coffee

Coffee Packaging Favors Bold And Splashy Over Minimalistic

As a fan of maximalism and coffee packaging, this article is a match made in heaven. I’ve been collecting coffee packages for the past few years and I’m thrilled to say visual personality is at an all time high.

If you’re looking for a dose of artistic inspiration, check out this compelling article from the (newly revived!) Fresh Cup Magazine. The author takes a look at several specialty roasters and how they’re using packaging/branding to stand out on a visual level. There are some truly gorgeous examples of coffee packaging here, particularly Couplet and Felix Roasting Co.. My retro-and-classical loving heart is a-flutter.

This approach is style meeting substance. Not only is powerful visual design a must-have for any brand that wants to stand out, minimalism has garnered a rather meager reputation over the years. Too much of specialty coffee is modeled after the wine industry in terms of exclusivity and an ‘in the know’ attitude. Many of the roasters in this article hope that a fun, splashy approach will encourage people to get into a new passion.

Do you have any favorite coffee packaging designs? I’m always on the look for more bags and boxes to add to my collection, so let me know in the comments.

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Ireland Is Reducing Coffee Cup Waste One Fee At A Time. Is It Helping?

The coffee industry produces tons of waste. It’s mind-bending at times. From used coffee grounds to piles of accessories, daily coffee usage is hysterically unsustainable.

Ireland is going the extra mile to impose a fee on disposable cups to encourage businesses to start implementing greener alternatives. The bill comes into effect soon and aims to shrink landfills, reduce carbon emissions, and target illegal dumping. This country sees an average of 200 million coffee cups being landfilled or incinerated every year. That number isn’t even touching on accessories like sleeves, lids, straws, bags, or wrappers.

I ran this bill over my head a few times and actually think it could be a little more strict. A big problem with eco-friendly initiatives is the pervasive myth they’re ‘optional’. A similar news story dropped a few years ago on cafes phasing out reusable cups to much success, though it took a while to catch on because of the small fee. Some customers still bought the paper cups because they didn’t care about the higher price and prioritized their convenience over long-term change.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Irish law’s fees will add up mightily over time, but we’re past the point of incremental alternatives. We simply don’t have the time needed for slow-yet-steady change. Not with climate change deadlines on our doorstep.

What do you think about this new law? Do you think it’s too harsh or not harsh enough?

banner of a black crow in autumn
coffee

What Happens When You Rescue A Baby Crow? They Become A Coffee Fan

Why do I sing the praises of decaf coffee? Because without it, you couldn’t have a cup of joe with your crow baby.

I’m being 100% serious here. In this three-minute video from The Dodo, a man rescued a baby crow — he taught him how to be comfortable around humans, nursed him back to health, and now has him as part of the family. He makes his little crow a cup of decaf, specifically, because caffeine isn’t good for birds. These are the kinds of stories that sound straight out of a whimsical children’s book.

The next time some coffee snob blathers about the evils of decaf coffee, I’ll ask: “But can you give it to your winged children?”

Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime segues, check out my recent coffee review of Talking Crow Roasters’ Decaf Sampler Pack. I’ll be updating with a sequel soon reviewing the rest of their portfolio.

coffee, industry news

A Tiny Cafe That Unfolds Like A Present

Step aside, hole-in-the-wall shops. We now have a business that’s so small it could give Polly Pocket a run for her money.

Miharashi is a tiny cafe is designed much like a toy box, able to be situated just about anywhere due to its small size and ability to unfold like a present. Japan is well-known for being densely concentrated, with its metropolitan Tokyo and Osaka regions taking the cake. As such, they need to get extra creative just to put down basic locations such as coffee shops, parking lots, or one-bedroom apartments.

This rooftop cafe comes fully equipped with all the bells and whistles to deliver delicious coffee quickly. This is a novelty I can see catching on very quickly. As populations expand and space becomes increasingly expensive, these locations provide a much-needed middleground.

Or…one-fourth of a middleground, anyway!

coffee cherry
coffee

Big Island Coffee Roasters Debunks Hawaiian Coffee Myths

Last month I took a look at a growing lawsuit concerning Kona coffee, the unique Hawaiian coffee variety, and how it’s been a hotbed for marketing exaggeration and low quality.

Big Island Coffee Roasters, a small-batch roaster specializing in Kona coffee, has a lot to offer to the conversation. Their recent blog post on Hawaiian coffee tackles a common myth about the ‘inherent magic’ of the origin. Too many people believe you can grow your coffee in Hawaii and voila! It’ll automatically be delicious and tick off a high score on the grading scale. Clearly, that’s not how it works.

The roaster proceeds to discuss their recent experience with a Hawaii-based food manufacturer, who had brought up a concern about the bad flavor of the Kona coffee they had sourced. Turns out the beans were overloaded with defects and, despite multiple roasting sessions, always tasted sour and metallic. I’m pretty open-minded, but aluminum flavor notes don’t sound very appealing.

While some coffee drinkers may think it’s a lot of fuss to worry about details like single-origin, altitude, and storage, they all mean the difference between a fantastic coffee bag and a bag you can’t finish. As of recently, a new bill is being proposed to improve quality control in Kona Coffee. There is also keen interest in providing financial consequences to businesses who try to circumvent honesty in their marketing campaigns.

I recently tried one of Big Island Coffee Roasters‘ coffees, which I’ll be reviewing soon in my Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series. While it’s sourced from Peru, I enjoyed it quite a lot and commend it as one of the best darker-roasted coffees I’ve had.

Maybe someday I’ll get to try an authentic decaf Kona coffee, but until then…

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The First Coffee Chain From A Coffee-Producing Nation?

A tall order to live up to, but more than possible. Kopikalayan is an Indonesian coffee chain with their sights set on becoming a global household name.

Their biggest difference? They don’t just distribute coffee, but source it from home.

The implications of major coffee corporations being located in the West is uncomfortable at best, damning at worst. Today’s biggest coffee producers by sheer volume are Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam, yet local coffee culture has struggled. It’s hard to develop an interest in coffee when most of it is exported to other countries, right?

This article is a lengthy read, but worth every second. It breaks down key details into why several Asian nations are seeing a boom in local coffee culture and consumption. The main factors are:

– Generational shifts (namely, Millennial and Gen Z)
– Rise of the middle-class
– Growing awareness of local businesses, inequity, and sustainability
– Online trends (particularly on Instagram and TikTok)
– Rise in homebrewing during the pandemic

While some of these trends are definitely in response to increased social isolation, most shifts were bound to happen. Awareness of our impact on the planet is going to keep increasing as climate change and social inequity continues to push our collective backs against the wall.

I’m very interested in seeing where Kopikalayan goes from here.

coffee

Check Out How This Nigerian Painter Uses Coffee To Paint Portraits

Coffee and fine art is a match made in delicious heaven. As a digital illustrator and traditional painter who drinks coffee on a daily basis? This news story made my week.

Ekene Ngige is a Nigerian traditional painter that accidentally discovered his favorite painting technique when he spilled coffee while chatting with peers. He fell in love with the color and texture, resulting in him creating a series of portraits made out of coffee. He doesn’t just mix it with water, either: he adds a gel paste to stick it together and get a more even coating.

In the wise words of Bob Ross? “There are no mistakes. Only happy accidents.”

I can relate so hard to this. Several times I’ve completed an illustration not through careful planning, but spontaneous surprises that took me by the nose. I loved browsing his portfolio and seeing how he captures the human condition through the art of java. He’s skillful at showing the beautiful mundanity of the African diaspora, crafting a playful technique that balances realism with poppy abstraction.

Check out his Instagram page to see more of his work.

a gold hand reaching out to a red cup and a pink cup
coffee

Roasters And Cafes Should Raise Their Coffee Prices…And Keep Them That Way

Cold snaps, endless shipping delays, and a global pandemic. Caring about anything these days feels like juggling plates. 

Why are coffee prices up? Well, the Brazilian cold snap compromised millions of tons of coffee bags earlier this year, setting a record for the coldest harvest in over two decades and cranking up prices to almost double what they usually are. With the pandemic causing shipping delays and the food and beverage industry struggling to retain workers, it’s small wonder coffee prices have skyrocketed. 

Roasters, cafes, and roaster-cafe hybrids are understandably concerned about customer retention. Raising prices on an already expensive daily commodity is a surefire way to drive the end consumer into the arms of the competition, right?

The question isn’t whether prices should stay raised: it’s whether or not the end consumer will be willing to pay them. 

As someone who has been on both sides of the fence as a coffee buyer and a coffee worker, now’s the best time to get used to what will be a new standard. Roasters and cafes should not just raise their coffee prices, but keep them that way.

Here’s why. 

Continue reading “Roasters And Cafes Should Raise Their Coffee Prices…And Keep Them That Way”
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coffee

A New Coffee Certification Is In Town

Keeping track of coffee certifications isn’t easy. The brew already has a thousand and one details swirling around every purchase, from origin to bean variety to altitude.

The complex web of certifications have already come under fire a few times lately, such as the USDA admitting they might have to completely rehaul their organic certification due to a lack of compliance and oversight. That isn’t to say these labels are completely untrustworthy. Rather, it’s our duty as customers to be extra diligent about what we buy. Just because something says it’s sustainable doesn’t mean it actually is. As such, this detailed article on a new coffee certification had me feeling a glimmer of hope.

Not only is the Jaguar Friendly program a mutually beneficial partnership between farmer and animal, they go into great detail in how the certification actually works.

Coffee farms under this certification have to dedicate certain areas of land to the jaguar’s territory, including planting trees in certain locations and focusing on shade-grown coffee to reduce the need for expensive methods of cultivation. The goal is to reduce dangerous encounters and the worst-case scenario of killing an already threatened species.

Consider looking for this label on your next bag of coffee beans. What goes around comes around, as the saying goes, and this is a very forward-thinking initiative, indeed.

disgusted woman
coffee

This Cafe Wants You To Try A Charcoal Latte. Don’t.

Do I even need to get any more specific?

Food Insider recently posted a video on a London cafe offering an innovative ‘charcoal latte’ designed for people who don’t want to drink decaf. Because, you know…decaf coffee doesn’t exist. They proceed to compare it with their recent matcha and turmeric latte offerings, two vastly superior and safer options that don’t involve you consuming ashy remains.

To put things in perspective, I won’t even eat toast that’s too burnt. …Yeah. Now imagine a cup full of the stuff.

This is more than just a gross idea. Did you know charcoal can alter your hormone levels and affect the validity of hormonal birth control? How about the fact it can block up your intestinal tract if you consume too much? I thought cafes shunning COVID-19 safety protocol were dangerous, but this might just take the cake. The prettiest latte art in the world doesn’t hide the fact that you’re drinking the burnt detritus of what was actually food, once upon a time.

(and if you want to detoxify your body, take solace in the fact your liver is already doing that)

Now, yes, activated charcoal pills are recommended by doctors in rare cases for overdoses. This, though, is just too much to be chugging weekly. Pretty latte art and twee glass mason jars won’t hide the fact this is an actual health hazard being marketed as a hip new idea to unsuspecting customers.

My favorite part of this whole mess has to be the relief that a charcoal latte didn’t taste like charcoal. When the tagline of your product could be confused for an Onion headline, you’ve messed up.