Coffee News Club: Week of June 26th

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Could you be Peet’s new Chief Cold Brew Officer? Plus, we’re getting closer to naturally-decaffeinated coffee, and unionized Nestlé workers in New Jersey are rallying to keep their factory open.

‘Coffee Research Group Progresses on Naturally Decaffeinated Varieties’ – via Reuters

A two-decade-long coffee project is entering a pivotal stage: researchers in Brazil are beginning regional field trials to test the viability of naturally-decaffeinated coffee varieties. 

Researchers at the Instituto Agronômico de Campinas (IAC) have spent years crossbreeding different coffee plants that naturally have a low caffeine content and have now begun planting the hybrid cultivars in various regions around Brazil. “The results we had so far look promising, we are upbeat,” said Julio Cesar Mistro, one of the IAC researchers running the project.

IAC is one of the oldest agricultural research centers in the world, and in its 135-year history has had a significant impact on coffee agronomy—”approximately 90% of the coffee plants in Brazil, and 70% of coffee plants globally, can be traced back to IAC development,” according to Daily Coffee News.

Decaffeinated coffee accounts for about 10% of the US coffee market and is worth around $20 billion worldwide. A naturally-decaffeinated plant could theoretically upend this market, although we’re still several years away from a usable harvest from the field tests.

Coffee is typically decaffeinated using either water-based processes or chemical solvents, but every process affects the final taste—a naturally-decaffeinated coffee plant would solve this issue. With the global decaf market predicted to grow to upwards of $26 billion by 2027 and $39 billion by 2033, and with more young people cutting back on their caffeine intake, the future could be bright for a high-quality, natural decaf. 

Read the full story here.

‘Nestlé Workers Rally to Keep 75-year-old Freehold Coffee Plant Open’ via NJBiz

Nestlé is considering closing its factory in Freehold, New Jersey, and moving production to its new $340 million facility in Mexico—a move that would put 200 employees out of work.

Teamsters Local 11, representing the Freehold plant workers, held a demonstration calling on the company to stay and safeguard its members’ jobs. Shuttering the plant, Nestlé’s last coffee-producing factory in the United States, would “deeply impact workers and the local community,” according to a union representative.

Nestlé says it has yet to reach a final decision, but managers have told employees that the plant “could close by the end of 2023.” The company has previously said that “the factory is limited based on its age, flexibility and ability to meet growing consumer demand in a cost-effective way.” Representatives from Nestlé have sat down with the union to discuss plans and are “committed to giving our Freehold employees updates in a timely manner.”

In 2022, Nestlé made $17 billion in profit and received $14.5 million in taxpayer-funded public subsidies from New Jersey, according to a Teamsters press release. “This plant is an institution in the Freehold community going back to the 1940s,” said Local 11 member and Nestlé employee Nazar Mykhaylenko. “It’s outrageous to think that the work so many generations have done in Freehold could move thousands of miles away to another country—all so Nestlé can exploit cheaper labor.”

Read the full story here.

‘Drink Coffee Like It’s Your Job As Peet’s ‘Chief Cold Brew Officer’ – via Food & Wine

Okay, so this is clearly clickbait-y PR fluff, but we never claimed to be above such things.

Peet’s Coffee wants to “hire” what they call a Chief Cold Brew Officer for the summer, a role “without any of those actual C-suite requirements like spreadsheets and board meetings”—or the associated C-suite salary.

This person will be in charge of hyping the company’s iced coffee and can “indulge in their personal love of Peet’s cold brew all summer long.” The job will involve visiting Peet’s locations and “inspiring others to join the cold brew revolution” (although judging by cold brew’s popularity, they might have missed the boat with that one), as do social media promotion for the brand.

This glorified intern will be paid in what amounts to exposure—you will presumably be featured on Peet’s social media platforms—plus an “unlimited” (but not actually unlimited) supply of Peet’s cold brew. Let’s go to the fine print: the winner will be paid in the form of Peetnik Rewards (Peet’s in-store loyalty program) points, $200 per week for seven weeks, up to a total value of $1400. Can you drink $200 worth of Peet’s cold brew each week for seven weeks straight?

The winner must also live within 15 miles of a Peet’s location, which narrows things down to nine states and the District of Columbia. Honestly, the whole thing seems like more trouble than it’s worth, but if you love Peet’s cold brew and think you can consume upwards of 80 coffee drinks each week, then you can apply here

Read the full story here.

More News

ICO Commissioning Living-Income Studies in Four Key Coffee Countries’ – via Daily Coffee News

Equator Coffees Celebrate 10 Years Of The Proof Lab, Their First Cafe‘ – via Sprudge

Kenya Signs Trade Deal with European Union to Safeguard Exports’ – via Reuters

Hark! Fellow Launches the Tally Pro Precision Scale‘ – via Daily Coffee News

World of Coffee Confirms Dates for 2024‘ – via Global Coffee Report

Brazil’s Cooxupe Says Coffee Harvest Pace is Above Last 2 Years‘ – via Nasdaq

Coffee Association of Canada Launches Annual Awards’ – via Daily Coffee News

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • More than 3,500 workers at over 150 Starbucks stores will go on strike this week in response to a dispute between the company and Starbucks Workers United over Pride Month decorations. The union announced that workers at the Seattle Roastery will lead the nationwide strike. “The roastery wants to show solidarity with all workers that have been discriminated against in the company,” roastery worker Mari Cosgrove told CNBC. “Frankly, it feels like an attack when these flags are taken down.”
  • Starbucks insists that there is no corporate policy banning Pride decorations, but More Perfect Union obtained emails that show management at the regional level decided to cancel future Pride month decorations last year. A store manager in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, wrote in a note to unionized baristas in June 2022 that “the decision was made last year on a regional level to create consistency from store to store.” That store is part of what Starbucks calls Area 120, which comprises over 100 stores across Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri.
  • The National Labor Relations Board found Starbucks guilty of violating fair labor practices at a now-permanently-closed store in Seattle. The board ruled that the company broke the law by threatening to discipline a worker if they testified at an NLRB hearing without securing shift coverage and by prohibiting union activity during company-paid breaks. Starbucks, not happy with the ruling, is “exploring opportunities for further legal review.”

Coffee and the Climate Crisis

As the planet heats, weather patterns become less predictable, and diseases and pests proliferate, scientists are researching how to help coffee cope. That could mean new, more resilient hybrids or improved farming techniques—or it could mean turning to rediscovered coffee species.

First, it was excelsa, a recently-reappraised, high-yielding subvariety of Liberica that also boasts disease-resistant features. Now, a pilot project in Sierra Leone backed by the green coffee giant Sucafina is focusing on Coffea Stenophylla, another rediscovered coffee variety that can yield a similar-tasting bean to arabica but at much warmer temperatures.

Stenophylla was grown commercially in the late 19th century in Sierra Leone and other African countries, primarily for export to France, but its use declined due to its small bean size and slow development. For a time considered “forgotten”—it hadn’t been seen in the wild since 1954—Stenophylla was rediscovered in 2018 and is being studied for its potential viability as temperatures rise.

The pilot project in Sierra Leone has been hailed as a success. “The results are so positive that we believe everything is in place to potentially rejuvenate Stenophylla, a coffee that was once drunk in Paris and London but has not been sold commercially for decades,” said Daniel Sarmu, a development specialist running the pilot and who found the plant growing wild in 2018.

Beyond the Headlines

‘Officine Fratelli Bambi: Inside The True Artisan Heart Of La Marzocco’ by Jordan Michelman

‘An Homage To Espresso Vivace’s Sidewalk Cafe’ by Valorie Clark

‘Lexi Rizzo Fought to Unionize Her Starbucks. Now She’s Out of a Job. Her Struggle is Just Beginning” by Greg Jaffe

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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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