An espresso sits on a newspaper, seen from above

Ah, Black Friday—a day for reflection, rest, and trampling other human beings to get 30% off a bag of dog food or an office chair or a Playstation.

This terrifying holiday (which I have off so am not really complaining about) actually started yesterday, with some stores opening at 2pm on Thanksgiving to allow for the heaving masses to get their cardio in before dinner.

It’s also, coincidentally, National Espresso Day, another meaningless holiday cooked up by marketing types to sell more tat, just in this case it’s coffee tat. So that’s better somehow.

Anyway. News!

New machine offers relief for Colombian coffee-growers' labor woes - via Reuters

While Brazilian coffee producers have long embraced machine picking on their relatively flat, sun-drenched farms, in Colombia and parts of Central America the steep slopes and rolling harvests have made adopting such technology tricky.

These farmers have had to rely on waves of migrant labor at specific harvest times in order to  ensure all the coffee is picked, but that’s also becoming a problem as more and more people move to cities in search of a better life (poverty, abuse and slave labor on coffee farms is a problem still to be fully addressed on the consuming end of the chain).

Two hands hold freshly-picked coffee cherries

In response to this issue, the Colombian coffee grower’s association and a Brazilian machinery company called Brudden have built a portable coffee picking device, specifically designed to be used on Colombia’s steep slopes.

It looks a bit like a weed whacker, with two tongs at the end which vibrate just enough to knock the ripe cherries off the tree but not disturb the green.

It’s a solution to the never-ending coffee farm labor shortage, as one person can do the work of several in less time. And it will also, according to the article, raise pickers’ salaries because they get paid by the amount of coffee they harvest.

But with climate breakdown and the steady fall in coffee prices in addition to low wages, fewer people are interested (understandably enough) in staying in the coffee industry in these vital producing countries.

Read the full story here.

In Colombia, kids learn barista skills with the goal of saving the country's coffee culture - via NBC News

This might be a solution.

An initiative in rural Colombia called Cafeteritos (Spanish for little coffee makers) is teaching kids as young as six how to brew coffee, in the hope that learning about the culture and the preparation might help them see a more optimistic future in the industry.

A program which helps the people at the beginning of the chain see the benefit of their work and the potential for growth is definitely a good thing. As part of this education, these coffee lessons for the kids of coffee producers and pickers filter through to their parents, which in turn might make them more likely to stay in the industry themselves.

Quite apart from all that, it’s an indisputable fact that tiny children making coffee is adorable.

Read the full story here.

Dunkin’ Has New Espresso — Is It Any Good? via Grub Street


Read the full story here.

Drone-Delivered Coffee Takes Off - via Fresh Cup Magazine

Aside from the general dystopian dread and basic pointlessness of delivery drones, the reality of coffee drone delivery is that, even if it only takes ten minutes for it to arrive, it’s still going to be cold. Or melted, if you’re getting cold brew delivered on a hot August day.

So convenient.

Read the full story here.

AMT Coffee introduces 'fully compostable' disposable cups in stores - via London Evening Standard

“Fully compostable” is a worrying phrase, loaded as it is with nonsense greenwashed marketing-speak.

“Biodegradable” and “compostable” cups are widespread in the coffee industry nowadays, even though the vast majority of them are only compostable under specific conditions, and most don’t even make it to the bin in the first place, let alone the few commercial facilities that could possibly deal with them.

A disposable coffee cup sits on a table

But, according to the British train station-based AMT Coffee chain, their new “100% bio-compostable” cups will break down in a regular compost within 90 days, and “even without the perfect conditions, they will still breakdown within a year or two.”

Which is better than nothing, I suppose, but it still doesn’t address the wider problem of takeaway culture and rampant consumerism, something the coffee industry is more and more indebted to.

Plus the article doesn’t say how the cups are made—aside from mentioning that they’re composed of waste sugar cane, a material not known to be prevalent in the UK.

What’s the alternative, you might ask? People want to drink coffee, and they want it when and where it’s convenient.

But should they? Does the mindless consumption of coffee while traveling or walking really do anything, aside from satisfy an urge to hold something hot and use your hands? Is anyone really in that much of a rush that they couldn’t sit for the five minutes it takes to drink a latte?

OK, I’ll stop now. Let’s move on to a lighter, goofier topic.

Read the full story here.

Ice-T Tries Coffee and a Bagel for the First Time: ‘It’s Not What I Expected’ - via US Magazine

This is more like it. No more depressing, whiny nonsense about the environment and labor relations. Ice-T tried coffee!

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the most important story of the year: despite playing a New York police detective on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (the most depressing show on TV which has nonetheless racked up a frankly astounding 20 seasons), the rapper and actor Ice-T claimed never to have tried coffee. Amazing.

A cup of black coffee on a wooden table, seen from above

Of course, he was always going to try it eventually (along with a bagel, which he also claimed to have never eaten but about which I don’t care as much), and he apparently got paid by a dating app to do it. So well done Ice-T.

His verdict? “It’s not what I expected. It tastes like water with something… another taste kicked in later.”

The video doesn’t mention what kind of coffee or how it was brewed, but it sounds like they didn’t put a whole lot of effort into it.

He sums up: “This is my first time, and I can pretty much tell you this will be the last time I’ll ever drink black coffee. Why would you do that?”

So now we know.

Read the full story (and watch the video) here.

Is coffee good for you?

Not if you’re pregnant, apparently.

New research has suggested that even women who consume less than the widely accepted safe amount of caffeine have a significantly increased risk of delivering prematurely or having a low-birthweight baby. Yikes.

According to Reuters, the study found that “every additional 100 milligrams of caffeine consumed daily during the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with a 72-gram (2.5 ounce) lower birth weight, as well as significantly lower gestational age, birth length and head circumference.”

The authors cautioned that the study cannot show cause and effect, but other studies have also shown a link between caffeine exposure in the womb and negative effects, they write in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

And apparently tea is more dangerous, because people consistently underestimate how much caffeine it contains, leading to over-consumption.

Something to take into consideration.

A man sits on a park bench reading a newspaper

What to read

Thanks For My Coffee… On The Great Gratitude Trail by A.J. Jacobs

Navigating The Café Management Job: A Serious Look at Diversity by Ashley Rodriguez

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Coffee In The Age Of Pettiness by Arwa Mahdawi

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