This week’s Coffee News Roundup is brought to you mostly by articles in Bloomberg, for some reason.
But hey, at least there’s some news. Let’s take a look.
Honduras Coffee Growers Face Escalating Woes After Hurricanes - via Bloomberg
Coffee losses from back-to-back hurricanes Eta and Iota are finally being assessed, and it’s not looking good for countries in Central America that were worst-hit by the devastating storms.
Bloomberg reports that crop losses in Honduras could be as high as 10%, as authorities struggle to repair critical infrastructure—the article notes that 185 municipalities in 14 coffee-producing provinces reported bridge and road damage.
Adding to this, the increased rainfall sped up coffee bean maturation, meaning that already stretched-thin producers have had to scramble to pick and process all those beans. The article states, “The deluge last month from the hurricanes named Iota and Eta accelerated coffee-bean maturation, and the labor force has been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Aside from the human damage the storms have caused—a reminder that Daily Coffee News has an updating li of ways you can help those affected—the uncertainty around production in Central America (as well as the dry weather in Brazil, discussed below) caused coffee prices to rise 18% in November.
World’s Biggest Coffee Crop Is Wilting In A Relentless Dry Spell - via Bloomberg
While Central America is recovering from dozens of inches of rain falling in a short space of time, further south in Brazil they’re suffering through a drought which is increasing pressure on coffee’s C price.
Of course, Bloomberg frames this as a worry for investors rather than the climate crisis object lesson that it is. The article opens, “Coffee traders are just starting to come to grips with the extent of Brazil’s weather woes as prospects for next year’s harvest shrivel in the hot and dry conditions.”
We’ve been here before, of course: in January 2019, a Bloomberg headline read “In Brazil Heatwave, Coffee is Literally Burning on the Trees.”
There Is No Money In High-end Coffee For Guatemalan Growers - via Bloomberg
It’s our third Bloomberg article this week, and this one at least mentions increasing temperatures in its look at why coffee producers in Guatemala are struggling.
Its main focus, as ever, is on the price of coffee, which even with the blips mentioned above has been consistently below the cost of production for a long time. “There are no incentives to expand,” said Juan Luis Barrios, a producer and new president of the Guatemalan National Coffee Association. “The current price is not enough for a minimum living wage.”
Small producers, according to the article, make up 97% of coffee farmers in Guatemala, but as Barrios notes, “A small- to medium-size farm is not covering the production cost.”
Starbucks, oft the focus of Bloomberg’s coffee articles (it’s the only coffee company mentioned in all three articles here) has “been trying to help coffee farmers, paying premiums to suppliers above benchmark prices including in Guatemala, where it also lent support to tackle the spread of crop disease,” according to a company spokesperson.
The Week In Corporate Coffeewashing
Here’s an article that’s well worth your time this weekend: A Review of the Sustainability Efforts of 500+ Coffee Companies in Daily Coffee News. It’s honestly one of the most interesting coffee articles I’ve read in a long time, and fits perfectly into this coffeewashing section.
The study “examined the sustainability efforts of 513 different companies active across the sector, collecting detailed information on each company and their sustainability activities.”
The researchers found that one third of companies, big and small, do nothing at all to tackle the issue of sustainability. Another third do a bit, “adopting a few sustainability practices, such as recycling coffee grounds or installing LEDs. The final third “report tangible commitments to sustainability, adopting several sustainability practices and/or certification standards, such as Fairtrade.”
The research found that “large companies tend to adopt a greater number of sustainability practices, while smaller companies are more likely to embrace transparency.” This isn’t that surprising, as larger companies have the budget to tackle more projects (as well as a bigger incentive to be seen to be tackling them) while one of the easiest things for a small company to do is to offer transparency.
Also this statement: “We also found indications of greenwashing. Some companies claim to be ‘sustainable,’ yet provide no evidence to substantiate such a claim.”
Yeah, no doi. The article (and the paper, which you can read in its entirety here) don’t mention any companies specifically, but for regular readers of this Roundup it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out the culprits.
Is Coffee Good For You?
Well it won’t stunt your growth, if that counts.
Apparently the belief that children shouldn’t drink coffee because it stops them growing is a pervasive one, and its wide acceptance as fact has more to do with goofy early-20th-Century marketing than any basis in science. In fact, “no such adversarial effect has been found linking coffee and height.”
Of course giving kids caffeine is generally frowned upon, as the article points out, but drinking coffee at a young age won’t stop you growing. So that’s . . . good?
What I’m Drinking This Week
I’ve been relying on freezer coffee as the week draws to a close, because I once again failed at ordering fresh coffee in time (although this time it’s also partly the fault of the USPS). I have to say: freezer coffee is fine!
I didn’t detect any adverse aromas or tasting notes, and the coffee tasted just like it did before I threw it in the freezer many months ago. Freeze your coffee!
What To Read
Until next week, drink good coffee. Freeze your beans. Wear your mask.
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