Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending February 21st

Two hands cupping a coffee cup with latte art, resting atop a newspaper

My current day job involves doing marketing for a film festival here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This one, to be precise.

I’ve done it for a couple of years, and it’s a lot of fun, but we’re doing an event next week as a sort of hors d'oeuvre for this year’s festival and Richard Jenkins is going to be there. Yes, that Richard Jenkins. Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins, him from Cabin In The Woods and Burn After Reading.

Going to try my best not to lose it completely, but no promises.

Oh and if you’re in the Ann Arbor area and want to come, it’s going to be a fun night.

Anyway, on to the coffee.

Exclusive: Major Thai coffee brand vows to repay 200 debt-ridden farmers - via Reuters

The irony of a company set up specifically to help farmers forcing those same farmers to go into debt is not lost here.

Hands holding freshly picked coffee cherries in close up

Doi Chaang Coffee, the original Thai version, not the Canadian offshoot of the same name, has said it will repay around 200 coffee farmers who were forced to go into debt while waiting almost three years for payment.

Doi Chaang Coffee was started in 2003 in the village of Doi Chang in Chiang Rai province in the north of Thailand with the express intention of “giv[ing] growers a fairer price” according to Reuters.

When the company failed to pay for the coffee it had bought, farmers were forced to take out high interest loans to cover their costs.

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which uncovered the non-payment, Doi Chaang Coffee will pay back 7 million baht ($224,000) by June.

“I will probably be in a never-ending cycle of debt to the bank,” a farmer told Reuters. Coffee is the main source of income for many in the highlands of Chiang Rai, where opium poppies were once grown before the switch to coffee in the 1960s.

Even though Doi Chaang Coffee was set up to help those in the area, it doesn’t look like it’s been a total success. One village chief told Reuters, “The company says they help raise the living standards of locals ... but in reality (the villagers) are struggling.”

Read the full story here.

Colombia Bets on Farmers with $64 Million Coffee Price Stabilization Fund - via Daily Coffee News

While we’re on the subject of low prices, the C price for commodity coffee was at $1.06 as of yesterday. That’s, well that’s low.

To try to help its farmers affected by these continuously low prices, the Colombian government has announced a new $64 million price stabilization fund.

The money, per Daily Coffee News, will be used “to ensure that coffee growers are receiving a fair base price for their coffees based on analyses of local production costs, while allowing them to focus on quality improvements that could appeal to higher-paying specialty coffee markets.”

The fund was announced back in July 2019, and it seems the amount pledged has fallen from $80 to $64 million. But hey, help is help.

Read the full story here.

Starbucks and McDonalds Are Experimenting With Reusable Cups - via Sprudge

Back in March this Roundup highlighted a new “challenge” funded by, among others, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and a private equity fund called Closed Loop Partners, with the goal of producing a workable reusable cup sharing program.

A white paper Starbucks cup with white plastic lid sits on a wooden bench.

Starbucks, which goes through 6 billion disposable cups a year (that’s their own number!), has committed $10 million to the effort (The Week In Corporate Greenwashing Klaxon Alert), and now the NextGen Cup Challenge has announced the launch of a pilot scheme in the Bay Area.

According to Bloomberg, and reported on by Sprudge, those taking part in the trial will be “independent coffee shops” whatever that means.

Daily Coffee News, meanwhile, says that Equator Coffee, Ritual Coffee Roasters, and Verve Coffee Roasters will be part of the trial. If successful, the program will be ramped up and could end up being incorporated by Starbucks and McDonald’s.

Essentially, the scheme involves lots of reusable cups fitted with tracking chips—once used, they will be collected at various points around San Francisco and Palo Alto, washed, and delivered to cafes for re-use.

Of course some tech start-ups are involved—this is the Bay Area after all—and the scheme is not without its critics. Nick Cho, of Wrecking Ball Coffee, wrote a thread on Twitter about his attempts to start a community-based, non-profit version of the cup swap program. According to Cho, he couldn’t find any cup manufacturers willing to partner with him, which seems unfortunate but hey, there’s money to be made here.

Daily Coffee News also mentions some of the other investors in the private equity firm behind the initiative, Closed Loop Partners: they include Nestlé and Keurig Dr. Pepper. Because of course.

Read the full story here.

The week in corporate greenwashing

See above.

But also, Nespresso has launched its first “certified organic coffee”. According to the press release, this is because “drinking organic coffee is a burgeoning lifestyle choice”. Grim.

Is coffee good for you

Nobody’s saying it isn’t this week, and you know what they say about no news.

A person sits on a park bench reading a newspaper

What to read

Caffeine And Coffee: How To Get More Of A Good Thing by Jon Frech

5 New Coffee Bars From Berlin’s Remarkable Scene by Tatiana Ernst

History Of Coffee: 10 Ways That Engineering Brings You Your Morning Brew by Chris Young

Until next week, drink good coffee.

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