Hello and welcome to another edition of the Coffee News Roundup. Let’s get right to, it shall we?
Sprudge’s coverage of racism in the specialty coffee industry
Over the past two weeks, the specialty coffee industry has been rocked by accounts of racism within some major—and previously widely respected—companies, including La Marzocco, Counter Culture Coffee, and Barista Hustle.
Sprudge, the industry leader in coffee news (and sometime publisher of yours truly) has been reporting on each of these stories, documenting the background, allegations, apologies (if they were forthcoming) and fallout.
I’m not going to write much about each one, because Sprudge has already done a superb job and there’s really nothing new I can add. However I encourage you to click through and read each piece, because these are important stories that our industry needs to address.
- Allegations And Apologies Rock La Marzocco—details revelations from a former employee of La Marzocco based in Milan about racist and fatphobic incidents he witnessed at that location.
- Barista Hustle Faces Backlash, Loses Distribution Over Public Scandal—details the racism within Barista Hustle (a prominent Australian coffee education platform and consulting company), specifically the actions of founder Matt Perger towards the writer and coffee professional Michelle Johnson.
- Counter Culture Coffee Faces Public Allegations And Apologies—details a litany of allegations involving systemic racism within Counter Culture’s, well, culture.
All three of these pieces are worth reading for their depth and fairness, and for how clearly they show a pervasive lack of accountability and diversity within the specialty coffee industry.
Starbucks Won't Let Employees Wear Gear That Supports Black Lives Matter Because It Is Political Or Could Incite Violence - via Buzzfeed News
This shouldn’t be very surprising, given Starbucks’ less than stellar history of dealing with racism throughout its supply chain and within the company itself.
For example, there was the arrest of two Black men in a Philadelphia store in 2018 after an employee called the cops on them. Then there was the time in 2008 Starbucks worked with a contractor that used prison labor to package coffee. Also the slave labor found on coffee farms in Brazil that supplied Starbucks and others (including Nespresso, natch). This was six months ago. There was also the report, from just three months ago, that alleged Black baristas at Starbucks airport locations (operated by a third party) were paid less than their white colleagues.
This week, Starbucks baristas looking to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing protests were told that wearing pins or T-shirts in solidarity was against company dress code. According to Buzzfeed News, management told baristas that wearing such symbols of support “could be misunderstood and potentially incite violence”.
This is after Starbucks posted publicly in support of Black Lives Matter, which some baristas Buzzfeed spoke to found performative and hypocritical: “A barista on the east coast told BuzzFeed News that on the ground, the company is still working to preserve its image with customers to not disrupt sales.”
After significant backlash on social media and calls for a boycott, Starbucks quickly reversed its policy.
Temple Coffee apologise for black ex-employee being called a ‘slave’ - via The Leeds Tab
Just in case you thought all of this was confined to the United States, this week in the UK Temple Coffee and Donuts became embroiled in controversy after half-heartedly apologizing to a former employee who claimed that she suffered ongoing racist abuse from a colleague.
Sabrina Said, who worked at the Leeds-based company for 3 months in 2018, documented a litany of racial abuse that was never dealt with, even though another employee also experienced similar abuse from the same person.
Temple, which had previously posted online in support of Black Lives Matter, issued a curt apology—“We are deeply sorry that someone has suffered while working for Temple. We have not only failed this employee but ourselves and our customers too”—and then shut down its social media accounts and website.
Just a quick update here, mostly because I’ve seen a whole lot of coffee companies on Instagram proudly posting about how they’re “fully open” and how “our team is so excited to serve you!”
First off, that’s a lie. No service industry worker is excited to risk their lives for a pittance in order to serve people coffee, but they can’t refuse or else they’ll lose their jobs and their benefits (if they have any). Secondly, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Hundreds, if not thousands, are still dying each day.
Here are some stories of coffee shops being forced to close because their employees tested positive for COVID-19. And that’s just the few I found after looking for thirty seconds. I’m sure there are more.
The week in corporate greenwashing
Nothing that I could find this week.
Because you know the big companies aren’t going to help.
Is coffee good for you?
Not if you’re a barista forced back to work to serve lattes to petulant customers who don’t tip or wear masks.
What to read
Until next week, drink good coffee. Support Black-owned businesses. And for the love of crumcakes, wear a mask.
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