malta at the moment,” explains Mr Farrugia, who elaborates that the cup idea was a tongue in cheek representation of the country.

“If you had to ask people what they remember of Malta, the typical answers include Valletta, of course, but cranes too. That might not be the representation one would like them to have, but it is what it is.”

He also makes it clear that the design was not meant to send any particular message, but was simply an idea he had for a coffee cup that stands out.

Mr Farrugia adds that this run of cups is approaching its end, with no plans to re-order: “Customisation is really expensive,” he laughs, “and we’re in a price market. People don’t buy our cups for the design – they buy them because they’re priced well. Having mela, cranes, or even Valletta on them doesn’t increase demand – it just increases our costs.”

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