Coffee News Club: Week of February 19th


Editorial Policy

Published on

Who’s up for an augmented-reality coffee date? Plus, Costa Rica guarantees health benefits for coffee pickers, and Starbucks spends an estimated $240 million on its anti-union campaign.

‘Costa Rica Guarantees Fair Compensation and Benefits for Coffee Pickers’ – via El País

Coffee farmworkers are among the most vulnerable actors in the global supply chain. Farmworkers spend long days harvesting ripe cherries from coffee plants and have few protections should they get injured on the job. In Central America, many coffee farmworkers are migrants from neighboring countries, following the harvests in order to make more money than they would back home.

Farmworkers are essential actors in the coffee supply chain, but the industry has a long history of labor exploitation and poor working conditions. Costa Rica is trying to change that by establishing a new health insurance system and implementing injury protections for seasonal coffee pickers.

Costa Rica has slowly been working to improve farmworker conditions over the last few years. In 2021, the country began providing sick and maternity for coffee pickers, and the new health insurance and injury protection plans are “part of a social responsibility program sponsored by private growers and the government,” the El Pais article states. Like most coffee-growing countries, Costa Rica’s coffee sector is under pressure from climate change and labor supply issues, which has led to a decline in production.

The hope is that by offering benefits to coffee pickers, Costa Rica can attract more farmworkers and demonstrate its commitment to the industry as a whole. “During these challenging times, Costa Rican coffee has to uphold social and environmental responsibility, as well as high quality,” said Guillermo Trejos, manager of the 1,200-producer-strong CoopeLibertad cooperative. “These are the things that set us apart in the world. Providing fair conditions to the pickers benefits them, of course, but it also benefits the whole sector.”

Three-quarters of Costa Rica’s coffee pickers are migrants, many coming from Nicaragua and Panama. The El País story interviewed Juan Canda, a Nicaraguan farmworker who had recently sprained his ankle while carrying a bag of coffee. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a doctor, but thanks to the program, he got help. “I saw a doctor who did some x-rays and gave me some ointment and pain pills. I’m fine now,” Canda said.

Read the full story here.

‘Costa Coffee to Raise UK Barista Wages by Average 9%’ – via World Coffee Report

In 2016, the government of the United Kingdom implemented what it calls a National Living Wage, a mandatory minimum wage for all workers over 23. This is not to be confused with the National Minimum Wage—according to “The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers are entitled to. The National Living Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage – workers get it if they’re over 23.” Although it is called a “living wage,” the government’s minimum is not based on actual cost of living calculations and is more akin to a minimum wage.

The UK government will raise the national living wage in April 2024 while lowering the age threshold to 21, giving more workers access to this higher pay rate. In response, Costa Coffee is raising wages for more than 15,000 hourly workers. 

In April, the national living wage will rise from £10.42 (around 13.12 USD) to £11.44 (14.40 USD) per hour. To keep pace, Costa is raising their starting wage to £12 (15.11 USD) per hour, with a higher rate for those in London workers with past coffee experience—what the company calls “Barista Maestros.” This will bring Costa in line with the voluntary Real Living Wage, a movement for companies to pay their workers a wage that meets the current cost of living. 

“We are pleased to have had a strong 2023 that was powered by our expert baristas, who remain critical to our ongoing success,” said Nick Orrin, managing director for Costa Coffee UK and Ireland. “We are delighted to announce this latest investment in our team members to thank them for the passion and skill they display each and every day.”

The Coca-Cola-owned chain, with more than 2,500 locations in the UK and another 1,400 internationally, brought in £1.1 billion ($1.36 billion) in sales in 2022. This is the fifth time Costa has raised wages for its staff since 2021, and last year’s rise included benefits increases like matching pension contributions up to 10% and performance-based bonuses. 

Read the full story here.

More News

Cxffeeblack Is Raising Money For Their New Memphis Cafe & Roastery‘ – via Sprudge

Royal Coffee Buys Big Warehouse and Industrial Complex in Oakland’ – via Daily Coffee News

Fairtrade Updates Coffee Standard Guidelines In Line With EUDR‘ – via Global Coffee Report

Sir Anthony Hopkins Did A Super Bowl Commercial For Cold Brew‘ – via Sprudge

Beyond Cupping: New SCA Protocol Helps Each Coffee Find the Right Home‘ – via STiR Coffee and Tea

India Coffee Chain Blue Tokai Brews Up Expansion Plan in Japan’ – via Nikkei Asia

Oatly Incurs Heavy Loss Over Decision to Halt Production Expansion‘ – via World Coffee Portal

Roaster Maker Giesen Launches Profiler 2.0 Software‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Slow Pour Supply Announces The Kimera, A Three-Spout Precision Milk Pitcher’ – via Sprudge

‘Colombia’s Juan Valdez to open first café in United Arab Emirates’ – via Global Coffee Report

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Former workers at Adda Coffee & Tea House have reached a preliminary settlement agreement with the company’s owner after the Pittsburgh mini-chain shut down all four locations the day after workers announced their plans to unionize. Owner Sukanta Nag offered a compensation package in exchange for the union withdrawing its election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). “I am happy I was able to positively address the concerns of Adda’s former employees in a constructive way, including providing them with a comprehensive compensation package and other important benefits, which will help support their efforts and careers going forward,” Nag told the Pittsburgh Union Progress in an email.
  • A labor coalition called the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission demanding that Starbucks disclose the costs of its anti-union campaign. The group estimates that the global chain has spent at least $240 million on expenses related to delaying and discouraging union activity. The SOC wrote in the letter that Starbucks “needs to immediately provide full disclosure of the total costs and liabilities…in order for…informed voting decisions before the 2024 annual meeting.” The group previously nominated three new candidates to join Starbucks’ board, saying they would offer “fresh perspectives and the right expertise.”
  • More Starbucks stores across the United States voted to join Starbucks Workers United. A location near Marquette University became the seventh Wisconsin location to join the union, while workers at a store in New Orleans also voted to unionize. Meanwhile, the NLRB ruled that Starbucks must rehire two Colorado workers the board says were illegally fired for trying to unionize, and another NLRB judge told the company it must reinstate high-profile organizer Jaz Brisack. The judge ruled that Starbucks compelled Brisack to resign in 2022 by repeatedly ignoring their scheduling requests.

The Week in Corporate Coffeewashing

The deadline to implement the new European Union deforestation regulations (EUDR) is fast approaching, and big companies are trying to get their ducks in a row (and according to the latest Coffee Barometer report, most are not prepared).

The new EU rules, coming into place for large companies in 2025, compel importing companies to prove that their products do not contribute to the destruction or clearance of forests. JDE Peet’s is at least trying, partnering with the sustainability verification and auditing company Enveritas to ensure that the coffee in its supply chain is not linked to deforestation in Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Uganda. 

The project will use satellite imagery, artificial intelligence, and on-the-ground verification “to measure the extent of coffee-related deforestation, allowing local operators, governments, NGOs, and farmers to better mitigate their deforestation risks,” according to a press release.

To repeat what is becoming the mantra of this section: That’s good! Big companies should be shouldering the responsibility (and cost) of complying with these new rules. But do they have to publish a press release about it?

JDE Peet’s has received a lot of positive coverage about its announcement (again, because it’s good). But if the company, which had sales of $8 billion in 2021 and whose carbon emissions dwarfed those of entire countries, was committed to helping farmers and abiding by upcoming regulations, it probably didn’t need to send a press release.

Much of the criticism about the EU’s deforestation legislation revolves around cost and access issues for small farmers. There’s a possibility that a few big companies controlling which farmers can comply could lead to a two-tiered system that benefits only those who sell to specific brands. As Daily Coffee News notes of the JDE Peet’s project, “the announcement did not specify whether or how deforestation-related information will be shared with other actors in the conglomerate’s supply chain, nor whether the information would be available to other interested parties.”

Is Coffee Good For You?

You shouldn’t wear your new Apple Vision Pro virtual reality headset while driving. However, according to a new study, wearing a VR headset might make your next coffee-buying adventure all the more exciting.

Okay, so this is barely coffee-related, but bear with us. The study, published in Technology Mind and Behavior, looked at whether it was safe or advisable to wear headsets that rely on passthrough video—where the headset blocks out the real world, and the user relies on high-resolution real-time video projected on screens before their eyes—while going about everyday life.

The 11 authors, from Michigan State and Stanford University, each spent time wearing the headsets and documenting their experiences with the augmented reality headset while going about their day—including going out for a coffee. Because the live-streamed video isn’t as sharp or fast as the human eye, changes in light triggered “funhouse mirror-style distortions,” moving objects like bicycles sometimes appeared to teleport, and it was difficult to judge distance at close range.

The authors conclude that “the passthrough experience can inspire awe and lends itself to many applications, but will also likely cause visual aftereffects, lapses in judgments of distance, induce simulator sickness, and interfere with social connection.”

Now, back to coffee. Picture the scene: you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop while wearing a VR headset. You stumble up to the counter and, swaying slightly, order a coffee. The distance between your hand and the cash register keeps distorting, but you somehow manage to pay. While waiting for your drink, the barista seems to teleport between the espresso machine and the register. You manage to pick up and drink your latte without spilling it everywhere. Sure, you feel a little seasick, and the whole thing took forty minutes, but by golly, if it wasn’t an adventure—and so futuristic! Gives a whole new meaning to the mid-afternoon coffee run.

Beyond the Headlines

Podcast: ‘Fermentation in Coffee With Lucia Solis’ by Ashley Rodriguez

‘All Rise for India’s Fast-growing Coffee Industry’ by World Coffee Portal

‘Coffee, Sustainability, and Shifting Perceptions’ by Fionn Pooler 

Share This Article
Avatar photo

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).

Join 7,000+ coffee pros and get top stories, deals, and other industry goodies in your inbox each week.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Other Articles You May Like

Coffee News Club: Week of April 15th

Ninety-nine cents for a gesha coffee?! Plus, industry acquisitions reach coffee cup makers and researchers answer some coffee health FAQs. ‘Sweden’s Duni Group Acquires Australian Reusable Coffee Cup Company Huskee’ – via World Coffee Portal…
by Fionn Pooler | April 15, 2024

Coffee News Club: Week of April 8th

Robusta prices surge, minimum wage laws pass, and more debates on decaf. Here’s the coffee news for the week of April 8th.
by Fionn Pooler | April 8, 2024

Coffee News Club: Week of April 1st

Coffee is good for you again. Plus, reports from farmers in Mexico and Colombia — here’s the coffee news for the week of April 1st.
by Fionn Pooler | April 1, 2024

Coffee News Club: Week of March 25th

NFTs, coffee production Brazil in flux, and an exploration of value in the coffee industry: here’s the news for the week of March 25th.
by Fionn Pooler | March 25, 2024