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.

roasted coffee beans

Wrap Up Your Workweek With A Cute Coffee Bean Cookie Recipe

The news cycle is, as usual, depressing at best and maddening at worse. You have to actually remind yourself there’s good stuff out there.

Give your workweek a hearty dose of the munchies (with a side of ASMR) with this adorable coffee bean cookie recipe. They look exactly like freshly roasted beans, with a crisp and slightly crunchy texture. I can only imagine how good they smell. This is going high up on my list of ‘recipes to try’, right alongside the dalgona coffee I keep telling myself to make and forgetting.

boon boona coffee

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Boon Boona Coffee’s Decaf

I’ve been wanting to try Ethiopian coffee for a while. I mean, it’s the birthplace of coffee and all that.

Every time I search for a decaf coffee bag I take my time reading about every little detail. The goals of the roasters bringing this bag to my shelf. The benefits for the farmers toiling away behind-the-scenes, often unseen as the backbone of the industry at large (aside from a few candid photographs). It’s a lot to think about before clicking that purchase button, but it’s important. Boon Boona Coffee ticks off several of those high points for me: it’s a local roaster, a black-owned business and an Ethiopian origin all in one.

Let’s take a look at Boon Boona Coffee‘s specialty decaf variety and how it stacks up against all the coffee reviewed so far. If you’ve missed out on my previous posts, check out my recent review of Onyx Coffee Lab’s Decaf Colombia Huila or Sightglass Coffee’s Hunky Dory.

It’s time to dip into the world of classic Ethiopian coffee:

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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.

onyx coffee lab coffee bag

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Onyx Coffee Lab’s Decaf Colombia Huila

One of the first things to accept concerning specialty coffee is that you might not get every flavor note listed on the bag. Seems odd, right? It’s one of the primary reasons why you buy in the first place.

The thing is…there are just too many variables for something as subtle as coffee. Your own unique tastebuds are a huge factor in what you taste or don’t, for starters. The freshness of the roast and grind is another, literally grounded in the science behind flavor chemicals. Then there are the unique brewing methods, up to and including whether you use filtered water! As such, I’ve learned not to be entirely disappointed if I miss out on one or two of the coffee’s features. Maybe I won’t give it a round of applause, but I won’t necessarily deem it a failure, either.

So we transition into Onyx Coffee Lab and their specialty decaf variety, advertising an impressive medley of flavors that include apple, brown sugar, almond and dark chocolate. Even better? They boast some of the most beautiful packaging I’ve ever seen. If you’ve missed my previous decaf coffee reviews, check out my breakdown of Sightglass Coffee’s Hunky Dory or Counter Culture Coffee’s Decaf Kuichi.

You’re going to love this one:

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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.

Level Up Your Summer With A Catchy Coffee Tune

One of the easiest ways to get me in a good mood? Send me music!

There’s just so much beautiful work out there in need of more love. Heck, one of my daily habits is just letting Soundcloud autoplay go crazy. I was recently sent this song by one of the folks at El Parche Coffee, who write and record music alongside releasing quality Colombian beans. It’s a catchy little acoustic song that hearkens to the summery bops of Bomba Estéreo and the upbeat tempos of Don Omar. If you’re also practicing Spanish fluency (like myself), consider that another plus.

El Parche Coffee is currently focused on helping Colombians who were hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, with the goal of providing them with reliable food delivery. Their Together For Colombia products will see 100% of the proceeds donated to the cause. If you’ve got a few spare minutes or some spare change, check them out. In the meantime, grab yourself a mug, hit play and be swept away to a sunkissed beach with white sands…that ideally doesn’t require masks.

Decaf, Decaf Everywhere: Sightglass Coffee’s Hunky Dory

Is that the cutest name or what?

We’re already at the fourth entry in the Decaf, Decaf Everywhere series. That’s more than enough beans to start feeling the differences in quality. What caught my eye with this one (aside from the roaster’s adorable naming conventions) was the promise of a bergamot flavor note. For those that don’t know, that’s the tea leaf that gives Earl Grey its distinctive flavor. My tea cabinet is a pretty impressive creation, so this was something I had to check out for myself.

Does Hunky Dory truly live up to its title? Let’s take a look at this charming little bag and what it has to offer to both coffee lovers and tea fanatics. If you’re new to the series, check out my previous posts on Counter Culture Coffee’s Slow Motion or Partners Coffee Roasters’ Ghost Town.

Without further ado!

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