Coffee News Club: Week of February 13th

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“Even if I freeze to death, iced Americano!” Why cold drinks are popular in Korea, even in winter. Plus, the Department of Labor continues to recover back pay for Kentucky-based coffee workers, and does coffee actually cause high blood pressure?

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‘Department of Labor Targets Two More Louisville Coffee Businesses’ – via Daily Coffee News

Labor law violations uncovered by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) have resulted in the recovery of $188,000 in back wages from two Louisville, Kentucky-based coffee companies. The investigations found the two companies allegedly violated the Fair Labor Standards act, which ensures that tips are only given to hourly workers. 

The DOL’s Wage and Hour division recovered $108,705 in back wages, liquidated damages for 55 Please & Thank You employees, and $79,715 in back wages and damages for 70 Sunergos workers. The investigation determined that both companies had allowed managers to participate in tip pools.

 “Federal law protects earned tips to make sure they are paid to the workers who received them for their good service,” district director Karen Garnett-Civils said in an announcement. “Employers must follow the required criteria for operating tip pools or face costly consequences.”

President Biden’s DOL has been active in Fair Labor Standards cases, especially regarding coffee companies in Kentucky. These investigations came after a similar probe recovered $300,000 from Heine Brothers Coffee in January.

Brooke Vaughn, the owner of Please & Thank You, told WDRB in Kentucky that it was “really disheartening” to be caught up in the investigation and decided not to fight the charges due to the financial cost. Vaughn told the station that “three employees who had the title of ‘store manager’ were really just the most senior baristas, and the title was meant to recognize employees who were ‘exceptional at their job’ rather than to confer management responsibilities.” Vaughn said those workers had now been reclassified as’ team leads’.

Read the full story here.

‘New Jersey Coffee Business Penalized $2,000 for Not Accepting Cash’ – via Daily Coffee News

A specialty coffee mini-chain in New Jersey received two state law violation notices for not accepting cash and agreed to pay a $2,000 civil penalty.

Hidden Grounds Coffee was identified alongside three other businesses that received notice of violations of the state’s Consumer Fraud Act, which requires shops to accept cash as a payment method while also disclosing any credit card surcharges or fees before a customer places an order.

Co-founder Anand Patel told Daily Coffee News that Hidden Grounds had decided to go cashless due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The policy aimed to limit staff’s exposure to bacteria, reduce checkout times, and deal with change shortages from banks.

New Jersey is one of just three states that have laws requiring cash acceptance. Several cities, including San Francisco, New York City, and Philadelphia, have also passed similar laws.

“Many consumers from underrepresented communities do not have access to bank accounts or credit cards,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin in an announcement. “Laws requiring businesses to accept cash protect those consumers and ensure social equity in stores throughout the state.”

Patel told Daily Coffee News that if a customer couldn’t pay or didn’t have cash, Hidden Grounds would give them the item for free. “Having said that, we completely respect the law and decided to accept cash, not as a result of the fine, but as a result of just our customer preferences.”

Read the full story here.

‘Coffee So Cold It’s Hot: South Korea’s Love of Iced Americano’ – via France 24

“Even if I freeze to death, iced Americano!”

That’s the new proverb coined by iced coffee fans to celebrate what has become Korea’s unofficial national drink, outselling regular Americanos even during winter. A new article interviews coffee drinkers in Korea to investigate the most popular beverage in one of the world’s most coffee-loving countries.

As we’ve noted previously, coffee is popular in Korea, with consumption more than double the global average per year. And many of those coffees are served over ice. Iced drinks made up 76 percent of Starbucks Korea’s sales in 2022, similar to the United States, and during an extreme cold snap in January, the company still sold more iced Americanos than hot.

The drink’s popularity has entered the language—an iced Americano is known as “Ah-Ah” and its superfans “Eoljuka.” According to interviewees for this piece, it’s a combination of convenience and possibly the stuffiness of Korean offices that makes iced drinks so appealing.

“I quickly drink iced Americano to wake up and work,” an accountant said. “It doesn’t make me cold because I go straight to the office and I don’t spend much time outside.”

The article offers one other explanation for the popularity of Ah-Ah: many dishes are served cold. Noodle dishes like naengmyeon, served with ice cubes in the broth, are locally prevalent but not seen as much elsewhere.

“Even in Japan people don’t actually put ice in their cold udon noodles,” said food columnist Jang Jun-woo. “The degree of cold food culture is more extreme in Korea and that may explain the popularity and prevalence of iced coffee here.”

Read the full story here.

More News

‘Turkish Coffee Companies Are Stepping Up To Help Earthquake Relief Efforts’ – via Sprudge

‘Brazil’s Cooxupe Sees 2023 Coffee Crop Larger, but Not a Record’ – via Nasdaq

‘Approval of New Brokers Advances Reform of Kenya’s Coffee Auctions’ via STiR Coffee and Tea

‘Former Darwin’s Workers to Launch Co-op Coffee Shop’ via Harvard Crimson

‘Luckin Coffee Opens Nearly 500 New Stores in January 2023’ – via Global Coffee Report

‘Help Cajal Rutti Compete With An Interpreter’ – via Fresh Cup Magazine

‘Fetco Launching its Next-Generation Batch Brewer, the NG’ – via Daily Coffee News

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Starbucks asked a Covid-positive worker to return to work—and then fired him for tweeting about it. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said in a filing that Ben Scott had been fired illegally “in retaliation for attempting to organize his coworkers and for publicly discussing an issue of workplace safety.” Additionally, the NLRB alleged that, during a captive meeting at Scott’s store, a district manager “threatened employees by telling them they would not be eligible for wage increases if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative.” Starbucks denies the charges, and the store voted against the union in June 2022.
  • Workers at Remedy House Coffee in Buffalo, New York, walked out in protest after the company allegedly fired the employee who handed in the letter announcing plans to unionize. In response, the company voluntarily recognized the union and said that the company planned to fire the employee before the union announcement for unrelated reasons. The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge to reinstate the worker.
  • Former employees at Darwin’s Ltd, which closed all its locations during union negotiations last year, are opening a worker-owned cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a former Darwin’s location. The Circus Co-op will seek to advance the same goals as the Darwin’s United union, member Kvêten A. Nerudova told the Harvard Crimson. “We’re trying to take a look at what the union was aiming for,” Nerudova said, noting that “the union is definitely in the past.”

Is Coffee Good For You?

Health researchers love to examine coffee’s effect on blood pressure, so much so that we’re constantly being given new, contradictory evidence about our favorite beverage’s impact on the heart.

A study in 2016 found that drinking coffee raises blood pressure, while a review in 2017 concluded that, while coffee drinkers with high blood pressure should exercise caution, coffee doesn’t have to be avoided. A different study that year found that drinking coffee actually decreased the risk of hypertension.

Recently, we told you about a study from Japan that drinking two or more cups of coffee per day was associated with double the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in people with severe hypertension. And now, to confuse things further, Italian researchers have found that people who drink two or three cups of coffee per day have lower blood pressure than those who drink one cup or no coffee at all.

“The results are very clear: peripheral blood pressure was significantly lower in individuals consuming one to three cups of coffee a day than in non-coffee drinkers,” said Professor Arrigo Cicero of the University of Bologna, lead author of the new study published in the journal Nutrients.

The researchers aren’t sure whether it’s caffeine or something else affecting blood pressure. “We know that caffeine can increase blood pressure,” Cicero said, “but other bioactive components in coffee seem to counterbalance this effect with a positive end result on blood pressure levels.”

The lesson to take from all this seems to be that science is an ongoing process, and we’ll probably never learn definitively one way or the other whether coffee is good for us or not.

Until next week, when we might!

Beyond the Headlines

‘The Dawn of Coffea Canephora’ by Namisha Parthasarathy
‘Column: Coffee is Life; It Should Also Be a Living’ by Cory Gilman
‘The Underdog Coffee Bean That Java Snobs Hate Is Finally Getting Some Respect’ by Jon Emont (how about that headline)

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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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