An espresso sits atop a newspaper, seen from above

Oh hi. A short and sweet one this week, as only three stories came up that I would consider newsworthy. However, there are lots of good articles to read listed down at the bottom under What To Read, so I recommend checking them out. There’s also the rest of this site, which contains various ramblings and heavy-handed film/coffee comparisons, if that’s your jam.

News-wise, well, let’s take a look.

Ethiopian Coffee Company Uses Blockchain to Keep More Profits with Farmers - via The Spoon

Back in July there was a story about a collaboration between a coffee company, a tech startup and something called a blockchain foundation to help introduce the concept of blockchain to the coffee industry.

Two hands hold freshly picked coffee cherries

The story, which I dutifully covered here despite not really understanding how any of it works, concerned the attempt to secure more income from and control over the coffee production and exporting process by farmers in Ethiopia. Among the tools being used were (obviously) blockchain, as well as roasting the coffee in Addis Ababa prior to export.

Now the roaster involved in the initiative, Moyee Coffee, is investing more in the program in order to increase traceability for the buyer and consumer. This includes new tools for growers to deal directly with roasters, and for roasters to see exactly where and from whom the coffee was sourced, something that has long been difficult in Ethiopia.

However, as the article rather clear-headedly points out, blockchain is not a foolproof panacea for all the ills in the supply chain, and “giving farmers a slightly better percentage of coffee profit or a few €0.50 tokens will not solve the issues of drought, fluctuating prices, or credit access that plague many coffee growers.”

Blockchain can be a useful tool to give farmers more control over the whole process of coffee growing and selling, but it’s not perfect. The idea that technology will fix all the world’s problems is a particularly pervasive one today (world dying? Colonize space!) so it’s no wonder people think that it’s the solution for the coffee industry too.

However, there are simpler approaches. For example, treat farmers like the crucial cog in the supply chain that they are and just pay more for coffee.

Read the full story here.

Your Robot-Made Coffee Is Ready. Where Does That Leave The Barista? via Forbes

Robot baristas are old news at this point.

There are already several robotic cafes in San Francisco (where else) and multiple companies trying to revolutionize the concept of putting water over ground coffee and heating milk.

A robotic hand reaches towards the camera

They’ve not been without their problems—machines break, after all—and are yet to fully convince, mostly because robots are inherently creepy and you don’t want to be standing in line when the singularity happens and your barista decides to kill all humans.

The idea that robots will replace human baristas is also important to consider, as it’s a topic that is haunting other industries, although the blokes in charge of the latest glorified vending machine aren’t too concerned. According to them their robot coffee maker, named Briggo for some reason, will actually help by raising the overall quality of coffee available and leaving customers wanting better coffee everywhere. Or something.

Luckily, it’s an existential threat that shouldn’t really concern baristas right now. From the employer side, so many coffee companies can’t seem to figure out how to pay their staff a proper wage, so why would they be able to afford hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace said staff with a T-1000?

And from the customer perspective, a coffee shop without baristas just seems incredibly cold and uninviting. Who’s going to clean up the spilled coffee? Who’s going to change the music when the Twin Peaks theme has played on a loop for the past 40 minutes for some reason? Who’s going to put up with the horrendous flirtations of customer after customer?

Tip your barista, is what I’m saying.

Read the full story here.

Florida man fights off coyote with coffee cup - via NBC2 News

You’re probably familiar with Florida Man, the world’s worst superhero and embodiment of all that is weird and wonderful about America’s Wang. Usually, his shenanigans are decidedly awful and/or criminal, but sometimes they’re heroic.

Take, for example, the Florida Man who used his metal coffee cup to fight off a rabid coyote that was threatening his dog.

The story sounds traumatic for everyone involved (the coyote included), but if nothing else it is yet another example of how great reusable coffee cups are.

Read the full story here.

Is coffee good for you?

The downside to those reusable coffee cups is that they can get gross. As with everything you eat and drink out of, they need to be looked after and cleaned regularly (I had plenty of horrifying experiences with customers’ unwashed mugs during my barista career).

Now, researchers at Aston University in Birmingham, England, have studied the situation and discovered that, yes, they are gross. But special antimicrobial cups are less gross.

That’s right, cups designed to stop the growth of bacteria are better at stopping the growth of bacteria than cups that haven’t. Stunning.

A man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper

What to read

JAB Upends Coffee Trading by The Economist (paywall)

Umeko Motoyoshi: The Sprudge Interview by Zachary Carlsen

Homes and Coffee Fields Abandoned As Violence Continues In Southern Mexico by Marissa Revilla

COB: The Complex History of the ‘Brazilian Official Classification’ System by Jonas Ferraresso

What’s It Like To Grow Coffee In The Galápagos Islands? by Juan Proaño

Until next week, drink good coffee. Pay a fair price for it, and tip your barista.

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