Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending April 10th

An espresso cups sits on a table beside a folded newspaper. Via Unsplash

An espresso cups sits on a table beside a folded newspaper. Via Unsplash

It’s the end of another week here in limbo, as we collectively sit in lockdown and watch the coronavirus numbers tick ever upward. At least, I hope you’re also sitting in lockdown.

There are a couple of cool virtual things happening this weekend—first, on Saturday, April 11, #RallyForCoffee is a pseudo-event hosted by ceramic maker Created Co. that encourages people to buy their favorite coffee online in a sort of Record Store Day but, you know, online and with coffee.

And then in non-coffee related fun things, on Sunday, April 12 the Michigan Theater here in Ann Arbor is hosting a free online screening of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent epic The Ten Commandments on YouTube, accompanied by house organist Andrew Rogers on his home organ (yeah, he has an organ in his house. It’s pretty awesome).

Right, on with the news.

COVID-19 Updates - Via Various

It’s beginning to get to a point of stasis in the coffee industry, with most cafes closed (or doing drive-through if you’re Starbucks for some reason) and most roasters trying to keep things going via online sales.

Everyone is locked down, waiting, uncertain what tomorrow, next week, next month will bring. Here’s what’s happened over the past week:

  • Temporary cafe closures are to be expected, but some companies have already decided to close for good. Gimme! Coffee’s two locations in New York City will not reopen, according to Eater. Meanwhile in Texas, Momentum Coffee has also shuttered its business permanently. Luckily for some others, the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program that began last week as part of the federal government’s “response” to the pandemic has helped keep them going. This article in the Billings Gazette shows how the funds can be used to help coffee companies stay afloat.
  • Coffee producers are also being hit by the drop in demand in consuming countries. The latest Reuters piece focuses on Kenya, where the global pandemic has caused a slowdown in orders from foreign importers and roasters. “We have almost ground to zero,” Nairobi-based coffee exporter Jackson Kanampiu told Reuters. “The corona has really affected us.”
  • Coffee shops are not just a place to grab your morning coffee on the way to work. They’re also community hubs and performance spaces, which have obviously had to push pause during this unprecedented time. However, some are continuing with their events online, and Sprudge has put together a list of some you can check out.

Genetic Testing Reveals the True Nature of Coffee Varieties - via Daily Coffee News

Coffee cherries on the branch. Via GoodFreePhotos

Coffee cherries on the branch. Via GoodFreePhotos

When you look at the bag of specialty coffee you just bought from your local roaster (online of course), do you ever wonder what the words Bourbon, Pacamara, or even Gesha mean? They’re usually listed under the Variety heading, and they refer to the sub-type of coffee within the arabica family that have been created through natural mutations or wild cross-breeding.

They’ve also become marketing terms within the specialty coffee industry—especially with Gesha, a famous variety that Barista Magazine has said “looms large in our current specialty coffee landscape—high-priced, synonymous with the best quality, and a guaranteed conversation starter.”

Well, it turns out that those fancy marketing campaigns can be highly misleading.

World Coffee Research has found that a lot of the time coffees marketed as a specific variety are… not that at all. Especially, it turns out, when it comes to Gesha. Using DNA fingerprinting technology, WCR found that “only 39% of the 88 samples identified as the famous Gesha variety … were found to truly be Gesha.”

So basically everything is a lie and nothing means anything. I mean, the research probably has some scientific usefulness but who cares about that.

Read the full story here.

Nespresso Releases Plan to Combat Child Labor Found in its Supply Chain - via Daily Coffee News

Hold on to your hats, everyone, Nespresso has a plan.

That plan? No, it’s not “pay more for coffee to remove the incentive for using child labor in the first place.” That would be too difficult probably.

The actual plan involves six steps. Those steps, according to Daily Coffee News, include “doubling the number of Nespresso agronomists in Guatemala while hiring dedicated social workers before the harvest season; conducting more unannounced farm visits; improved documentation regarding the treatment of coffee pickers; expanding a pilot project to include ‘child-friendly’ spaces on coffee farms; increased education and outreach; and a hotline for reporting labor issues.”

The plan is, of course, in reaction to a documentary by Channel 4 in the UK that uncovered instances of child labor on farms that supplied Nespresso and Starbucks.

Read the full story here.

The week in corporate greenwashing

Oh look, Nestlé again. This time, news that the Swiss multinational has added its coffee brand Zoégas (me either) to IBM’s Food Trust blockchain traceability program and partnered with Rainforest Alliance in order to “bolster the coffee’s data traceability.”

Apparently, Nestlé  “will add QR codes to Zoégas’ ‘Summer 2020’ coffee product packaging, sold in Sweden. When scanned, these codes will show consumers their beans’ journey from harvest to shelf, with documentation stored on IBM’s food tracing blockchain.”

Is this good? Will it help consumers make better decisions? Will it allow farmers to earn more? Is this just more blockchain marketing with no real end goal? Is this too many questions?

Is coffee good for you?

It depends what kind of coffee you’re drinking. According to new research, there’s a chemical difference between hot coffee and cold brew, and one has more antioxidants than the other.

Hot coffee has more, in case you’re interested.

However, “cold brew coffees across all three roast temperatures were slightly less acidic than their hot brew counterparts,” says the research. So there’s that.

Is this helpful information? Hard to tell. Both kinds still have antioxidants, and both are still good for you—one’s just a bit more so than the other.

A person sits on the floor reading a book. via Unsplash

A person sits on the floor reading a book. via Unsplash

What to read

Becoming A Carbon Responsible Business by Rachel Northrop

Exploring The Dalgona Coffee Craze by Janice Kanniah

How Coffee Ruined A Country by Lizabeth Cohen

Until next week, stay home and drink good coffee. And wash your hands! A lot!

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