Coffee News Club: Week of July 1st

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Is your coffee habit your parents’ fault? Plus, controversy over co-fermentation, and Compass Coffee hires 124 new employees right before a union vote.

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‘The Specialty Coffee Association Of Panama Doesn’t Care For Co-Fermentation’ – via Sprudge

Coffee producers have been experimenting with utilizing additives during the processing stage for a long time. Sometimes called co-fermentation, the process involves adding fruit like raspberries or spices like cinnamon to fermentation tanks with freshly picked coffee cherries to assist the fermentation process and, hopefully, enhance flavor.

Such infusions can help producers achieve higher prices for their coffees. They are also controversial, with concerns over potential allergens. Some even consider co-fermentation to be “cheating” due to the addition of extraneous ingredients. This is the case with the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP), which released a statement on its website accusing producers of being duplicitous in this year’s Best of Panama green coffee competition.

Four coffees were disqualified from the competition because, SCAP says, they were “found to be altered from their natural DNA expression, likely with the intent to score higher and win by using foreign additives.”

The statement, signed by SCAP president J. Hunter Tedman, notes that “the market is flooded with altered coffees masquerading as specialty products, using deceptive terms like ‘co-fermented’ or ‘thermal shock’ to mislead buyers.”

Tedman urges other competition bodies to follow SCAP’s lead and closes by suggesting a new category for “altered or infused coffees … clearly distinguishing them from genuine Specialty Coffee.”

Read the full story here.

‘A Boom in Coffee Sales Reflects What Americans Are Prioritizing Amid Soaring Grocery Prices’ – via Food & Wine

Everything is expensive these days, from groceries to rent to daycare. However, Americans are still buying coffee. Daily coffee consumption is at a two-decade high, and specialty coffee has never been more popular

Coffee’s popularity is translating into consumers visiting cafes more often. According to a new report by location analytics firm Placer.ai, foot traffic at chain coffee shops across the US rose in 2024, with the highest increase in rural states like Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Arkansas.

“Overall, the visits to three major coffee chains, including Dutch Bros., Dunkin’, and Biggby Coffee, rose 5.1% during the first five months of 2024,” Micheline Maynard writes for Food & Wine. Maynard notes that while all these chains saw increased foot traffic, Starbucks locations saw a slight decline.

The report posits several reasons for this rise in visits: coffee chains are expanding nationwide, while some cities are seeing workers return to the office in greater numbers. “Major coffee players are leaning into growing demand by steadily increasing their footprints,” the report says. “By and large, they are doing so without significantly diluting visitation to existing stores.”

Read the full story here.

More News

Gloria Jean Kvetko, the Chicago Entrepreneur Who Built a Mall Coffee Empire, Has Died‘ – via Eater Chicago

NKG Pace Opening Their Curriculum To The Public With Free Open Access Series’ – via Sprudge

Hawaii DOA Head: Enforcement of New Labeling Law ‘a Challenge” – via Daily Coffee News

Senior US Trade Officials Add to Calls For EUDR Delay’ – via World Coffee Portal

Some Vietnam Coffee Farms Thrive Despite Drought, but May Not Stop Espresso Price Hikes‘ – via Reuters

Ink! Coffee Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Colorado‘ – via Daily Coffee News

SCA announces 2024 Sustainability Award Winners’ – via Global Coffee Report

Texas A&M University To Offer Academic Certificate In Coffee’ – via Sprudge

2024 World AeroPress Championship Heading to Lisbon in September‘ – via Daily Coffee News

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

In May, workers at Compass Coffee in Washington, DC, announced their intent to unionize. Workers cited issues with erratic scheduling, unsafe working conditions, and a contentious no-tipping policy as part of their reasons for organizing.

Now, the union has accused the company of hiring over a hundred new people, including friends of upper management, to dilute the vote at unionizing locations. Additionally, the union alleges that Compass backdated and retroactively filled out worker schedules to make it look like the new employees were eligible to vote in the election. 

Among the new baristas are a lobbyist for Uber and CEOs from other local companies, including Cullen Gilchrist, co-founder of the DC-based food startup accelerator Union Kitchen. Union Kitchen’s workers have also accused it of participating in union-busting activities. Compass Coffee United says that the new hires amount to at least a 190% increase in the Compass workforce.

In response, the union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We received their first voter list. There were 43 people on the Georgetown cafe list, most of whom I have never met or seen in the cafe before,” shift supervisor Penina Meier-Silverman told the Guardian. “So the cafes are just flooded with new baristas. We also saw that they were forging schedules for days that have already passed. So they put people on the schedule for days that have passed that were never at work.”

In a statement to the Guardian, Compass owner and CEO Michael Haft said, “We believe all employees of Compass Coffee at the locations that have been petitioned are eligible. The list reflects the current employees at the time of the vote.”

Is Coffee Good For You?

New research from the University of Toronto and UC San Diego suggests that your coffee habit might be your parents’ fault.

A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology examined coffee consumption habits and DNA information from US-based users of the 23andMe genetic database and the UK Biobank biomedical database. Researchers found that specific genetic variants influence how much coffee we drink.

“We found that there is not one single gene that indicates how much coffee you drink; rather, predisposition to high coffee consumption arises from a constellation of genetic variants,” co-author and UC San Diego School of Medicine associate professor Sandra Sanchez-Roige told the Toronto Star.

The researchers also found that the genetic variants associated with high coffee consumption levels were also associated with the use of other substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. 

Interestingly, while many of the findings were the same for both US and UK coffee drinkers, there were some notable differences: the genes linked to higher coffee consumption correlated to a higher prevalence of anxiety or depression in the US participants, but in the UK, the same genes were linked to a lower incidence of both conditions.

While you might want to blame your parents for that overpowering coffee habit, the researchers say it’s not quite that simple. “Genes are not destiny and we identified a huge contribution of the environment; we can all relate to drinking more coffee than necessary upon a sleepless night, or not drinking coffee at all when feeling poorly,” Sanchez-Roige said.” Identifying which associations are driven by genetics versus the environment, or both in concert, is a key next step for this line of work.”

Beyond the Headlines

‘The Transformative Value of Intercropping Coffee and Avocados at Fazenda Minamihara’ by Nick Castellano

‘At This Coffee Startup, Farmers Share Profits From Roasting’ by Anne Field

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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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