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The Extraction is Not Yet a Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Italian espresso shot

Italian espresso shot

An industry-backed consortium of Italian coffee representatives have renewed a half-decade-long campaign to add Italian espresso to the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. The list is a growing catalogue of traditions and practices that are indispensable markers of any given culture — like this masked dance of the Drametse community of Bhutan, the art of Chinese seal engraving, or even the Turkish coffee tradition. The New York Times was at the launch (paywall protected) of a press event to promote the Italian efforts, which in coffee terms are somewhat progressive and regressive, as traditions are wont to be:

Luca Fabbri, a consultant for the consortium, noted that the regulations developed by the consortium had already improved the national coffee culture.

“Even if we don’t get the UNESCO recognition, we’ve already hit the jackpot because the Italian coffee sector is united,” he said.

A standard-issue exports market report this week from Reuters incidentally provided a sharp reminder of how the global arabica market has had a profound affect on many farmers who may already be struggling with poverty. While noting that exports of Honduran coffee are up about 16% from the same one-month period last year, the report also shared estimates that total exports will be down for the year:

Officials attribute the expected fall to lower international market prices and drought hitting some farms, and say depressed prices have forced many small and medium-sized coffee producers to give up on the crop altogether and set out as U.S.-bound migrants instead.

“Many migrate to the United States, paying off smugglers with the little money they have left,” IHCAFE director Mario Rene Palma said.

MarketWatch also chimed in with a piece on coffee prices this week that features interviews with several notable analysts and traders in the coffee industry. It’s also interesting to note who was not interviewed:

J.M. Smucker Co. SJM, +0.72% , the producer of Folger’s coffee, and Massimo Vanetti Beverage U.S.A., the producer of Chock full o’Nuts, could not immediately be reached for comment. Starbucks SBUX, +2.14% ; Keurig Green Mountain, a division of Keurig Dr Pepper KDP, +1.27% ; and Walmart WMT, +0.74%, Target TGT, +1.03%, Whole Foods AMZN, +0.25%  and Kroger KR, +1.92% also did not respond to requests for comment.

coffee plant

coffee plant

Drought in parts of Indonesia could lead to dramatic production losses and the lowest export levels in more than a decade, according to Indonesian coffee industry sources in a Bloomberg News report this week:

The dry spell could cut total output to 10 million bags in the year starting in April from 11.5 million to 12 million bags in the current year, said Moelyono Soesilo, head of specialty coffee and processing at the Association of Indonesian Coffee Exporters and Industries. That’d be the smallest since 2011-2012, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Each bag is 60 kilos.

The long-term outlook may be even worse in the coffeelands of Puerto Rico. A widely disseminated report from NBC Universal this week noted that while the country’s coffee industry is still reeling from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, a period of sustained droughts and severe El Niños may be headed to the island, while government agencies — particularly the U.S. federal government — have done little to help protect the sector:

Procafé, a nonprofit organization created post-Hurricane Maria to help the coffee industry bounce back, is concerned that another drought could threaten the progress it has made.

“We are not prepared,” said Procafé’s president, Iris Jannette Rodríguez.

While a roaster’s day-to-day duties may at times feel tedious, it is important to remember that to people largely unfamiliar with the processes that turn coffee from green to brown, they are actually fascinating. To be a roaster is — to borrow a popular term — to be an industrial maker. Popular Mechanics this week shared the story of roaster César Vega, who was born in Nicaragua before eventually settling in New York City and launching Cafe Integral:

Born in Jinotepe, Nicaragua, Vega’s family moved to Miami when he was 3. He recalls being a maker from early on. “I was always breaking stuff and fixing it,” he says. He installed and repaired car stereos from middle school through high school. “I remember how much I wanted a high-powered radio-controlled boat or plane. But my boat was slow, so I extended one of the propeller shafts to make it go faster and turned it into an airboat.”

Version 3

Cafe X press photo.

With roasted coffees and a drinks menu designed to replicate those found in today’s high-end multiroaster coffee shops, San Francisco-based robot coffee kiosk provider Cafe X has opened its fourth kiosk in perhaps its most high-traffic location to date, the San Jose International Airport. From Cafe X:

Cafe X at SJC features an all new Robotic Coffee Bar that was designed and engineered with the insight and operational expertise from running three prototype machines in San Francisco since 2017, which have served hundreds of thousands of customers. A welcoming and stimulating interior design complemented with modern user interfaces, chill hip-hop beats, and a dancing robot create a familiar, yet futuristic specialty coffee experience unique to Cafe X.

While many coffee roasters’ charitable efforts this time of year tend to benefit partners in their supply chains, Marin County, California’s Equator Coffees is leading an important charitable effort closer to home. Equator Director of Coffee Culture Devorah Freudiger told Daily Coffee News that through conversations with numerous nonprofits to which the company donates coffee, it became apparent that people supported by those organizations were also in dire need of warm coats, too. Here’s more from Freudiger:

We are asking our cafe regulars to pick up an extra coat during their holiday shopping for someone who needs one locally. We live and work in one of the most economically divided regions of the country and, the regulars at our cafes are those who can afford the luxury of specialty coffee. They likely don’t think twice about purchasing a coat for themselves or their families and would probably be moved to find the money to pick up an extra one if they knew about the need.


Kevin Wencel. Courtesy photo.

Minneapolis-based coffee roaster and retailer Spyhouse Coffee Roasters has added former chef and food industry veteran Kevin Wencel as president to help guide the growing company. Here’s more from Spyhouse, which now has five retail locations throughout Minneapolis, plus one in Saint Paul:

Spyhouse Coffee Roasters has named Kevin Wencel as President, leading operational strategy and business growth with a commitment to building strong producer partnerships and elevating the coffee community.

Wencel brings more that 20 years of experience and leadership in the food and hospitality industry, including US Foods, Team Four Foodservice, the Blue Plate Restaurant Company, and Cooks of Crocus Hill. He worked his way up from Sous Chef at Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis for James Beard Best Midwest Chef Alex Roberts to Corporate Executive Chef at Blue Plate, simultaneously managing operations for five restaurants.

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