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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, but 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.

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The Classic Coffee Cup Gets A Clever Makeover

The coffee cup is an iconic staple of day-to-day life. It’s also loaded with unsustainable bells and whistles that create a lot of waste every year.

Just how much waste? According to a study by The Guardian, the UK alone tosses over 2.5 billion paper coffee cups every year. Even worse, a mere one out of every four hundred cups is actually recycled. That means towering landfills, worsening air quality, and, of course, the omnipresent threat of irreversible climate change. Being presented with yearly figures like these makes sustainability conversations feel like a useless loop. It’s all a lot of positive fluff with little to actually show for it.

This redesign to the classic coffee cup has a few thoughts on the matter. Fast Company shared an interview with the creators of this Kickstarter-backed coffee cup, hearkening to Chinese takeout and origami in its lid-free and sleeve-free design. It’s easy to fold and unfold, without fear of spilling, and cuts into the dismal statistics left by wasteful coffee culture. One of my favorite details are the lovely animal-focused prints by Alexis Kandra, chosen specifically to keep buyers mindful of the very environment they’re supporting. Now that’s mindful packaging design.

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Like Hawaiian Coffee? You’ve Probably Been Ripped Off

The coffee origin topic is a seed that sprouts a thousand branches. Fair pay. Quality beans. Environmentally sustainable farming techniques.

Kona coffee, a rare and famed Hawaiian origin, has been struggling with an image problem for years. Every time I’ve searched for it I would see countless advertisements insisting just how much more authentic they are than the competition. Little bit of a red flag, right? This ‘hidden in plain sight’ issue has finally reached a head: Daily Coffee News has posted a report on the staggering $13 million lawsuit targeting several roasters and wholesalers for false advertising.

A lot of Hawaiian coffee on the market barely has any Kona beans. Some have none at all. Today’s coffee businesses are well aware, using sly marketing campaigns that actively bank on consumers having little to no clue what goes into coffee sourcing, much less why it’s even important. Several cash settlements have already been made, though the issue is ongoing and is including such industry titans like Safeway and Wal-Mart. Expect to hear more about this.

Coffee origins aren’t just a series of trendy buzzwords to be recited at a party. They give us a bigger picture on what we’re buying, as well as who we’re supporting…or rather, not supporting. I want to support the delicious and unique coffee that comes from Hawaii, not exploitative tactics that bolster big business at the expense of local farmers.

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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?

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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 “Five Fundraisers And New Businesses To Support On National Coffee Day”
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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Travel Around The World Without Leaving Your Room: Atlas Coffee Club Subscriptions

Coffee is such a trip sometimes, both metaphorically and literally. It’s a taste of somewhere else right in the palm of your hand.

The coronavirus has added a few caveats to the day-to-day coffee experience. Cafes are a health hazard. Grocery stores are much the same. Homebrewing is an increasingly popular option…provided you have a little disposable income left for equipment, that is. Atlas Coffee Club is one of many coffee subscriptions to crop up over the past year, though with additional incentive: they want to give you a worldwide tour through single-origin, specialty coffee delivered to your doorstep. Nicaragua, Uganda, Ethiopia, Colombia, Mexico, the list goes on.

That’s not the only appeal. They offer two coffee sizes — 6 oz and 12 oz — if you don’t want to over-commit to a blend you’re not quite sure you’ll love. You also get different shipping frequencies depending on your coffee drinking habits. It takes me between two to four weeks to get through a 12 oz bag, as I switch off between coffee and tea. I originally wasn’t interested in a coffee subscription due to preferring direct orders, as well as concerns about freshness. It just seemed like another middleman without the benefits of being selective.

Reading this, though, really has me reconsidering. This could be both cheaper and much more fun in the long run. …Also, the packaging is gorgeous. I could look at these bags all day.