Coffee News Club: Week of December 4th


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You can have a $7 coffee, as a treat. Plus, the EU’s deforestation law could have unintended consequences, and Starbucks sees lackluster foot traffic on Red Cup Day.

‘With New EU Deforestation Law, Some Coffees May Have To Be Dumped’ – via Sprudge

Deforestation is a pressing issue in the fight against climate change. In December 2022, the European Union passed a landmark law to ban the import of deforestation-linked commodities like coffee, cocoa, palm oil, beef, and more. However, some coffee stocks held in European warehouses might be destroyed to adhere to the new rules.

To gain access to the EU’s colossal coffee market, which accounts for almost one-third of global consumption, beginning in 2025, importers will have to prove that their coffee does not contribute to deforestation.

Although organizations like Greenpeace hailed the law as “a major breakthrough for forests and people standing up to protect them,” the coffee industry’s reaction has been less positive. Lavazza called it “difficult to implement” due to the supply chain’s inherent complexity. At the same time, some NGOs have expressed concern that the costs and burdens of adhering to the new rules could be pushed onto smallholder farmers.

The deforestation law includes a transition period through December 2024, during which companies can import and trade without restriction. However, as the Financial Times first reported, coffee and cocoa can take a long time to pass through EU customs. 

“Coffee and cocoa are particularly impacted,” the FT writes, “because they are not immediately cleared through customs on arrival in the EU and can spend more than 18 months—the length of the transition period set out in the deforestation law—in bonded warehouses.”

This could lead to coffee produced and shipped during the transition period needing to be sold outside the EU or “dumped.” The coffee trading marketplace Intercontinental Exchange stores about 150,000 metric tons (330 million pounds) of green coffee at warehouses around Europe, and the company warned that confusion around this issue “will impact the industry’s ability to trade products in a frictionless way, and manage risk responsibly and effectively.”

Read the full story here.

‘Starbucks’ Red Cup Day Drooped in 2023′ – via The Takeout

Red Cup Day is one of the busiest of the year for Starbucks. Every November, to mark the start of the festive season, the company hands out free reusable cups to customers who purchase one of its many holiday drinks.

It’s usually incredibly hectic, and for baristas, it can be quite hellish to work behind the bar on Red Cup Day. In 2022, one worker described the day to VICE News as “pure chaos” and “mentally and physically abusive.” For the past two years, Starbucks Workers United has staged Red Cup Rebellion, holding strikes nationwide on the same day to highlight many issues employees face, such as understaffing and overworking. SBWU described Red Cup Day as “one of the most infamously hard, understaffed days for the baristas.” 

Whether the 200+ strikes were the reason, according to The Takeout, this year’s Red Cup Day “saw only a modest boost in foot traffic in 2023, versus the certifiable spikes of previous years.” While foot traffic did increase, it was far below the levels of the previous Red Cup days over the last three years.

The article offers theories on why foot traffic was down, from an uninspired holiday drink lineup to the possibility that we may already have too many reusable cups. The other theory is that the union’s actions played a part, or at least “definitely garnered significant coverage from the nation’s most prominent news outlets.”

Read the full story here.

‘Millennials Willing to Spend $7 on Coffee Because It Makes Them Happy’ – via Newsweek

While they might not be as enamored of Red Cup Day as they used to, most millennials are still willing to spend $7 a day on their favorite coffee—simply “because it brings them joy.” That’s according to a new report from the financial services giant Empower, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans as part of its “Financial Happiness” study.

The survey found that 62% of millennials, defined by Newsweek as those born between 1981 and 1996, were willing to spend $7 a day, or “a whopping $2,520 a year,” on coffee. Although the article implies that this makes millennials financially reckless, an expert from Ogilvy Consulting notes that younger generations are merely reacting to the times in which they live.

“For many millennials as well as Gen Z, the world feels tenuous,” Ogilvy’s global consulting director Reid Litman said. “A sense of security is rare—we’re talking about individuals whose lived experience spans the Great Recession, record gun violence, a global pandemic, the climate crisis, ‘Code Red for Humanity’ to name a few.” Indulging in so-called “little treat” culture, Litman says, is a way to deal with a stressful world.

Millennials have long been associated with specialty coffee consumption. Newsweek notes that according to the most recent National Coffee Association trends report, “younger generations [are] increasingly fueling the custom coffee movement.” 

Read the full story here.

‘Pre-Order Getchusomegear’s Coffee Is Healing Sweatshirt’ – via Sprudge

Getchusomegear, the grassroots organization that, among other things, gives away free coffee equipment to marginalized baristas, is holding a presale for its iconic “Coffee is Healing” sweatshirts.

Coffee influencers like James Hoffmann and coffee pros around the world have sported the sweatshirts, posting photos of themselves wearing the sweatshirt. Proceeds from this print round will support three coffee professionals as they enter the qualifiers for the 2024 US Coffee Championships. If the presale sells 300 sweatshirts, each competitor will receive $1100 towards the cost of competing (direct donations also accepted).

Read the full story here and pre-order a sweatshirt here.

More News

The Fresh Cup Gift Guide 2023‘ – via Fresh Cup Magazine

‘Madison’s JBC Coffee Earns Top Spot in Coffee Review’s Best of 2023‘ – via Daily Coffee News

NKG, Satelligence Tackle Deforestation in Honduras and Uganda’ – via Global Coffee Report

Al Liu to Lead Sustainable Harvest’s Expansion of ‘Let’s Talk Coffee” – via Daily Coffee News

Geothermal Heat Being Used for Coffee Processing in Indonesia’ – via Think Geoenergy

Behold The 20-Bean Espresso Blend‘ – via Sprudge

Suntory Invests in ‘Beanless Coffee’ Company Atomo‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Nestle Says India and China Are ‘Big Focus’ for Coffee Growth‘ – via Bloomberg

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Unionized workers at Elixr Coffee in Philadelphia agreed on a tentative first contract with the company’s owner, narrowly averting a potential strike. Elixr workers voted to unionize in September 2022 but had struggled to agree on a contract with owner Evan Inatome, who voluntarily recognized the union after the initial vote. The Elixr workers are part of Local 80, a union set up to organize coffee shops and roasters across Philadelphia. Workers will now vote on the contract, which includes across-the-board raises, higher starting wages for the lowest-paid workers, and increased time off, among other agreements. “Local 80 applauds the hard work and dedication of its Bargaining Committee as well as the willingness of owner Evan Inatome to settle a first contract that will go leaps and bounds in transforming industry standards,” the union said in a statement.
  • Two contract agreements in one week! After a seven-day strike, unionized Sunergos Coffee workers in Louisville, Kentucky, reached a tentative contract agreement with their company and returned to work. Union workers went on strike over the company’s reluctance to agree to specific clauses around termination and pay. Like at Elixr, unionized Sunergos workers will vote on the contract next week.
  • A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Starbucks illegally fired two workers at a store in Portland, Oregon, “based upon their union activities and sympathies.” Administrative Law Judge Sharon Steckler also found that the company committed additional unfair labor practices regarding dress code enforcement and removing union literature from bulletin boards, among other offenses. This is one of roughly three dozen cases in which NLRB judges have found Starbucks to have violated federal labor law, with another 70 cases pending. Starbucks plans to appeal this latest ruling.
  • Workers in Tokyo have formed what is believed to be the first unionized Starbucks in Japan. Although small, organizers hope their formation will encourage other Starbucks and coffee workers across Japan to unionize. Starbucks opened its first store in Japan in 1996; as of 2022, it has 1,727 in the country. Like its US counterpart, the nascent Japanese union seeks increased wages and reduced understaffing. “It’s hard to make a living because my wages are low,” union founding member Souru Kawabata said at a press conference. “I want to make this a workplace where not only me but others can also work with peace of mind.”

Is Coffee Good For You?

Some weeks, the news tells us that coffee can help lower the risk of diabetes, protect against certain cancers, or even slow the Grim Reaper’s inevitable approach.

Other weeks, the news tells us coffee can help with IBS. Not exactly glamorous, but still worthwhile research.

According to a new meta-analysis, coffee might help protect against the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or relieve some of its symptoms. Researchers in Singapore looked at eight studies with over 400,000 participants and found that those who drink coffee were 16% less likely to develop IBS than those who don’t.

Published in Nutrients, the meta-analysis found that although five studies showed that coffee was protective against IBS, three found the opposite. This correlates with previous research, which is inconclusive about coffee’s effect on IBS—some studies find it beneficial, while in others, it can increase risk.

“On the whole, the current evidence suggests a potential protective effect of coffee against IBS,” lead author Dr. Qin Xiang Ng from the National University of Singapore told Medical News Today. “We know that drinking coffee is safe at expected human consumption levels, and coffee may have health benefits for the gut that should be further studied in large prospective cohort studies.”

Beyond the Headlines

‘Are Rents Rising in Your Philly Neighborhood? Don’t Blame the Baristas’ by Geoff Moss

‘Let’s End Two Weeks’ Notice’ by Ashley Rodriguez

‘The Magic and Skill of Building a Holiday Blend’ by Brit Alexandria

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Fionn Pooler

Fionn Pooler is a coffee roaster and freelance writer currently based in the Scottish Highlands who has worked in the specialty coffee industry for over a decade. Since 2016 he has written the Pourover, a newsletter and blog that uses interviews and critical analysis to explore coffee’s place in the wider, changing world (and also yell at corporations).

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