Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending February 28th

An espresso cup sits on a table next to a folded newspaper

Hello and welcome to this week’s Coffee News Roundup.

Before we get started, I would like to point you to this article I wrote for Sierra Magazine: The Age Of The Zero-Waste Cafe.

This was an interesting piece for me to write, because when I pitched it I had one idea of zero waste and when I finished I had another. It turns out that, like most things, zero waste is a complicated idea that is extremely hard to actually achieve. It’s also become a sort of trendy buzzword within the coffee industry, a marketing term not unlike “sustainable” or “artisan” that can mean basically whatever you want it to mean.

Anyway, I hope you read the article—I could easily have written another thousand words on the subject.

Now, on to the news.

Union study finds Black Starbucks baristas in airports paid less than whites - via the Boston Globe

In 2018, Starbucks announced that it had achieved “100 percent pay equity for partners of all genders and races performing similar work across the United States.”

A white Starbucks disposable coffee cup with cardboard sleeve sits on a table

Apparently that didn’t count for stores operated by third party franchises, like the 142 stores at 27 airports around the United States operated by HMSHost.

A study by the Unite Here union found that Black baristas at these locations made $1.85 less per hour than their white co-workers.

Two months after Starbucks announced their “100 percent pay equity”, Starbucks closed 8,000 of its US stores for racial bias training following the arrest of two Black men at a Philadelphia location.

As the article notes, “according to Unite Here, the airport Starbucks remained open.”

The report continues: “In addition, LGBTQ workers reported being subjected to offensive comments, and one in four immigrants were told to stop speaking their preferred languages at work.”

A couple of weeks ago, that same HMSHost announced that it will be “changing its partnership with Starbucks Corporation” and offering more local coffee options instead.


Read the full story here.

George Clooney 'saddened' by alleged child labour on Nespresso coffee farms - via the Guardian

He should be.

Nestlé, which owns Nespresso, has had its share of scandals regarding child labor in the past, mostly in its cocoa supply chain.

Clooney’s statement says that he is “surprised and saddened” by the report from the UK-based Channel 4’s documentary Dispatches, which “filmed children picking coffee beans and hauling sacks on six Guatemalan farms believed to supply Nespresso,” according to the Guardian.

Nespresso says it will launch a thorough investigation, because of course, and says that it has zero tolerance of child labor.

(As an aside, what company doesn’t have zero tolerance of child labor, or would admit it publicly?)

Read the full story here.

With A $500,000 Investment From Gravity Payments, Joe Coffee Looks To Take On Square - via Sprudge

Square, the ubiquitous white point of sale system used in most coffee shops around the US (and probably elsewhere) changed their fee structure last year by moving from a strictly percentage-based fee (2.75%) to a lower percentage (2.60%) plus ten cents.

A white Square point of sale system in use

This helped businesses with higher average transactions, but if you’re selling hundreds of $2.50 coffees per day, those extra ten cents adds up.

According to Sprudge’s article on the subject back in September, in some cases that resulted in thousands of extra dollars in fees per year.

Because Square is so omnipresent, there hasn’t been much coffee shops can do—they’ve already invested in the service, and changing can be onerous.

But now a company called Joe Coffee has teamed up with Gravity Payments to launch a competitor that they say will offer lower prices for coffee shops.

The company won’t yet tell us how much their fees will be, but at least it’s some competition for Square, which made its name as a low-cost POS system for small businesses that couldn’t afford the full shebang.

Now that they’ve become what they were created to fight, it will be interesting to see what happens when their domination is challenged.

Read the full story here.

La Colombe’s new self-heating coffee can: A hot cup of joe in 2 minutes - via the Philadelphia Inquirer

The ready-to-drink canned coffee market is, shall we say, getting a little crowded. You can get an iced latte in a can; you can get nitro coffee in a can; heck, you can even get canned coffee with alcohol for some reason.

But what if you wanted a hot coffee, but in a can? Well first off, what’s wrong with you. Secondly, La Colombe has just the product for you.

That’s right, their new self-heating can includes a tiny thingamajig that, when you twist the bottom of the can, warms the coffee up to 130 degrees.

La Colombe has been in the canned coffee market for years, developing various products involving the word “draft”—mocha draft, oat draft, triple draft (whatever that is)—and other weird things like a cold brew lemonade. It makes sense that they’d try a hot version eventually.

According to the article, they won’t say how the heating element works “beyond explaining it as a solid-state reaction that is safe and recyclable.”

Very reassuring.

Read the full story here.

Coffee-Friendly Swedish Pea Milk Brand Sproud Pitched as an Alt to Alts - via Daily Coffee News

Oh, no. No thank you.

Read the full story here.

The week in corporate greenwashing

Nothing new to report this week, which is probably a good sign.

Is coffee good for you?

Apparently coffee can reduce the risk of certain cancers, according to the 2020 World Cancer Report.

“Recent research suggests that coffee consumption may lower the risk of liver cancer and endometrial cancer,” say the report’s authors.

In one cited study, over a million people were analyzed and the results showed that people who drank three cups of coffee per day had a 27% lower risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer.

The article observes, “It's not clear whether the two factors are related, but, they said, it's worthy of note.”

You really have to love science.

A person sits on a park bench reading a newspaper

What to read

The Sprudge Coffee Guide To Buffalo, New York by me!

Starbucks: A Reconsideration by Rachel Sugar

Until next week, drink good coffee. And please, wash your hands.

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