Coffee News Club: Week of May 6th


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Thank a bat for your morning coffee. Plus, Mikael Jasin is the 2024 World Barista Champion, and coffee farmers in Southeast Asia feel the effects of the record-breaking heatwave.

‘Mikael Jasin Of Indonesia Is The 2024 World Barista Champion’ – via Sprudge

World of Coffee took place in Busan, South Korea this weekend, the first World of Coffee trade show hosted in Asia. Aside from the usual trade show goings-on—networking, admiring fancy equipment, and drinking too much coffee—the show also played host to the World Barista Championship.

Fifty-three competitors representing 50 countries competed, with many featuring exciting and experimental new techniques, tools, and coffees. “We’re still trying to pick our collective jaw up off the floor,” the Sprudge event recap says. “The coffees! The distribution tools! The milks! The electromagnetic waves! It was a WBC like no other.”

In the end, Indonesia’s barista champion Mikael Jasin won the trophy, while Australia’s Jack Simpson took second and Takayuki Ishitani of Japan came third. Congratulations to the winner, the finalists, and everyone who competed!

Read the full story here.

‘Shrinking Bat Populations Could Hurt Fruit, Coffee and Chocolate, Biologists Warn’ – via Inside Edition

You probably know how vital birds, bees, and insects are to coffee production—we talk about it a lot. But did you know that bats are also crucial to our favorite beverage?

“They’re not only cute, but they do these amazing roles like for our ecosystem,” said UCLA bat biologist Joseph Curti to CBS News. “We wouldn’t have coffee, we wouldn’t have chocolate. We wouldn’t have tequila without bats.”

Bats help spread seeds, act as flying pesticides, and pollinate plants—300 fruit species depend on bats for this. Bats can eat up to half their body weight in insects each night, according to Rachel Blakey, an assistant professor at Cal Poly Pomona. “They can alter the insect communities that exist here. Bats can exert a suppression effect on insects just by flying around.”

But deforestation and climate change are putting pressure on bat populations worldwide. For example, bats’ unique physiology, which enables them to fly, also puts them at heightened risk from drought and other climate pressures. Their tiny bodies and big wings mean they have more surface area from which to lose water through evaporation, meaning they dehydrate easily. 

In a 2015 study, researchers studying how deforestation affects bats in the Western Ghats region of India found that shaded coffee plantations—which comprise the majority of Indian coffee production—acted as refuges for multiple bat species. 

“Further deforestation would be a serious threat to these species, but the good news is that they are, for the moment, surviving in small forest patches, riverine habitats and in coffee plantations,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Claire Wordley. “They are serving as refuges for biodiversity in the landscape—both the lesser wooly horseshoe bat and the lesser false vampire bat were found in these shade-grown plantations.”

Read the full story here.

‘Neumann Gruppe USA & GrainPro Have Recycled 11 Tons Of Liner Bags’ – via Sprudge

Most specialty coffee companies are working to become more sustainable, but they also want to ensure the coffee they buy stays protected from the elements en route to their roasteries. To this end, most green coffee is shipped in burlap or jute sacks with a plastic liner bag to protect the precious beans. However, plastic is difficult to recycle, and most of the liners end up in the trash.

In 2023, Neumann Gruppe USA and GrainPro teamed up to reduce the number of plastic liner bags going to landfill. It’s a simple enough process: roasters ship their empty bags to either the east or west coast locations of the coffee warehousing company Continental Terminals, where they are baled up and recycled.

Sprudge reports that the initiative has collected and successfully recycled 11 tons of bags over the last eight months. Revolution, an Arkansas-based recycling company, accepted all 40,550-pound bales, which were then broken down into pellets and transformed into new plastic products—a 100% success rate. A press release detailing the progress of the project notes that the average recycling rate in the US is about 5%.

The press release also notes that Neumann Gruppe USA and GrainPro are looking to expand the project to Europe and open up new hubs across the states to enable easier collection. 

Read the full story here.

More News

Juan Valdez Actor Carlos Castañeda of Colombia Has Died‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Introducing The Coffee Rose, A New Digital Cupping Tool By Cafe Imports’ – via Sprudge

Luckin Coffee Surpasses 18,500 Stores in China but Posts First Quarterly Loss in Two Years‘ – via World Coffee Portal

EU Legislators Approve Landmark Corporate Due Diligence Rules (CSDDD)‘ -via Daily Coffee News

Portland Coffee Industry Vets Have Acquired Guilder and Junior’s Roasted Coffee‘ – via Eater Portland

ILO, ICO, and local government launch # FamiliasCafeteras’ – via Global Coffee Report

Study: Roast Profiles Affect Sourness and Acidity in Coffee‘ – via Daily Coffee News

Founding Bros Step Down From Sightglass, New CEO From Starbucks Appointed’ – via Sprudge

Starbucks Shares Plummet To 21-Month Low On Weak Sales‘ – via Forbes

Study Shines New Light on Cold Brew Extraction, Aroma and Storage’ – via Daily Coffee News

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

Workers at Coffee by Design in Portland, Maine, have signed a union contract with the company. Staff announced their intent to unionize with Laborers International Union of North America Local 327 in October 2023, and Coffee By Design’s owner, Mary Allen Lindemann, voluntarily recognized the union

Five days later, Coffee By Design closed one of the company’s three locations. Lindemann said it had nothing to do with the organizing, and the union itself said the closure was “in the works” before the unionization effort.

The union contract secured pay raises for the 20 staff at the company’s two remaining locations. Coffee By Design will also establish a labor-management committee “for the purposes of implementing shared goals and exploring new ways to collaborate,” according to a statement from the union.

“It’s been an amazing feat to watch the baristas of Coffee By Design come together with teamwork, patience, dedication and solidarity,” barista and shift lead Jillian Mercier told the Portland Press Herald. “We started this process as a way to make the best coffee shop in Maine even better by ensuring its workers have the tools needed to serve the best customers in Maine.”

Meanwhile, representatives from Starbucks Workers United took part in bargaining sessions with the company as the first steps to securing single-store contracts for the 420+ unionized locations around the US. Talks will continue at the end of May. 

“We discussed a broad range of topics, including … details relating to the union’s representation of partners as both sides worked on the foundational framework that will contribute to single-store contract negotiations and ratification,” the two parties said in a joint statement.

Coffee and the Climate Crisis

A severe, record-breaking heatwave is affecting much of Southeast Asia, closing schools, taxing power grids, and causing heat-related illnesses and deaths. “Thousands of records are being brutalized all over Asia, which is by far the most extreme event in world climatic history,” weather historian Maximiliano Herrera tweeted.

The heatwave is also impacting coffee production. In Vietnam, the world’s largest robusta producer, farmers are irrigating their plants due to the severe lack of rain—and now their water reserves are running low. The hot and dry conditions are causing nutrient imbalances in the trees and have hastened the spread of the cochinilla or coffee mealy bug, an insect that can damage coffee plants directly or through its secretions, which act as a growth medium for sooty mold.

“The incidence of cochinilla in Gia Lai is extensive and not yet under control,” said a J.Ganes Consulting report quoted by Reuters. “The speed at which cochinilla can spread is very fast and so this situation is very concerning.”

In India, coffee farmers are also struggling with the dry weather, and the rising price of green coffee isn’t enough to offset their worry. The Wayanad district in the coffee-producing state of Kerala received just 29 millimeters of rain in the first three months of 2024, compared with 115 mm the year before and 149 mm the year before. “We did not receive even a single spell of shower in the Meppadi coffee belt,” said one farmer, referring to a village in Wayanad.

Experts blame the lack of rain on the aftereffects of the El Niño climate pattern, which has impacted coffee production worldwide over the past year. In Indonesia, weather patterns shifted from too wet to too dry; Brazil saw increased hot weather and irregular rainfall; and drought hit El Salvador, costing the coffee sector millions in losses.

While El Niño is a cyclical phenomenon, reemerging every 2-7 years on average, recent studies suggest that climate change is causing stronger and more frequent occurrences. 

Beyond the Headlines

‘The Cozy Appeal of Turning Your Apartment Into a ‘Coffee Shop’ by  Bettina Makalintal

‘How Regenerative Agriculture Changed the Lives of Two Colombian Coffee Producers’ by Nick Castellano

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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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