Two hands holding a coffee cup with latte art atop a newspaper

We start this week with some shameless self-promotion. Today marks the end of my current job (see you next year, Cinetopia) and the beginning of my attempt to become a freelance coffee writer.

As you may have seen, I’ve been writing for places like Sprudge for a couple of years, as well as some off-and-on work for various coffee companies. I specialize in all kinds of coffee content, from blogs to emails to web copy—I can even write the blurb on your coffee bags. If you’d like me to write for you, send me an email! My professional writing is much less snarky than these roundups, I promise.

OK enough of that. What’s been going on in the world of coffee this week?

The Plot Thickens Between Caterpillar And Cat & Cloud - via Sprudge

Last week, news broke that Caterpillar, the $54 billion heavy-machinery-and-also-somehow-apparel company, was going after a trademark owned by the coffee company Cat & Cloud.

The story was sparse, to say the least, with most of the information coming from a Cat & Cloud podcast (because it's 2019 and that's how things work now). Sprudge asked both companies to comment on the story, and now we have their statements.

Cat & Cloud's is, as expected, eloquent and heartstring-tugging. Caterpillar's is, as expected, terse.

The story has gained wider attention over the past few days, and it looks like Cat & Cloud is going to take their case all the way to the top, so there will likely be updates in the weeks ahead. We can only hope more light is shed on the situation.

Read the full story here.

Scorching Heat and Downpours Threaten Quality of Brazil Coffee - via Bloomberg

Remember that story from a while ago about coffee beans in Brazil literally burning on the trees?

Well, it turns out that the extreme weather that prompted those reports is still affecting the harvests, causing big drops in yields for the higher quality crops and a bumper haul for the commodity stuff.

Two hands holding freshly picked coffee

High temperatures meant the beans matured too fast, and then heavy rains knocked them to the ground. The output of semi-washed coffee has decreased to the point that one farmer quoted in the piece is concerned that he'll have to buy from third parties in order to fulfill his contracts.

While the high volumes coming out of Brazil have contributed to the fall in the commodity price over the past year, the recent extreme weather has caused an upswing. This just proves once again that tying the price paid for specialty coffee to the commodity market is an unsustainable practice that inevitably causes unneeded stress and harm to thousands of coffee producers.

The other thing this story illustrates is that climate breakdown is already happening, and it's going to push our favorite drink to extinction and drive many thousands of people off their land and into destitution unless we change things now.

Read the full story here.

Coca-Cola thinks Americans are finally ready for Coke with coffee - via CNN

Narrator: They aren't.

Read the full story here.

Bring Your Bag, Get Some Swag: Brandywine’s New Upcycle Rewards Program - via Sprudge

I've agonized over how to deal with coffee bags. There are things one can do as a consumer to reduce waste in the coffee brewing process—use a reusable filter, only brew what you need, compost etc—but the bag is always the trickiest part.

A hand holding an open bag of coffee, seen from above

There are companies using so-called biodegradable or compostable bags, but these can be problematic and greenwash-y. There are recycling programs, but they cost money. The best thing to do is to avoid the bag completely and take your Mason jar or similar container to your local roaster (bonus: it's usually cheaper! Double bonus: you can get a cup of coffee while you're there!) The downside to this is you don't get to try delicious coffee from other parts of the country, but hey, sacrifices and all that.

Or you could turn your old bag into something new. Brandywine Coffee Roasters out of Wilmington, VT, is trying this different approach: they're upcycling their customers' old bags into art, and giving them a discount in the process.

Called the Brandywine Upcycled Rewards Program (BURP) the idea is that used bags are returned to the company (in person or by mail) and given to a local artist to use in their work, while the customer gets a discount on their next order.

If you're interested in recycling your coffee bag, you can buy a box from a company called Terra Cycle which once full you ship back to them for recycling. I actually have one of their kitchen boxes* which can also take coffee bags (among many, many other things). It's not cheap, but it does slightly assuage the gnawing guilt I feel whenever I buy these specific items.

*I’m not being paid for this advertisement, unfortunately.

Read the full story here.

Is coffee good for you?

Honestly, it's sometimes hard to remember which new study showing coffee is good/bad for you we've already covered here.

A couple of weeks ago it was reported that coffee can extend your life if you drink the right amount (2.5 cups per day, although it's unclear from the reports what a cup actually means).

Now though, another study claims that drinking six or more cups per day can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease by 22%, which is, you know, bad.

However, this study at least tells us what they mean by a cup: the tipping point is six 8-ounce cups, with 75 milligrams of caffeine in each.

I don't know about cardiovascular disease, but I'm 100% sure drinking that much coffee in a day would kill me.

A man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper

What to read

The Cost of Financially Sustainable Coffee Production: A Study by Fair Trade USA and Cornell University by Jimmy Sherfey

The Secret To This Brazilian Coffee? Ants Harvest The Beans by Rafael Tonon

How Does That Independent Coffee Shop Survive? by Gene Marks

Until next week, drink good coffee. But no more than 6 cups.

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