Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending June 21st

A macchiato with latte art sits atop a newspaper.

It’s June 21st, the longest day of the year and the official start of summer. It’s a gloriously sunny day here in Michigan, which bodes well. I look forward to the rain that will inevitably follow next week.

June 21st also marks the day when most coffee companies start pushing their cold brew options hard. Instagram is awash with photos of mason jars and (sigh) plastic cups full of ice cubes and milky coffee, being jauntily swigged by pretty people in floppy hats.

That’s how you really know it’s summer.

Now, the news.

Shade Grown Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Bird Friendly, Researchers Find - via Daily Coffee News

“Bird Friendly” coffee is generally assumed to be any coffee grown under shade, with the assumption being that trees = good for birds = bird friendly.

But it turns out, the type of tree matters, and the type of tree many farmers have planted—citrus or avocado, for example, to augment their income—aren’t actually good for birds.

Coffee cherries on the branch, with the sun behind

These non-native “cash crops” might give the farmer more income in the short term, but they can damage biodiversity and lead to loss of the Bird Friendly certification, according to new research by the University of Delaware.

Native plants are a much better choice for biodiversity, but many of them don’t have the same income potential as walnut or eucalyptus trees.

NGOs and researchers have for years pushed these non-native cash crops as good choices for farmers, who now face a choice between short term cash and long-term biodiversity and potential certification (which will in theory increase their prices).

Unfortunately, with the current coffee price crisis and the number of farmers simply selling up and leaving, the choice between “money now” and “maybe money later” is probably not a particularly hard one.

Read the full story here.

Check Out This New Harry Potter-Themed Coffee Shop in Downtown LA - via Eater LA

You know that story about Cat & Cloud being sued by Caterpillar because they share the word “cat” in their names? That seems pretty flimsy, right?

Well, there are a few of these “Harry Potter-theme” coffee shops opening up, and the rip-off levels are way higher, so the question is how do they think they’re going to get away with it? This one literally has a sign that says “Fantastic treats and where to find them”.

That’s just asking for a cease-and-desist letter, although it should be said that this new cafe is owned by two lawyers, so that might help.

Read the full story here.

Dairy cows fuel up on coffee creamer daily at local Iowa farm - via WQAD

Now this is just weird. Not strictly coffee-related, but still weird.

Cow staring at the camera in a field

An Iowan farm that is ranked number two in the country for milk production (er, yay?) feeds its cows coffee creamer to, it says, produce the best possible milk and also cut down on food waste.

According to owner John Maxwell, it’s the sugar in the creamer that is the important ingredient, helping to produce more and better milk, and by doing so they also save 2,000lbs of the stuff from being sent to landfill.

And the fact that he’s feeding his cows milk (albeit in powdered form) doesn’t strike him as being a little, well, creepy?

“It does sound a little cannibalistic,” says Maxwell, “but that’s not true at all.”

Maybe it’s not technically cannibalism, but it’s sure as heck not natural.

And before the coffee creamer? The poor cows were being fed chocolate cake mix.

He could have at least have baked it first.

Read the full story here.

Cocoa Could Fill In as Arabica Loses Ground to Climate Change, Research Suggests - via Daily Coffee News

So the climate emergency is already here, that much is obvious by now (oh hi, rapidly melting arctic permafrost—welcome to the party).

This means that Arabica coffee—a famously fragile and temperamental plant—is in real danger of disappearing across much of Central America and Mexico.

Coffee cherries on the branch

If that happens, researchers have found, there’s the potential for cocoa to heroically take over and save the day.

The report also noted that 80% of the tree species currently in use as shade and cash crops could “drastically shrink” because of the heating world.

“Transforming agroforestry systems by changing tree species composition remains the best bet to adapt most of the coffee and cocoa farms across Mesoamerica,” says a summary of the report, which helpfully provided a sample list of potential replacements for said trees.

Most people would probably be grudgingly OK with coffee being replaced by chocolate, but this puts the onus on struggling farmers to switch their entire business model, rather than perhaps looking at the multinational conglomerates who have caused this whole mess by merrily destroying the natural world for decades with impunity.

Read the full story here.

Howard Schultz Is *Not* Running For President (Probably) - via Sprudge

Surprising absolutely no one, Howard Schultz is suspending his presidential campaign.

What’s that, you’d forgotten that he was even running? Me too. Everybody did.

Well, he’s taking a break now, having let go almost his entire campaign staff, to “recover from back surgery” over the summer.

Please, Howard. Just stay away.

Read the full story here.

The week in Corporate Greenwashing

Starbucks agreed a deal to power 3,000 of its US stores with renewable energy, out of 14,000.

While that sounds like a small number (and it is), it’s still hard to source clean energy in much of the country. So to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re just switching over the ones they can, like stores in Texas and places near lots of sun and onshore wind farms. Maybe Michigan and Minnesota and the like will follow in time.

Or maybe I’m being too generous. That’s the problem with greenwashing—a lot of the time it works because it’s difficult to judge what’s being done genuinely to try to help, and what’s just corporate misdirection.

Is coffee good for you?

Well, drinking 1-4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day can reduce your chance of melanoma by 25%, so that seems positive.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (although the news report doesn’t say when, or link to it), seems to suggest that antioxidants in coffee (caffeinated, remember) somehow interfere with the growth of cancer sells when UV light hits the skin.

Or something? It’s pretty vague. Wear sunscreen, kids.

A man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper