A macchiato with latte art sits on a newspaper.

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Coffee News Roundup, where here in Michigan we celebrate the end of November and the plunge into winter with a weekend of… unseasonably warm weather.

I suppose that’s the future, at this point. A constant state of confusion about the current weather, and concern about the long-term climate, while nothing is done to change it.

But at least there’s coffee! For now, anyway.

Thousands Protest in Kaffa, Ethiopia, as Coffee’s Origin is Politicized - via Daily Coffee News

This is a very interesting story, and one I highly recommend reading. The gist of the protest is a dispute over which part of Ethiopia gets to call itself the true home of coffee—Kaffa or Jimma.

But, as the article details, it’s much more than that.

Ethiopia’s political situation is complex and somewhat opaque, with many competing interests vying for control (although that sentence could be written about literally every country on earth, so maybe it’s not so unique).

Coffee is a huge commodity in Ethiopia, accounting for a third of total exports from the country and supporting the livelihoods of 15 million people. With so much riding on the bean, not to mention its deep historical and cultural importance, it’s no wonder that the exact origin is so hotly contested.

Seriously, read the article. It’s fascinating.

Read the full story here.

Robot wars: Coffee-making companies compete for SFO contract - via San Francisco Examiner

From the beginning of coffee, to the end: robot baristas.

We all intrinsically understand that, one day, humans will no longer have to do any real work. On the optimistic side, there’s the Star Trek universe of freedom from money and work, enabling humanity to instead explore the galaxy and have tea (earl grey, hot) dispensed on demand from a hole in the wall.

A toy robot

The pessimist side is either the sad rotund sacks from Wall-E or the all-out apocalyptic war of the Terminator franchise, depending on how violent your fantasies lean.

Either way, robots will probably make your coffee (they may already, if you frequent those awful Costa boxes at UK service stations).

But which robot barista will prevail?

San Francisco—of course it’s San Francisco—is finding out in a battle (not really) to the death (nope) between two companies, one local and one from Texas, to supply robotic coffee to passengers at San Francisco International Airport.

SF-based Cafe X launched a bid to stop the airport awarding a contract for up to three locations to a company based in Texas, claiming they deserve the contract because… they’re local.

That’s literally their entire argument—“the company taking away barista jobs for a pointless gimmick should be a local company”.

Maybe the best way to solve the issue is to actually let the two robots battle it out, maybe with a latte art competition or something.

Read the full story here.

Costa launches coffee cup with a built in contactless card - via Metro

Why though.

Read the full story here.

McDonald’s May Not Be Saving the World, But It’s Doing Something (Anything) About Coffee - via Daily Coffee News

These stories are always tricky. On the one hand, McDonald’s is an awful company that is doing more than many others to fuel the obesity crisis and the climate catastrophe through which we are all currently living.

On the other hand, a company the size of McDonald’s can have a huge impact if it chooses to do something good.

It claims to be doing that with its recent emissions reduction pledge, and now its announcement of a continued push towards sustainable coffee sourcing.

A McDonald’s sign against a cloudy sky background

The company said that 84% of its McCafé-brand coffee sold in the U.S., and 54% worldwide, is “sustainably sourced”, and plans to reach 100% by 2020. And that’s no small amount, either—McDonald’s sells more than 500 million cups of coffee in the US alone, and its market share and influence on the public means these changes can have a tremendous positive effect.

Then again, “sustainably sourced” doesn’t mean a whole lot without concrete proof of impact. To this end, McDonald’s is relying on partners to help certify their efforts, specifically the nonprofit Conservation International. The company’s plans are outlined in the cleverly-named McCafé Sustainability Improvement Platform (SIP) which details all the ways they plan on giving back.

As Daily Coffee News puts it, whatever their motivations—corporations don’t tend to do anything from the goodness of their (technically human) hearts—“McDonald’s is at least seeking guidance from NGOs within the coffee sphere to do something.”

So, good for McDonald’s?


Jeez, this being-an-ethical-human-being-in-the-world thing is complicated.

Read the full story here.

This New Wintry Starbucks Beverage Will Get You in the Holiday Spirit - via Fortune

It most certainly will not.

I think I’d prefer the weird baked cheese coffee thing over this tree-based abomination.

Read the full story here.

Is coffee good for you?

No news this week, which is probably good.

Just maybe steer clear of the gross Starbucks seasonal monstrosities and you should be fine.

To people lean on a counter, one reads a magazine.

What to read

Specialty Coffee Has A Sexism Problem by Sofia Barrett-Ibarria

Can Blockchain Change Coffee Buying? by Ashley Rodriguez

Rich Farmer, Poor Farmer: Perspective On Profitability In Coffee Farming by Alejandro Cadena

Water Security And Coffee: Protecting A Critical Resource by Kim Elena Ionescu

Until next week, drink good coffee.

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