COFFEE NEWS ROUNDUP: 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW (RIDICULOUS STORY EDITION)
Hello and welcome to the last Coffee News Roundup of 2018.
There is very little news this week, and since I spent Friday flying home from Scotland the rest of the weekend is basically a wash. With that in mind, I thought this would be a good chance to look back at some of the best news stories over the past twelve months.
And by best, I mean stupidest.
There have been a lot of stupid coffee-related stories over the past twelve months. Goofy stories, weird stories, stories about robot baristas trying (and failing) to take over the world—it’s all happened.
Call it a Year In Review; call it a Best Of 2018; call it a blatant re-use of old content because I’m extremely jet-lagged; I don’t mind.
GRUMPY CAT OWNER AWARDED OVER $700,000 IN LAWSUIT. CAT STILL WON’T SMILE - VIA THE WASHINGTON POST (from the week of January 26th)
Don't mess with Grumpy Cat. Or more accurately, her owner. After a beverage company called Grenade overstepped the terms of a licensing deal with Grumpy Cat Limited, the kitty's owner Tabatha Bundesen sued (as well she might).
Basically, the two companies signed a deal, to market something called a Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino, in 2013. Then in 2015 Grenade released Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee, which wasn't part of the original deal. Naturally, Grumpy Cat Limited wasn't happy, and launched a lawsuit which it won even after Grenade counter-sued.
In a throwaway line, the Washington Post story mentions that Grumpy Cat is worth millions (if not hundreds of millions) of dollars, which is amazing in itself.
IN SINGAPORE, UP TO FORTY PERCENT OF COFFEE MAKERS ARE FULL OF COCKROACHES - VIA EXTRA CRISPY (from the week ending February 2nd)
Well this is horrifying. It turns out, don't drink coffee in Singapore. Or America, or the UK. According to Extra Crispy, there are cockroaches all up in commercial coffee machines, living the good life while unsuspecting customers continue consuming the coffee unawares.
Because these machines only heat the water enough to make a cup of coffee, they don't get hot enough to dissuade insect interlopers, who are happy to enjoy the warm, dark, damp environs.
Fair warning, it happens in home automatic machines too.
This is yet another reason to only drink specialty coffee—the higher end espresso machines aren't infested with pests (due to the heat used to power the steam wands etc).
And it's easy to spot a cockroach hanging out in your Chemex.
Read the full story here (if you dare).
CAFE X’S NEW COFFEE ROBOT HAS ROUGH MORNING DEBUT - VIA SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (from the week ending March 2nd)
Coffee shops are fragile things. One wrong move, one tripped breaker, one corroded valve, and the whole thing grinds to a halt. The espresso machine is faulty? No lattes. Bad wiring? Hot water heater stops. Robotic barista arm not programmed correctly? Unhappy—wait, what?
As anyone who's ever tried to set up a new printer knows, technology is not always your friend. Cafe X—the infamous robot coffee shop in San Francisco—learned that the hard way when their newest baristabot had trouble brewing coffee correctly during its debut morning rush.
You know what they say: never send a frightening, soulless robotic arm to do an underpaid, tattooed twenty-something's job.
EWOKS ARE COFFEE FARMERS ACCORDING TO STAR WARS CANON - VIA INVERSE (from the week ending April 20th)
Although they call it 'caf' rather than coffee for some reason, it turns out that the Star Wars universe is a caffeinated one—and it is grown by Ewoks on Endor. This is, at least, according to a new book about the adventures of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian called Last Shot: A Han And Lando Novel—which makes it technically canon.
In a throwaway (and rather clunky) passage, it is revealed that those adorable Ewoks are expert coffee farmers:
“Coagulating the finest Endorian caf beans,” he chirped jauntily as one of his appendages swung open a floor hatch and another plunged into the crawl space below, appearing moments later with a scoop of the dark-brown beans. “Ah! Picked from the cliggs of the Campalan mountain range on the southeastern peninsula of the forest moon by well-compensated, humanely treated Ewok caf farmers!”
BROCCOLI COFFEE: SCIENTISTS CREATE NEW WAY TO EAT MORE GREENS - VIA THE GUARDIAN (from the week ending June 8th)
Speaking of repurposing. Scientists in Australia have turned unfancied or leftover broccoli florets into a nutrient-dense powder which contains, in two tablespoons, as much nutrition as one serving of regular, non-powdery broccoli.
And, of course, someone decided to make coffee with it.
Reviews were, understandably, mixed: one drinker said that it tasted like “a bowl of green, milky mush.”
You don't say.
But, at least it was made for health reasons and not because it looks good on Instagram or whatever.
LETTERS FROM DANIEL: COFFEE SCENE INVESTIGATION - VIA SPRUDGE (from the week ending July 27th)
OK, this is an weird one.
Sprudge had been investigating a series of hand written, eerily similar letters sent to various coffee roasters around Portland, from someone named Daniel, complaining about "stale" coffee and requesting recompense. So far a bit odd, sure, but within the realms of possibility. Maybe Daniel just had extremely bad luck with his coffee buying?
After publishing the story, however, they started hearing from roasters all over the country who had received similar letters. 40, in total, some dating back two years. All from the same address (in Las Vegas), using the same vocabulary and containing the same spelling errors. And all complaining of "stale" coffee.
Is this a scam? If so it seems like a lot of work to go to just to get some free coffee. But what else could it be? Sprudge is continuing to investigate, with more companies getting in touch all the time—it feels a little like this could be turning into an S-Town mystery for the coffee industry.
REPTILE COFFEE: INSIDE THE CAMBODIA CAFE OFFERING UP A FIRSTHAND LOOK AT EXOTIC ANIMALS WITH A CUP OF JOE - VIA ABC NEWS (from the week ending September 7th)
No thank you.
KORN IS THE LATEST METAL BAND TO LAUNCH THEIR OWN COFFEE RANGE – AND IT’S CALLED KORN KOFFEE - VIA NME (from the week ending October 5th)
Yep, KoRn has a coffee line, cleverly titled Korn Koffee. That’s all you really need to know.
And the best bit? They’re not the only heavy rock band with their own range of coffee—Megadeth bassist David Ellefson has a coffee company called Ellefson Coffee Co., and Benante’s Blend is a creation of Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante (clearly, creative brand naming isn’t the forte for these musicians).
ICE-T TRIES COFFEE AND A BAGEL FOR THE FIRST TIME: ‘IT’S NOT WHAT I EXPECTED’ - VIA US MAGAZINE (from the week ending November 23rd)
This is more like it. No more depressing, whiny nonsense about the environment and labor relations. Ice-T tried coffee!
A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the most important story of the year: despite playing a New York police detective on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (the most depressing show on TV which has nonetheless racked up a frankly astounding 20 seasons), the rapper and actor Ice-T claimed never to have tried coffee. Amazing.
Of course, he was always going to try it eventually (along with a bagel, which he also claimed to have never eaten but about which I don’t care as much), and he apparently got paid by a dating app to do it. So well done Ice-T.
His verdict? “It’s not what I expected. It tastes like water with something… another taste kicked in later.”
The video doesn’t mention what kind of coffee or how it was brewed, but it sounds like they didn’t put a whole lot of effort into it.
He sums up: “This is my first time, and I can pretty much tell you this will be the last time I’ll ever drink black coffee. Why would you do that?”
So now we know.
THE RISE OF ROBOTS MIGHT MAKE COFFEE OBSOLETE - VIA INSIDER (from the week ending December 14th)
Did you know that people only drink coffee because it contains caffeine?
According to a report by RBC Capital Markets, whatever that is, by 2025 $2 trillion in annual US wages could be lost to or changed forever by automation. But this won’t mean robot baristas—instead, the decline in jobs that involve “grunt work” (their term) means a decline in demand for the caffeinated beverages that fuel said work.
There’s no way that we drink coffee because it’s tasty, right? Yuck. It’s just the caffeine boost to get us through another monotonous day of drudgery.
Instead, the demand will be for cannabidiol-infused drinks and products, because the robot armies will stress people out so much they’ll need help relaxing. This is actually their argument: “We could foresee a scenario where CBD and other relaxing agents become MORE popular than caffeine/stimulants as consumers continue to feel the stress/anxiety of technology-related stimuli (work, social media, etc)."
The future is going to be weird.
Was coffee good for you in 2018?
Jeez, this is a loaded question. I guess, kinda?
While coffee enemas should never be encouraged (thanks, Gwyneth), the general consensus is that coffee is good for you. Unless it’s not.
It can also literally make you live longer.
The whole labeling lawsuit in California was a bit of a low point, let’s be honest, but the FDA eventually came out and said it was nonsense, and the World Health Organization said in June that there was “inadequate evidence” that drinking coffee caused cancer.
There are some people who probably shouldn’t partake in coffee, however. Pregnant women, for example. Also anyone stupid enough to try one of Gwyneth’s coffee cleansers.
But in general, 2018 has proven that coffee is good for you. Probably.
What to read
I didn’t write that much in 2018 that wasn’t, well, this weekly roundup. But here are a few pieces that I liked:
And also some pieces from other people:
That’ll do it. Until next year, keep drinking good coffee. And happy Hogmanay!