Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending July 17th

A diner mug sits on a folded newspaper.

A diner mug sits on a folded newspaper.

Hello and welcome to another week’s end, and therefore another Coffee News Roundup.

In the wider world, it’s been a week of cautious optimism, of dangerous spikes, of small victories, and of disturbing portents.

But what’s it been like for coffee? Let’s find out.

Former workers allege Philz Coffee laid off those with COVID-19 fears - via Mission Local

Coffee companies large and small are struggling to deal with this unprecedented, ongoing, accelerating pandemic.

Some are doing things right. Closing down, looking after their staff, finding alternate sources of income. Others—mainly, but not exclusively, big chains—are just flailing from crisis to crisis while showing obvious disregard for their employees.

*cough* Starbucks *cough*

Philz Coffee is a specialty chain with 59 locations around California, Illinois, and the East Coast. Last week, in an unsigned email, the company laid off 181 workers “due to the COVID-19 pandemic” according to KQED.

However, several of the laid-off employees allege that the layoffs are more to do with retaliation against those who refused to return to work for genuine medical reasons and those who had called the company out for its lax health and safety measures.

"Philz has tried to maintain maximum productivity while sacrificing safety," one barista who was fired said.

Other workers allege they were laid off specifically for criticizing the company’s reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests and its longtime discount program for police (Philz recently ended that program).

Read the full Mission Local story here and the KQED story here.

Woman who refused to wear a mask in Starbucks now wants half of $100,000 donated to barista - via CBS News

A predictably annoying ending to what had been a relatively feel-good story.

A Starbucks cafe exterior

A Starbucks cafe exterior

When a customer refused to wear a mask in a San Diego Starbucks last month, a barista stood up to her and refused service per the county’s (and company’s) mask mandate. The woman then posted on Facebook about it (because of course) and the whole thing went viral.

The barista, Lenin Gutierrez, ended up gaining over $100,000 in donations from sympathetic strangers who expressed support for his actions.

Now, however, the maskless woman is demanding half of the money, claiming that she was discriminated against.

“It was discrimination and everybody is okay with it and enabling and rewarding that behavior,” the woman, Amber Lynn Gilles, said in an interview with a local TV station. Gilles has previously posted anti-mask conspiracy theories on Facebook.

With apparently no hint of irony, “Gilles told the station she is going to sue for half of Gutierrez's GoFundMe money. She also said she has spoken to lawyers, but that they're all expensive so she started a GoFundMe in an effort to raise money.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Starbucks baristas put up with a lot and should have all of our sympathy all of the time.

Read the full story here.

Italian police intercept coffee beans stuffed with cocaine - via Euronews

I don’t really have much to say on this except that I’m exhausted just thinking about the amount of work needed to cut open 500 coffee beans, hollow them out, fill them with cocaine, and then tape them back up.

Also this sentence: “Police said suspicions were initially raised when they saw the name ‘Santino D'Antonio’ on the packets — a mafia boss in the American action film John Wick.”

Good stuff.

Read the full story here.

More Headlines

Middleton Coffee Shop Allegedly Violating County Mask Order Calls Police on Health Inspector

Travelling Coffee-Cup Memorial for Srebrenica's Dead Comes Home

Fresh Cup Magazine’s COVID-19 Survey Results

Colombia-Focused Coffee For Peace Running a Virtual Sourcing Trip

Coffee cherries on a branch

Coffee cherries on a branch

The Week in Coffee Greenwashing

The J.M. Smucker Company is getting in on the blockchain supply chain transparency game by partnering with Farmer Connect, a startup that uses IBM blockchain technology to something something transparency.

Customers can scan a QR code on their bag of 1850 Coffee (?) and see information about the supply chain all the way back to the farm. According to the press release, customers can also “learn more about Farmer Connect projects underway to support coffee producers and their families in Colombia such as providing clean drinking water for schools; coffee seedlings for smallholder farms; school supplies for local schools; and sustainable water and agriculture initiatives.”

Honestly, this all sounds very familiar. Didn’t we talk about this a while ago?

Ah yes, back in January.

Is Coffee Good For You?

German scientists are developing a disinfectant made from coffee waste. That counts as being good for you, right?

Two professors at Jacobs University Bremen are working on a way to turn coffee chaff —the skin of the coffee bean that comes off during roasting—that is usually discarded (or at best composted) into a usable, and useful, disinfectant. It could, they hope, eventually be used as a spray in hospitals and public transport.

While there’s still a ways to go until it reaches market, a coffee disinfectant (especially one using coffee waste) is a pretty cool prospect.

What to Read

A Brief History Of Decaf And The Color Orange by Zac Cadwalader

Somehow We're All Getting By on Less Coffee Than Usual This Year by Jelisa Castrodale

Until next week, drink good coffee. And, as always, wear a mask and be nice to baristas.

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