COFFEE NEWS ROUNDUP: WEEK ENDING MARCH 8TH
Hello and welcome to another edition of the Coffee News Roundup. I don’t really have anything to say here, except to thank you for reading.
Hey, thanks for reading.
Yep, that’s it. Let’s get on with things, shall we.
Mexican Brewers Cup Champion Carlos Maqueda Denied Visa - via Barista Magazine
The World Brewers Cup Championship is happening this April as part of the Specialty Coffee Association’s Expo in Boston. Absent this year, however, is likely to be Mexican Brewers Cup champion Carlos Maqueda, who was denied a temporary visa to travel to Boston and represent Mexico in the competition.
According to an interview in Barista Magazine, who broke the story, Maqueda tried multiple times to apply for the visa and was denied each time, despite meeting all the requirements. This is not the first time a coffee competitor has been denied a visa, and not even the first time a Mexican competitor has been rejected.
World Coffee Events, which runs the Brewers Cup competition along with the World Barista Championship and other competitions, said in a statement that visa denials “are a recurring challenge in presenting these global events,” and that they try to offer as much assistance as possible to competitors who suffer these issues.
A previous Iranian competitor, Mehran Mohammad Nezhad, was eventually able to gain entry to the United States after challenging the initial visa refusal, so there is some precedent for Maqueda to invoke (although that was back in 2015, and immigration rules have changed a bit since then).
The US coffee industry is rallying behind Maqueda, with appeals to politicians and other attempts to provide assistance. It’s pretty lamentable that a champion barista from a producing country is denied entry to one of the coffee world’s premier competitions, just because it is being held in the US, while the coffee itself has no problems.
Farmer Reps Accuse Roasters of Counterfeiting as Kona Controversy Escalates - via Daily Coffee News
Well this story is fascinating.
As you may or may not know, coffee from Hawaii is expensive. This is partly due to its quality, but mostly to do with the fact that it’s grown in the United States so fair wages must be paid to workers (the question of why this isn’t the case in other countries is a discussion for another time).
Kona coffee is also good marketing, so big coffee chains on the mainland like to tout the name on grocery store shelves. They just don’t much like paying for the privilege, apparently.
A lawsuit brought by up to 1,000 Hawaiian coffee farmers alleges that much of the coffee sold as Kona in fact contains little to no coffee from that island. The defendants include grocery chains Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger, as well as coffee companies such as Gold Coffee Company, Copper Moon Coffee, and Magnum Coffee (no, me either).
The suit states: “Even though only 2.7 million pounds of authentic green Kona coffee is grown annually, over 20 million pounds of coffee labeled as ‘Kona’ is sold at retail,” the suit states. “That is physically impossible; someone is lying about the contents of their ‘Kona’ products.”
At the same time, a bill is making its way through the Hawaiian State Legislature that would require coffee labeled as “Kona” to contain at least 51 percent coffee from Kona. You know, as you would expect.
It should be noted, however, that similar bills have been introduced in the past and none has actually been approved. You know, as you would expect.
Coffee Shop For Instagram Influencers Promises Expensive Designer Lattes - via Gothamist
Oh dear lord.
Yes, there’s a coffee shop opening in New York that will serve up lattes specifically for your Instagram. Or something. It’s all a bit weird.
There is certainly a trend of restaurants and coffee shops designing their interiors with Instagram in mind, whether it be murals or plant walls, but this is rather more blatant.
Coffee 'n Clothes is apparently a lifestyle/coffee brand, whose claimed mission is “to be the best in the world at making coffee sharable and stylish”.
Their new cafe will offer "the most expensive latte you can drink", according to Gothamist.
Sounds like a winning combination.
Why do we hate decaf so much? via Vox
This is a good question.
The “death before decaf” meme is all over the place, and people seem to feel very strongly about coffee’s caffeine content. As this excellent Vox article explains, caffeine intake is embedded in the modern cult of the hustle, wherein everyone has to be busy all the time. Decaf coffee, it seems, doesn’t fit into that highly-Instagrammable lifestyle.
It’s also perceived as being, well, boring. It’s for old people, or weird people who can’t tolerate caffeine. It’s not cool in the least—Vox describes Swiss Water Process opening pop-up cafes in New York as a way to introduce the city to good quality decaf, and essentially being run out of town on a rail.
Then there’s the fact that a lot of decaf just isn’t very good, which is assumed to be due to the decaffeination process but is probably more to do with lack of care in the storing and preparation on the part of baristas (dialling in the decaf espresso is never a priority in a busy cafe).
As a barista and then roaster, I was asked the same question over and over: What is decaf coffee? How is it decaffeinated? I ended up writing about it, partly as a way to educate myself on the topic (the article turns out to be surprisingly popular on Pinterest).
Decaf coffee doesn’t have to be bad (I had a Colombia water processed decaf a few years ago that ws sensational). People just have to care about it, and put the effort in to roasting and brewing it correctly.
And people have to want to buy it, which is the harder part.
Read the full story here (it’s very good).
Starbucks launches its latest drink, the Cloud Macchiato - via CNBC
I had a whole bit worked out about this launch, and how Starbucks’ version of a macchiato is a sham, but I just can’t. I can’t care about this.
I don’t even know why I’m leaving it in, except to wonder why exactly CNBC is reporting on what is essentially a press release. Oh wait, Ariana Grande is involved. That makes sense—CNBC needs the clicks just like everyone else.
Read the full story here, if that’s your thing.
Is coffee good for you?
Well, mushroom coffee is in the news this week, but we’ve already covered this particular fad (quick summary: it’s gross and probably pointless).
Then there’s a story discussing whether that Starbucks cloud travesty up there is healthy due to the egg whites in the foam (that’s right, egg whites). Turns out, adding egg whites to coffee doesn’t make it any more healthy, mostly because the drink also contains two or three pounds of sugar (probably).
The lesson here? Adding stuff to coffee is stupid and unnecessary (unless we’re talking diner coffee and cream, in which case go for it).
What to read (and watch)
Until next week, drink good coffee. Maybe try some decaf.