Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending November 22nd

A mug of coffee sits on a newspaper on a wooden table.

Hello and welcome to what could prove to be the shortest Coffee News Roundup in history (which is about two years). There’s really not a lot of news out there this week, just a few bits and pieces to carry you into the weekend.

Edit: it’s definitely not that short. Turns out I can waffle on for ages—who knew?

Luckin Coffee will be larger than Starbucks in China before 2020: CFO - via Yahoo! Finance

Oh good, more fast-paced corporate growth for pretty much no reason.

A Starbucks sign hangs on a rock wall.

Luckin Coffee, as we’ve discussed before, has a seemingly pathological inferiority complex when it comes to Starbucks. It’s been trying to outdo, outgrow, and outperform its Seattle-based rival since its inception, opening new stores with frenzied abandon.

Now it claims it will surpass Starbucks in China before the end of 2019, claiming more than 4,500 stores—that’s a growth rate of 209.5% over the past year.

Granted a lot of these stores are more kiosks than full-fledged cafes, but still, that’s a lot of locations. Starbucks, by contrast, has a paltry just over 4,000 stores (albeit with plans to get to 6,000 locations by 2022).

In a lovely bit of corporate-speak-heavy babble, Luckin CFO Reinout Schakel told Yahoo! Finance that, “The productivity at the store level is increasing materially, we have quite a bit of leverage. With that leverage, you can see a very clear trend in terms of profitability. We have reached our store level profitability in the third quarter ahead of what I think most people were expecting.”

Watch out, Starbucks—Reinout and his team have leverage, productivity, and store level profitability.

Read the full story here.

An Ex-Uber Employee Wants to Swarm NYC With ‘Mobile-Only’ Coffee Shops - via Eater NY

And now, someone inspired by Luckin.

First we had Starbucks’ laughable new broom closet slash coffee kiosk concept Pickup where you can buy your coffee without any human interaction whatsoever (they have to hand you the drink, I suppose, but you can easily avoid eye contact and have them place it on the counter).

A hand holds a smartphone up to a mobile pay machine

But what if you want to get your coffee from a soulless connectionless cube but also don’t want to support a multinational corporation? Well you’re in luck, friend, because something called Bandit is up and running in Manhattan.

Much like Pickup, in order to purchase coffee from Bandit, you have to use their app. Don’t have the app? Want to pay in cash? Screw you, buddy—get the app or get out.

According to Eater, “Anybody showing up to the new coffee shop with only cash, a credit card, or a phone without an app store won’t be able to buy a latte until they download the Bandit Coffee app on an iPhone or Android phone, create an account, upload a profile photo (required so that the barista can recognize them), and put in a payment method.”

Similar to Luckin’s kiosk-cafes, Bandit’s “cafes” are modular and easy to assemble, meaning they can move between vacant locations like some sort of transient coffee-based Spirit Halloween.

The real question this story, and this company, raises is, why? Why would I want to download another app, put in all my details, upload a photo (?!) just to buy a coffee when I could easily, I don’t know, go to one of the bajillion other coffee shops down the street that don’t data harvest me and then refuse to take my cash.

Tech bros gotta disrupt, I guess.

Read the full story here.

The coffee cup gets a radical, desperately needed redesign - via Fast Company

Oh hey, speaking of disruption, you know what needs fixing? Coffee cups. To be specific, takeaway coffee cup lids, which are notoriously hard to recycle and also annoying and bad. They’re difficult to put on, they leak, they break far too easily. What if we could just get rid of them entirely?

That’s the idea behind a new cup design by Unocup, which essentially mimics a Chinese takeaway box by forming an origami-like lid from folded ridges. It’s pretty smart, although the possibility of spillage is probably quite high (that being said, the possibility of spillage is equally high in the current cup lids, so that’s hardly a criticism).

From looking through their website and Kickstarter page, it is hard to actually ascertain what the Unocup is made from. They claim to cut down on plastic use, but does that mean the lid, or is the cup itself only paper? If so, that would seem to mean leakage might be a problem, as it is with other no-plastic takeaway cups. If it has the standard plastic liner then, while it does reduce the use of plastic lids, it’s not solving the central issue of hard-to-recycle cups.

Is this new product good? Possibly. It certainly looks nice. Will it reduce plastic consumption/trash? Hopefully, but that remains to be seen.

Read the full story here.

The week in corporate greenwashing

Nothing new to report this week, folks. Don’t forget to avoid Nestlé products.

Is coffee good for you?

Could well be, could well be.

That being said, there’s no new news here this week either.

A man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper

What to read

Pax & Beneficia A Major Benefit To The Coffee Scene In Irving, Texas by Me!

Overseas Australian Cafes Are Selling An Empty Fantasy, But It’s Nice To Get A Decent Flat White by Alex McClintock

How Bad Is Coffee For The Environment? by Tebany Yune

Until next week, drink good coffee.

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