Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending July 12th

An espresso sits on a table next to a folded up newspaper.

Hello and welcome to another Friday, which means another roundup of the ins and outs, the highs and lows, the goods and bads, of news from the coffee world.

We start with what is both an important story and also a flagrant piece of self-promotion.

Former SPoT Coffee Employees Allege Union Busting in Buffalo - via Daily Coffee News

That’s right, I wrote this.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an important story, which is why I’m including it here.

Essentially, three former employees of SPoT Coffee in Buffalo allege that they were illegally fired for discussing unionization. This came just a few weeks after workers at another SPoT branch, this time in Rochester, voted overwhelmingly to form a union.

In response to the Rochester unionization vote, SPoT upper management were—at least publically—relatively supportive of the move. SPoT CEO Anton Ayoub put out a statement saying "We respect the decision of our employees at SPoT Coffee Rochester to join a union," which sounds, if not positive, then at least non-union-busty.

Then the Buffalo employees started discussing it, and held what they called an “informational meeting” with the Rochester organizers. Then three of them were fired for, uh, “lawful business reasons” according to SPoT.

Checks out.

Read the full story here.

Colombia proposes coffee nations group to provide bigger influence on market - via Reuters

Sacks of coffee stacked up on atop another

How do we fix the coffee price crisis? How do we go about improving the lives of the farmers who grow our coffee? There are lots of ideas floating around, and chances are Roberto Vélez came up with most of them.

Vélez, head of Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers, has proposed several solutions or quasi-solutions to the crisis currently afflicting the coffee growing world.

Back in February, he proposed decoupling specialty coffee from the C market completely; last week his plan was for a $2 floor price; now, he wants producing countries to group together to give them more bargaining power with buyers and roasters.

“We need action, because the problem is clear: there are 25 million coffee producers that can barely cover their production costs,” he said at the opening of the Global Coffee Producers Forum in Campinas, Brazil.

Read the full story here.

Crypto Coffee Coin Is Coming to Brazil's Countryside Farmers - via Bloomberg

Minasul, one of the largest farmer cooperatives in Brazil, is launching a cryptocurrency backed by coffee. The “coffeecoin” can be used to buy fertilizer, machinery, and also cars and food.

According to Bloomberg, “Farmer members will be able to acquire the currency against current and future coffee production … As much as 30% of the current harvest is eligible for exchange, 20% of the next crop, and 10% for the season after that.”

Bloomberg was told by Minasul’s president that "this type of digital financing will reduce costs for the cooperative and growers because it won’t require registration though a notary’s office.”

Is this good? Bad? I have no idea. Cryptocurrencies are confusing.

Read the full story here.

Coffee Companies are Signing an Unprecedented Transparency Pledge - via Daily Coffee News

How much does coffee really cost? How much of that $17 bag of coffee you bought from your local roaster actually goes to the farmer?

Clearly it’s not enough, if the news from, oh, the past hundred years or so is anything to go by.

Two hands holding two cups of black coffee, seen from above.

But now some companies are signing up to something new: The Pledge (capital letters mandatory).

Basically, The Pledge involves being as transparent as possible with all your sourcing information, from the coffee quality score/grade to the volume purchased and the length of relationship between buyer and producer.

So far, more than seventeen companies have signed up to The Pledge, including Tim Wendelboe, Onyx Coffee Lab, Heart Roasters, and Café Campesino among others.

(Check out the What To Read section at the end for a different opinion on The Pledge.)

Read the full story here.

Moral Outrage Erupts Over Police Officers Being Asked to Leave a Starbucks - via Eater

This article is worth reading, because it delves below the surface of the “police officers asked to leave Starbucks, people on the internet are mad” story and compares it to last year’s controversy when two black customers were arrested at a Starbucks while waiting for a colleague to arrive for a meeting.

This latest Starbucks incident and last year’s are only superficially alike, though. As Eater’s Vince Dixon wrote last year, the arrests of those men — who said they were waiting for an acquaintance to arrive, as people do all the time at Starbucks without being asked to leave, let alone apprehended by the police — highlighted the stark reality of people of color, who “must constantly justify their existence, especially in predominantly white spaces.”

Read the full story here.

Royal Paris Announces the First-of-Its-Kind and Most Luxurious Coffee Maker in the World - via Yahoo Finance

*insert guillotine GIF here*

Read the full story here (but don’t, it’s too stupid and depressing).

The Week In Corporate Greenwashing

From a Wall Street Journal article about discussions at the Global Coffee Producers Forum on how to help producers not lose their farms, starve, or have to migrate:

Helping farmers increase their income is “beyond the scope of any one company’s actions,” Nestlé said in an email, adding that the company is looking for collective measures to help growers in the face of low arabica prices.

Starbucks said their goal is to make coffee the world’s first sustainably sourced agricultural product and that it has invested more than $100 million to “increase the prosperity and resilience” of coffee farmers around the world.

Nestlé is the largest food company in the world, with revenue of over $90 billion in 2017.

Starbucks had revenue of $25 billion in 2018, and returned $8.9 billion to shareholders.

Everything they do is greenwashing.

Is Coffee Good For You?

Don’t try caffeine powder, that’s for sure: a 21-year-old Australian overdosed on the stuff and died, according to Health.com. One teaspoon of the powder has the same amount of caffeine as 16 small cups of coffee, which seems like a lot.

The FDA agrees: “Less than two tablespoons of some formulations of powdered, pure caffeine can be deadly to most adults, while even smaller amounts can be-life threatening to children,” they said in a statement.

Maybe just… leave it alone.

A man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper