coffee cherry

It’s Not Just The Coffee Bean You Should Drink: The Potential Of Cascara

An interesting facet of the coffee plant is just how much potential surrounds it. You’ve heard of Wize’s coffee leaf tea. You might’ve seen coffee shoes or coffee sunglasses.

Cascara is the pulp and skin discarded after coffee bean processing. Whether a producer is using the honey method or the natural method, a lot of fruit is leftover to either become a fertilizing agent or yet more waste. Olam Coffee has been diving deep into the health and sustainability properties of cascara. Turns out this common waste material has a lower caffeine content compared to the coffee bean, a high amount of antioxidants and even ingredients that can help burn fat more naturally. Dang.

I can’t help but be reminded of pomace, the worker’s wine crafted out of discarded grape skins. Olam Coffee is hoping to turn cascara into concentrates or entirely new products to discourage waste. More and more I’m seeing beverage industries favor low-sugar, low-alcohol and low-caffeine alternatives. Even decaf coffee doesn’t (quite) have the reputation it used to. I’m very curious about how cascara will look in the next few years, doubly so for how it could give farmers a little more money in the coffee pipeline.

Granted, that still means they need to be paid more for the coffee beans they’re already growing and harvesting, but I digress. Would you try a cascara product?

Looking For Roasters? The 2021 Good Food Awards Are Coming Up

I’ve taken a look at several coffee roasters this year in my decaf specialty coffee review series Decaf, Decaf Everywhere. Despite this, I’ve only scratched the surface!

The United States is home to thousands of coffee roasters. Some work in wholesale and provide the selection you see while shopping for the month’s groceries. Others are small-batch microroasteries who are strictly local. The 2021 Good Food Awards is here to help you narrow things down a little while you browse for your next pick-me-up: they’re judging today’s American coffee roasters on quality, sustainability, and social impact.

I’m thrilled to see some of my personal favorites here, like Onyx Coffee Lab and PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. There are also several on the list I’ve been planning on checking out, like Mr. Espresso, Bird Rock Coffee and Peach Coffee Roasters. This year’s coffee selection has a wider range of origins compared to the past (though it really is no surprise Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, reigns supreme). The final verdict will be announced live on January 22nd, if you feel like tuning in.

While I’ll be making a holiday tier list soon to help promote my favorite decaf coffee roasters, this is a useful resource to start whittling down your gift list.

Surviving Winter: US Coffee Shop Owner Survey Finds Financial Worry, Adaptability — Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

More than half (57%) of coffee shop owners and managers participating in a U.S. nationwide survey expressed worry that they will not be able to maintain enough revenue to survive…

Surviving Winter: US Coffee Shop Owner Survey Finds Financial Worry, Adaptability — Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

Cafes are much beloved for their soothing atmosphere, delicious menus, and (usually) free Wi-Fi. The behind-the-scenes, though, is often pretty hectic.

Despite coffee being one of the most economically resilient global industries, this year hasn’t been kind. Daily Coffee News has a very insightful summary of a recent survey filled out by seventy coffee shop owners and managers. They reveal their thoughts on the convenience of technology, their fears for the future, and their current handling of the pandemic, among others. Many cafes have quickly adapted to online and local delivery, though I’m not thrilled to see just 84% require customers to wear masks.

All it takes is one sick person to start an outbreak, remember? One step forward, one step backwards…

Know A Barista Who Needs Help? Go Fund Bean Has A New Fundraiser

If you’re a barista, or know someone who is, this is a post you’ll want to share.

The role of the barista is an often romanticized, and deeply unappreciated, position. It’s an average day when I’m seeing a viral video of yet another customer harassing a part-time worker over something or another. Hope is not all lost, thankfully: there’s a new grant going around called Go Fund Bean designed to help hourly barista workers. It’s going until November 15th in batches of $500 per person. That’s enough to pay off shared rent or put a dent in food bills.

(also, I absolutely adore their name)

Originally starting out as a humble tip jar, Go Fund Bean has since set their aspirations higher. Crowdfunding has been filling in the gaps left by federal aid nicely: these grants have come to fruition through the combined efforts of several businesses you may already know about, such as Seattle Coffee Gear, Torani and JNP Coffee. Priority is going to coffee workers who are in danger of losing housing, too. Good stuff, all in all.

If you know any hourly coffee workers, or are one yourself, please share! You could be giving someone a much-needed breather.

Americans Still Love Their Coffee…Just Not In The Same Way

America is still a nation that runs on coffee. It’s just mostly at home.

This report from Daily Coffee News pretty much confirms what I’ve been seeing left and right these past several months. Homebrewing has become the cream of the crop, deemed both safer and cheaper in the long run. While cafes aren’t completely out of the picture, they estimated as much as 20% fewer Americans are visiting in-person. Larger roasters with e-commerce or wholesale grocery delivery on their side are also doing much better compared to their smaller peers.

There’s another important detail here, too, that anticipates how things may still change this year. Many Americans still crave sitting at a cafe, which could be good news…and bad news. This pandemic is still in full swing, with some states reporting record highs of hospitalized patients and schools still struggling to stay open for any period of time. How can coffee remain a source of comfort without being a hazard?

I miss cafes, too, but my homebrewing station has filled the gap quite nicely. In some ways? I like it even better. I can craft my drink to personal perfection, save money and enjoy the process at my own pace.

How about you? Have your coffee drinking habits changed in 2020?

Can Freshly Roasted Coffee Be…Too Fresh?

Perish the thought! That was my immediate reaction at seeing the title of Sprudge‘s new article, but upon reading it, I’m having…more perishable thoughts.

Freshly roasted coffee is the de facto marketing tactic of today’s Western roasteries. It’s one of the first details mentioned before a plethora of attention grabbers, well before you learn about the unique soil climate of their origin or how the roastery is donating some of their proceeds to a local charity. Freshly roasted coffee tastes better, smells better, and that’s the end of it! …Or is it? This piece has a few thoughts on the matter and they’re all very compelling.

Several roasters have gathered around to discuss the literally delicious elements that build in coffee when it’s allowed to sit for a few days. This is a science, after all, and all that savory, tart, sweet goodness is a result of chemicals that are affected by the complex coffee process. Allowing coffee to ruminate in the bag (craftily designed to let CO2 escape, no less) gives the roasting process time to settle, grow, and change the bean. The roast profile also has a say in this, as dark roasts tend to deteriorate faster. That’s not to say you should let your bag sit in your shelf for months, though.

I usually receive my specialty coffee bags a few days after the printed date, so it’s funny reading this and seeing there might just be a benefit to not having a same-day purchase.

Now Roasting, Sip & Sonder Builds Community Through Coffee in Inglewood — Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

A two-woman team of attorneys is now arguing on behalf of community, Black culture and fresh, high-quality coffee in Inglewood, California, through their coffee business, Sip & Sonder. After COVID-19…

Now Roasting, Sip & Sonder Builds Community Through Coffee in Inglewood — Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

It’s inspiring reading about small businesses still chugging forward in this economic climate. Sometimes you forget the world doesn’t actually stop turning, you know?

This is a great review from Roast Magazine on a new black woman-owned coffee shop and roastery, one I hope to buy from if they release a decaf bag in the future. They come from a legal background and have a very zesty website filled to the brim with all their goals and inspirations. Check this piece out if you want a little dash of hope to go with your daily doomscrolling. …Seriously. Take a break from social media and get some fresh air.

Five Fundraisers And New Businesses To Support On National Coffee Day

Coffee tastes even better when it’s paired with a good cause. In fact, it’s pretty rare I see a bag, can, or bottle without a supplementary positive.

Eco-friendly initiatives. Paper recycling. Supporting women-owned farms. It’s so common it can be a little overwhelming at times (and according to the commonly cited USDA, these promises can even be unreliable). It helps to go straight to the source by supporting a smaller business with less middleman and smokescreens. People who live close by. People you can see.

We have newly founded black-owned businesses, we have charities, we have fundraisers. Take a look at the list below and put your money toward a good cause:

Continue reading

How This Hmong Couple Eliminated The Coffee Middleman

This coffee couple takes ‘eliminating the middleman’ to a whole ‘nother level.

This is the kind of story I live for. This Catholic Hmong couple grows coffee beans in their small hillside village in Thailand, alongside a medley of fruits, vegetables and herbs. They made the decision to grow, roast, and grind their crop locally due to many buyers actively seeking out high-quality beans for very low prices (sound familiar?). The coffee supply chain may have several necessary skillsets involved in bringing your cup to life, but it also has a lot of exploitative garbage, too.

I would love to see more farming communities go this route.

So much of the exploitation of coffee farmers (and adjacent industries) come from an acute lack of education. It’s hard to argue your worth when you don’t know what that is. It’s hard to stand up for yourself when you’re poor and isolated. Giving coffee farmers the opportunity to call the shots in more areas of the industry will help immensely with weeding out exploitation, climate damage and outright theft. …If they don’t just take that opportunity themselves, that is.

Also, I love that one of the co-founders mentions she drinks coffee in moderation so she doesn’t get heart palpitations. Maybe they’ll release a decaf bag I can try in the future?

Carbon-free Roasting Is A Trend That Should Stick

It’s amazing how much damage an everyday product can create. We’re so saturated with coffee it’s very easy to overlook.

‘Going green’ sounds great on paper, but requires a dedicated overhaul of old, inefficient ways of running business. Getting just one detail wrong could cause yet another ripple effect to make up for in the future. Coffee is a titan of an industry, with the United States alone drinking an estimated 400 million cups per day. Roasting coffee beans, in particular, is a delicate process that can make or break the final cup. Not only do you have to get the right profile, you have to leave the right carbon footprint.

What fascinated me in Forbes’ recent analysis/review was this new way of reducing carbon emissions while still crafting a high-quality roast. The Bellwether Roaster reuses the same air without using gas, drastically reducing its harmful output through a new approach. Even better, this machine also comes with an app that allows customers to choose their own roasting curve. If you thought a soy decaf latte was specific, imagine being able to select a medium-dark roast on top of it all.

Today’s harmful climate change is accelerated primarily through ongoing business activity, not individuals or even communities. If the figures in this analysis are accurate, this roasting technology should become the new default.