Certified Or Not? USDA Updating Its Regulations For Coffee Brands

It’s difficult to figure out which brands are legitimately organic and which aren’t. That’s the point.

It’s hard to demand better when you don’t even know where to start, right? The coffee industry’s supply chain has long since danced on a thin line between necessary and highly convoluted, with many today calling for ‘snipping the links’ to improve transparency. This could mean farmers also operating as roasters. This could mean importers receiving less money. It’s a lot of talk with not much action…but the USDA has had about enough.

Short for the United States Department of Agriculture, the USDA is a well-known organic label on many specialty coffee brands. So well-known, in fact, it’s starting to lose meaning entirely. New standards are now being implemented to better manage a severe lack of oversight on ethical and eco-friendly farming standards in the coffee industry. Inconsistent implementation, misinterpreting the rules and a lack of consequences for those that shirk responsibility are cited as common issues with the label.

You can never ask too many questions. Do you often look into organic labels when buying a product? If so, do you go the extra mile to see if they’re legit?

The Coffee Crisis Is Worse Than You Think

It’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of an entire planet on the brink of no return.

Climate change is a powerful-yet-nebulous force that only seems to manifest in detached news reports and the occasional quip we make about the weather feeling ‘off’ this year. The plight of farmers makes our hearts ache, yes…and we can still feel entirely powerless on how to actually hold corporations responsible for the damage they do. It’s all a lot of numbers and shrinking minutes, not at all helped by a lack of awareness.

Fortunately, we still have time left.

Vox just published a video on the global coffee crisis — with a predominant focus on Colombia — and what it means for the people who work there. They explore the differences between the two major coffee varieties, how even mild changes in temperature completely overhaul the coffee growing process, and the change of coffee prices over the decades. It’s very telling how some of the rhetoric bragged about in the 1920’s is rather similar to the rhetoric used today. A lot of fluff about respecting farmers without the numbers or working conditions to match.

Give this video a watch if you need to catch up on what’s affecting one of today’s top coffee producers. While there’s still more work to do on the consumer end of things, knowledge can only make things better.

Coffee Or Tea? Choose Both With This Coffee Leaf Tea Drink From Wize

Coffee and tea cross over a lot.

They’re comforting drinks with roots as a community affair, easily consumed either hot or iced. They provide an easy caffeine boost to the weary and overworked, with a flavor kick for the decaf crowd. They’re both multi-billion dollar industries facing astronomically bad climate change and poor working conditions that could affect the crop forever.

So the list goes on.

Wize takes the best of both worlds with a tea drink made out of coffee leaves. It’s a trend I’ve been keeping up with for the past year and a half: several beverage industries have been skewing their products in favor of more healthy alternatives, whether low on sugar, low on alcohol or low on calories. This coffee leaf drink boasts a very healthy count, with additional incentive to the conscientiously minded: it’s also helping to bridge the economic gap between the industry and farmers.

The company’s co-founder stresses the dismal state today’s coffee farmers are in, stating as much as half of the farmers in their region leaving the business because of a lack of options. COVID-19 has made this rock and a hard place all the worse due to unsafe working environments, to boot, and is not expected to get better for many months. He insists not only will Wize’s coffee leaf tea keep farmers employed during the coffee industry’s off-season, it’ll also help them socially distance.

That’s a pretty tall order from a pretty neat drink. What do you think?

Starbucks Customer Demands Recompense For Harassing An Employee

I don’t particularly feel like buttering up what’s happening here. This news story is a common bad memory for anyone who works, or has worked, as a barista.

Being a barista means being the verbal punching bag for middle-aged women who get a kick out of being waited on hand and foot. Take more than five minutes during rush hour making their order? They need a manager. Don’t have their usual on hand due to low supplies? They would like to speak to someone ‘higher up’. Get them the right sized order because that’s what they asked for? You actually gave them a size too big, they need recompense for their suffering. It’s not funny. It’s annoying, stressful and pathologically maddening.

So we have yet another tale of someone who clearly hasn’t been told no enough in their life wanting justice for…being a prick.

I’ve had women like this try to get me fired over nothing, and it was only the fact my co-workers and supervisors didn’t like her either that had me keeping my job. I’ve heard (and watched) stories about workers being spat on, coughed on, screamed at with no consequences for the aggressive party. I’ll never forget the video taken of a cafe customer who, quite literally, shat on the floor of the lobby to get a point across. I’d link to it, but it’s gross. Look it up on YouTube if you’re curious.

The details of this story are like trying to debate astrophysics with someone drunk. A chiropractor (who won’t even comment on the issue) is the authority on a breathing problem? A past issue of an ovarian cyst is enough reason not to wear a mask in a public space and protect others with immunodisorders or asthma? I mean…you’d think someone with a life-threatening breathing problem would be more wary of going into public spaces, but what would I know? I’m just glad the employee got some financial stability out of this mess.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Care about your neighbor, unless it’s this woman.

Coffee On Wheels: Innovative Ideas For Hard Times

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Coffee on wheels has been a trend in Europe for a while. Thanks to this former real estate manager, it’s a trend starting to catch on elsewhere. This entrepreneur turned his coffee business into an on-the-go deal, inspired by mobile coffee shops in Europe. He went through the painstaking process of converting his car to house coffee equipment and now goes around neighborhoods making fresh lattes and mochas, practically at people’s doorstep. It’s a flexible and convenient approach to coffee I would love to see myself one day.

Like the ice cream truck, but for adults! (Though I do love ice cream)

The pandemic has driven an unforgiving heel into the already flimsy global coffee industry. Indeed, I can’t entirely blame this curveball for much of what we’re seeing now. The weak foundation of underpaid farmers, convoluted supply chains and rapidly developing climate change couldn’t do anything but further buckle under a dangerous virus. Neat ideas like mobile cafes could be a great way to change how we engage with our daily staple. A way to reduce space. Improve accessibility. Stay flexible.

Even if we’re lucky to return back to normal…normal wasn’t exactly good to begin with.

Is Shortening The Coffee Supply Chain The Answer?

Discussions around sustainability in the coffee industry redefine patience.

When we’re not being faced with the reality of dismal farming wages, heads are spinning on aaall the different intermediaries in the coffee supply chain. Producers, importers, exporters, retailers, roasters…and here we were just figuring out the difference between a macchiato and a latte. It’s an average day slicing apart the noise to get meaningful action that changes lives for the better. The convoluted nature of it all starts to feel intentional after a point.

Knowledge is power. I recently checked out this video by Cedro Alto Coffee on the coffee supply chain — Karl goes into great detail concerning the jobs in-between the producers (farmers) and the consumers (us). He takes a patient and critical look at the understandably frustrated conversations on the supply chain and how many want to snip out a few intermediaries. He notes that there are still many administrative and shipping roles that get coffee into stores in the first place, not all of which can just be squished into one job.

I exist as both a link in the chain and an end consumer. My copywriting niche is coffee (as well as tea and alcohol), helping professionals in the industry reach the right people…and I purchase coffee and coffee equipment. My interest is more than just a good cup of joe on my desk: it’s a deep investment of the veritable knot this industry has tied itself into and all the fingers needed to detangle it. I may not be around in the next fifteen to twenty years, but I do know I want coffee to stick it out.

Change is possible. We can see with our own two eyes that what’s happening in the coffee industry just isn’t working. The only question is what, exactly, can be done…and the only surefire wrong answer is to do nothing at all.

child coloring

Explore Coffee From The Comfort Of Home: Loring’s Roasting Coloring Book

As an illustrator and a coffee enthusiast, I appreciate this on several levels.

Loring, a coffee roaster manufacturer based in California, recently crafted a coffee roasting coloring book to keep people occupied during the pandemic. Not only is it a good way to keep children occupied when phone time’s up, it’s a neat look into the ins-and-outs of roasting facilities. It’s stuffed with all sorts of lineart illustrations, from the beans to the machines. It’s currently available for download on their website and can be perfect for digital painting or filling in with marker. If you’re in need of a little therapy, look no further.

Painting is one of my most reliable forms of calming down and cooling off. Has been for most of my life. Something I love about this idea is not just the clever way of keeping people in touch with their local coffee businesses, but the unabashed appreciation of fun. Miserable news circulates more consistently than the air we breathe: inviting people’s artistic spirit is a pitch-perfect idea that will leave a positive impact.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life: Five Interesting Products Made From Coffee Supplies

One of the most common starting points for sustainability conversations are building materials: the ingredients we use to craft where we live and how we move.

To recycle something is to keep valuable materials out of toxic landfills and back into the hands of the people and businesses that need it. You don’t have to be a sustainability expert to know about the viability of recycled cardboard for storage. In fact, one of my earliest school memories was making my own paper out of recycled bits! Things get a little interesting when you see just how many materials can be reused and for what. Since this is a beverage blog (and I put the hook in the title), you can likely guess where this is going.

Coffee is a daily staple. A lifestyle and, for many, a passion. The old coffee grounds, as well as coffee-related supplies, can be a practical ingredient for all sorts of products. Let’s take a look at whether this is mere novelty or an actual change to get excited about.

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roasted coffee beans

Bitter Foods Make Sweet Foods Sweeter…In Other Words, The Sky Is Blue

A recent study from Danish scientists have found that the oft-bitter flavor of coffee helps sweet foods taste even sweeter. Yes, this mundane knowledge apparently has to be ‘discovered’ by a university to be valid.

There are entire fields dedicated to pairing or contrasting flavor notes to enhance the experience. Hell, you see a similar logic at work when ordering pizza online and being offered a variety of sugary sodas. What has been ‘found’ here isn’t new in the least.

I love deep-diving into all the fascinating facets of coffee. Over the months I’ve kept a close eye on scientific articles analyzing coffee’s antioxidant count and how it does — or doesn’t — translate into healthy results. I’m endlessly curious about the process that goes into picking, washing and packaging green coffee bean varieties. Never mind the unique histories behind each origin! There’s always something new to learn and I’m thrilled to be part of the journey…

whiiich is why I’m having a rather hard time getting excited over basic information being rebranded as a surprising discovery. Are people really that starved for content?

You don’t have to be a sommelier to know bitter notes change your palette, no more than you have to be a painter to know that yellow contrasts blue. Now, the study does have an interesting angle in how this knowledge can be used to help diabetic and extremely overweight patients change their diets. That’s a fantastic focus that could help a lot of people! All I’m asking is that we don’t take basic knowledge and pretend it’s something else. If the approach of this study had leaned closer to ‘confirming’ or ‘pivoting’ rather than ‘discovery’, I wouldn’t have rolled my eyes quite so hard.

Pro-tip from a copywriter with several years of experience…words mean things. Trying to reinvent the wheel sounds appealing in an oversaturated world increasingly defined by people screaming the loudest, but it’s a myth best left in the dust.

Miss Going Out To Cafes? Perfect Your Inner Barista With This Useful Home Brewing List

Being a coffee lover can be expensive. When you’re not trying to find the best beans, you’re carving out space in your kitchen for all the short-term and long-term equipment you’ll need to make a cup that sparkles.

I’m still on the search for a burr grinder and an espresso maker (that can also do drip), but until I find that elusive perfect deal, I’m reading up on other people’s home brewing habits. The Daily Beast just published a short-and-sweet piece on how to get started becoming a home coffee brewing master. They simplify the complex process by looking at affordable French Presses, waxing philosophical about the benefits of weighing your grounds and even showing off a reusable Keurig brand.

Not all of these equipment combinations will drill holes into your wallet, either, and you might just stick with them once the coronavirus has slowed down enough to open cafes back up. Remember: coffee is all about what suits your tastes, lifestyle and budget. Not what some self-proclaimed espresso guru with a ten-inch beard thinks is more ‘real’.