Coffee News Club: Week of November 6

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Like a bit of sugar in your coffee? You’re in luck. Plus, grocery store coffee is getting increasingly expensive, and Rwanda aims to boost coffee production and quality.

‘Rwanda Repeals Coffee Zoning Law to Spur Production’ – via STiR Coffee and Tea

Government officials in Rwanda are shaking things up to improve the country’s coffee sector. Specifically, the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) is looking at updating regulations to improve quality, increase production, and boost the country’s coffee exports. The changes will allow farmers more flexibility in choosing who they work with to process their coffee and incentivize specialty coffee production and fully-washed processing techniques.

As part of the updates, the (NAEB) repealed a 2016 policy that required producers in specific geographic zones to sell their harvests exclusively to designated washing stations or mills. The goal of the zoning policy was to improve relationships between farmers and their local washing stations. Although the NAEB didn’t give a specific reason for the repeal, it will theoretically enable farmers more flexibility in choosing who should process their coffee.

The NAEB is also encouraging farmers to fully wash their coffees and will require a permit to use other processing methods. In 2017, only 54% of Rwandan coffee was fully washed, but the NAEB hopes to increase this percentage to 80% by 2024. Those wishing to sell semi-washed coffee will need to pay a tariff of 5% of the value of the coffee; for washed coffee, the fee will be 3%. Most significantly, specialty coffee—that which scores 80 points or above in official grading—will be exempt from the tariff.

These revisions, the NAEB said in an announcement, will “enhance quality, increase the volume of coffee, and strengthen collaboration between farmers and coffee exporters.” Although one of Africa’s top 10 coffee producers, with 400,000 farmers and more than 300 washing stations, Rwanda’s output has fallen in recent years. However, past regulations and rules implemented by the NAEB—like a minimum price policy, along with high global coffee prices, saw Rwanda experience a jump in export earnings from coffee in 2022.

Read the full story here.

‘US Grocery Coffee Sales Fall Below Pre-pandemic Levels’ – via Reuters

Regular readers of the roundup will know that most of the coffee news coming from the US has been positive. Just last week, the head of the National Coffee Association boasted that coffee was “a powerful engine for jobs, communities, and the US economy.” Earlier this year, the NCA’s consumer trends report showed that coffee is the most popular beverage in the country.

However, one area where coffee is not doing so well is at the grocery store, and if you’ve been food shopping recently, you can probably guess why: prices are going up, up, up. Sales of packaged coffee from grocery stores have fallen for three consecutive years, Reuters reports, while costs per unit increased 9.3% over the past year and 12% the year before.

“What is going on in US coffee at retail is what is going on in US grocery in general,” said Matthew Barry from market research firm Euromonitor International. “Prices have been on the rise for a long time now and that is causing significant pressure on volumes because consumers are cutting back.”

But that is not the only reason grocery sales are lagging: consumers are simply choosing to buy coffee through other purchasing platforms. In the same article, an analyst pointed to growth in e-commerce sales and subscription coffee models as reasons to remain optimistic about the coffee sector overall. 

Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like coffee shops are suffering the same slowdowns. According to Barry, coffee shop sales are steady because, while people might be cutting back on other items, a cup of coffee “is not that much money in the grand scheme of things.”

Read the full story here.

‘Cafe Imports Launches ed+u Program for Coffee Learners and Educators’ – via Daily Coffee News

Green coffee importer Cafe Imports has launched a completely free and open-source education platform called ed+u, offering live classes as well as video recordings and other resources. The goal of the online hub, according to the announcement, is “to create a robust, up-to-date, fact-based curriculum that dives into each step of the supply chain.”

The platform will kick things off with a six-class introductory course called the “Coffee is:” series. Each of the six classes will focus on a particular topic within the coffee world—they describe it as “an extended version of a traditional Seed To Cup course.” 

Cafe Imports Coffee Educator Dylan Siemens, who leads the program, told Daily Coffee News that helping coffee professionals access education was the driving force behind ed+u. “This program was inspired, on a personal level, by the fact that the coffee industry lacks a centralized and comprehensive coffee education that isn’t behind a paywall or provided by an employer,” Siemens said. “This leads to misinformation, marginalization, and gatekeeping, placing a professional development ceiling over coffee professionals.”

Cafe Imports calls the program a constant work in progress and wants ed+u to benefit not only learners but educators as well. Classes will include a “Train-the-Trainer” webinar “designed to give educators the tools to teach the class,” as well as supporting documents for educators that outline the slides from each presentation.

Read the full story here.

More News

Starbucks CEO Touts a Plan Saving $3B, While Adding 17,000 Stores’ – via Seattle Times

US Labor Department Accuses a Fourth Louisville Cafe Chain of Wage Violations’ – via Daily Coffee News

Uganda to Release New High-Yield Arabica Varieties’ – via STiR Coffee and Tea

Thousands of Coffee Professionals Heading to Cafe Show Seoul 2023’ – via Daily Coffee News

ICE Certified Arabica Coffee Stocks Fall to Lowest in 24 Years’ – via Yahoo! Finance

Butt First Coffee: TikTok Has Discovered The Coffee Enema’ – via Sprudge

Fast-Growing Scooter’s Coffee Names Joe Thornton CEO’ – via Daily Coffee News

La Marzocco named Italy’s Best Blue Collar Workplace’ – via Bean Scene Magazine

Starbucks Gets US Sales Bump as Pumpkin Spice Latte Returns’ – via Reuters

Fill Out Go Fund Bean’s 2023 Barista Wage Survey’ – via Sprudge

La Marzocco and Acaia Launch Brew-By-Weight Scale for Linea Mini’ – via Daily Coffee News

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Workers at Vibrant Coffee in Philadelphia voted 14 to 1 to join Local 80, the Philly-based union organizing coffee companies in the city. The vote took place amid alleged union-busting behaviors from Vibrant’s ownership, who, according to workers, agreed to recognize their union before changing tack and hiring employment lawyers. “Next step is to bargain a good contract that gives workers what they deserve, no matter what hurdles ownership throws our way,” according to a post on the union’s Instagram. Despite some recent setbacks, Local 80 has succeeded in organizing several coffee companies across Philadelphia, including Elixr Coffee, Ultimo Coffee Roasters, and ReAnimator Coffee Roasters.
  • The Starbucks unionization drive continues, albeit at a slightly slower pace. Two more locations filed for union elections over the past week, while students, faculty, and staff at Georgetown University pushed the school’s administration to cut ties with the mega-chain. Meanwhile, Starbucks Workers United announced plans for its second annual Red Cup Rebellion, a nationwide strike coinciding with one of Starbucks’ busiest days. The first strike in November 2022 saw thousands of workers walk off the job to protest the company’s opposition to unionization.

Is Coffee Good For You?

We’ve established that coffee is generally good for you, but what if you like to add a bit of sugar to your morning brew? Most health professionals advocate for avoiding or at least reducing sugar intake, but a new study suggests that adding a little sweetness to your coffee isn’t the end of the world.

Researchers from Denmark and the Netherlands analyzed data from nearly 3,000 men participating in the Copenhagen Male Study, a long-term health and diet survey. The analysis, published in PLOS ONE, found no “significant risk” to health for those who added sugar to their coffee compared to non-sugar coffee drinkers. The study builds on previous research that found adding a little sugar to coffee or tea can be actively beneficial.

As with all such studies, there are some caveats: the study only looked at home coffee consumption and didn’t take into account coffee shop beverages, which, as Medical News Today points out, can contain huge amounts of sugar. Additionally, as an observational study, this one only included self-reported data, which can never be completely reliable. The participants were Danish men, so the findings might not translate to other populations.

With all those limitations, it’s probably best to add this to the “good for you” pile and wait for next week, when there will no doubt be a new study for the “not so good for you” pile. Coffee and health: it’s still basically a mystery.

Beyond the Headlines

‘Coffee Is For Coolers: The Semiotics Of Beverages In Road House (1989)’ by Jackson O’Brien

‘With New Regulations And Uncertain Licenses, A Coffee Crisis Is Growing In Kenya’ by Anthony Lagat

‘Hospitality Online and In-Person: A Conversation with Aaron Fender of Portrait Coffee’ by Lydia Stolper

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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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