Bostonians Dedication to Dunkin’ Donuts

A recent Daily Meal article explains how Dunkin’ Donuts surpasses various other coffee chains thanks to the dedication of Bostonian customers who grew up with the brand.

And the shops that were considered to be “below average” in consumers’ minds? Bruegger’s Bagels, Caribou Coffee Shops, McCafé, and Tim Hortons. While many may be surprised that Dunkin’ beat out Starbucks (The Huffington Post points out another survey that ranks Starbucks as the coffee brand to beat), those in Boston — home of Dunkin’ — aren’t surprised at all. One blog post from Esquire honors Bostonians’ dedication to Dunkin’ Donuts and their hometown, in light of the recent Boston Marathon tragedies. Writes Paul McMarrow, “Dunkin’ is ubiquitous. Bostonians grow up surrounded by the stuff…. Dunkin’ is a metaphor for Boston itself. It inspires fierce devotion from locals, despite all obvious measures of its inadequacy. We love it and defend it, because it’s ours.”

While I do not favor the flavor or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, it is good to see loyalty between a city and it’s brand.


Rocker turned Roaster

One musician has made the unconventional leap from alternative rock to coffee roasting.

That’s not something you see everyday.

Angels and Airwaves guitarist David Kennedy recently opened James Coffee Co. in Poway, Calif. His intentions are set on only using ethically sourced coffee beans:

Roasting is a pivotal waypoint on a coffee bean’s journey to creating a good cup of coffee, but even a skilled roaster cannot transform a bad coffee bean into a good one. That is why at James Coffee we begin our process with passionate farmers who scrutinize every raw bean and endeavor to perfect each crop they harvest.

We examine diverse locales and only source from farmers who are committed to supporting their community, providing healthy environments for their employees, and producing the highest quality coffee beans for us to roast.


Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance Coffee Certification Booming

While the term fair trade regularly comes up in coffee shop conversations, I rarely hear of organizations speaking about purchasing Rainforest Alliance certified coffee beans.

However, according to a recent article released by Reuters and published on the Scientific American, more big name corporations are purchasing the certified coffee and causing the sales from Rainforest Alliance certified farms to soar. IN the past year alone, sales have increased nearly 18 percent.

According to the Reuters article, the Rainforest Alliance owes partial thanks to McDonald’s:

Rainforest Alliance attributed much the growth in the coffee it certified in 2012 to significant quantities being purchased by large companies such as McDonald’s Corp’s U.S. and Canadian operations, Caribou Coffee Co In, Second Cup, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc and Nespresso. McDonald’s USA recently began sourcing 100 percent of its espresso from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, the organization said.

The Rainforest Alliance’s goals are to conserve the rainforest by promoting various levels of sustainability, to promote plant growth, and to limit drastic changes to the surrounding eco-systems. The certification also tries to limit child labor on the farms. Despite the good qualities, only 30 percent of the coffee package sold needs to meet Rainforest Alliance standards.

So it seems the increase is due to consumers and companies realizing that the coffee they purchase does indeed impact the world we live in.

Daily Coffee News recently reported this story and discovered the same cause:

The nonprofit agency (Rainforest Alliance) announced last week that coffee produced on its certified farms last year reached 375,000 metric tons, representing 4.5 percent of total global production.

“By choosing to source coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, companies are having demonstrable impacts on the ground, conserving natural resources and improving the lives and livelihoods of farm communities,” Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance, said in an announcement of the 2012 figures. “More companies are realizing that sustainable certification also makes good business sense, ensuring long-term viability of supply-chains.”

The rise in consumption of ethically sourced coffee is nothing new to the coffee world, or even to The Caffeinated Consumer, but it is a trend that has steadily gained more and more interest and followers over the years.

And when looking at the benefits, it should continue to rise in popularity.

According to the reporting done by Reuters:

“Over 118,000 coffee farms covering almost 800,000 acres are now Rainforest Alliance Certified and meet rigorous standards for best practices and environmental and social sustainability,” Rainforest Alliance said in a release last week.

Coffee is not the only commodity certified by Rainforest Alliance that has become increasingly popular. Global production of its certified tea rose to 11.5 percent in 2012, up from 9.4 percent in 2011 and 3.2 percent in 2010, a Rainforest Alliance spokeswoman said.

When looking at the numbers, and the steady increase of major corporations switching to Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified coffee, it is safe to say that we have not seen the last of ethically farmed coffee in our daily morning mugs.

Did you know that you were drinking Rainforest Alliance certified coffee nearly every time you grab that oh-so-sugary caramel frappe from McDonalds? I didn’t; But somehow I feel better knowing my chain coprotartion coffee is not farmed by a young child working in unsafe conditions.

Can Vietnamese coffee draw Americans away from Starbucks?

Starbucks is crossing swords with Vietnam’s top coffee company, Trung Nguyen. Starbucks opened its first store in Ho Chi Minh City on Feb. 1 to capitalize on the rapidly expanding Asian coffee market. Meanwhile, its aggressive would-be competitor Trung Nguyen has an eye on Seattle, New York and Boston, according to Bloomberg.

Fueled by a rise in Vietnam’s coffee fortunes, Trung Nguyen wants to surpass the world’s largest coffeehouse brand. It’s a lofty goal, but don’t write them off just yet. Vietnamese coffee could be filling a new coffee niche in the U.S. before you know it.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) shared several interesting aspects of the Vietnamese coffee “takeover” in an April 17 article. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee exporter, and its farmers grow the robusta variety of coffee rather than the arabica beans most U.S. coffee drinkers prefer. Vietnamese coffee is typically brewed slowly in individual cups and mixed with sugar, sweetened milk and ice, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Vietnamese coffee farmers have leveraged technology — like irrigation methods or checking current coffee prices on their phones before bringing their beans to the market — and their production has skyrocketed, according to AFP:

Vietnamese coffee farmers have changed the global market: if you had a cup this morning, there is a high chance you consumed at least some Vietnamese beans with companies such as Nestle and Britain’s Costa Coffee among major buyers.

In 20 years, Vietnam went from contributing less than 0.1 percent of world production in 1980 to some 13 percent in 2000.

The article then turns to the owner of the coffee chain Trung Nguyen, a man named Le Nguyen Vu whose personality comes through in every quote. Trung Nguyen has 55 stores in Vietnam and exports its coffee to 60 countries. Vu strikes a confident tone in an article in Bloomberg:

“U.S. customers should be able to enjoy cups of authentic coffee,” said Vu, a farmer’s son who founded the company in 1996 and is its sole owner. “Their level of coffee appreciation is probably not high yet, but we’ll work on that.”

Actually, I know several people in the U.S. whose “coffee appreciation” is quite high. Maybe Vu means simply that American consumers haven’t yet developed a taste for robusta coffee? Or maybe he’s just sure of his own success:

“Starbucks no longer has the personality it had when it first started,” Vu said. “That regime will soon end. We are trying to be the one who replaces them.”

And is Vu worried about the U.S. coffee giant’s expansion into his country? Not really, based on this quote from an interview with Vietweek:

With their huge revenues and expansion plans, Starbucks could cause worry among many firms about the competition. This is a challenge, but we should have a strong spirit to compete. It could much be stronger than Vietnamese firms in terms of finance and experience, but it does not mean we don’t have any way to overcome it. We, with just two small workshops, competed well with famous coffee producer Nestle nine years ago.

Interesting fact: One variety of Trung Nguyen coffee is meant to imitate the flavor of beans taken from a kind of rodent (civet) feces, according to the Bloomberg article. That’s one area, at least, where they have an edge on Starbucks.

Video by AFP. 

Caffeine’s for the bees


Caffeine improves the memory of bees who visit coffee plants, according to research published recently in Science (published March 7). Researchers found that caffeinated nectar makes honeybees remember odors better, and caffeine was linked to the neurons associated with the bees’ long-term memory. Science blog post on the research suggests there’s still a lot we don’t know about bees and caffeine:

Now, [researchers] want to see if bees go out of their way to feed on caffeinated nectar, perhaps even ignoring predators to do so—behavior that, if observed, could shed light on the neurological processes behind addiction.

Before this research, people had believed that plants produce caffeine as a kind of defense mechanism against predators, according to The Hindu:

Note that the raw bean or leaf is bitter to taste, and the animal would shy away, leaving the plant alone to grow and flourish.

So, some animals despise the taste of the caffeine in plants’ leaves and beans, but honeybees like the caffeine and might even become addicted. Fascinating, no?

Kierkegaard drank coffee all wrong


Mason Currey wrote about artists’ coffee habits and obsessions yesterday in the latest of his “Daily Rituals” series on Here’s an excerpt:

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard “had his own quite peculiar way of having coffee,” according to the biographer Joakim Garff. “Delightedly he seized hold of the bag containing the sugar and poured sugar into the coffee cup until it was piled up above the rim. Next came the incredibly strong, black coffee, which slowly dissolved the white pyramid.” Then he gulped the whole thing down in one go.

I don’t think I could take that much sugar, but I guess it worked for Kierkegaard. Also in the same Slate post, check out Balzac’s effusive description of coffee in the artistic process:

Coffee glides into one’s stomach and sets all of one’s mental processes in motion. One’s ideas advance in column of route like battalions of the Grande Armée…. Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live. [Read more]

What’s the link between coffee and creativity? Lots of famous artists and leaders — including Beethoven, L. Frank Baum, Paul Erdös — loved their caffeine. Sure, it might be just a coincidence. But are you willing to take the chance?

Caribou blues

Customers who stopped in at their local Caribou Coffee this morning might have gotten an unexpected surprise: The doors were locked and the lights were off.

The company closed 80 stores over the weekend and will convert 88 stores to its sister brand Peet’s Coffee & Tea in the next year and a half.

Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee is the nation’s second-largest coffee chain. Now, it will have only 468 Caribou locations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina and Denver. There won’t be any more Caribou Coffee in the Chicago area, which was the company’s second-largest market, and the company is also leaving Michigan and leaving its almost two dozen stores in Washington, D.C., among other places.

The move is linked to a strategy by the German company Joh. A. Benckiser, which bought and privatized Caribou Coffee last year, then bought Peet’s Coffee & Tea in a separate deal. Last Friday (April 12), Benckiser announced plans to buy the European coffee brand D.E. Master Blenders 1753, according to The New York Times:

The deal is one of the largest takeovers so far this year in Europe, and is the latest coffee acquisition for Benckiser, an investment vehicle for the wealthy Reimann family of Germany, which also owns well-known brands like Jimmy Choo shoes and Sally Hansen nail polish.

But the biggest lesson to come out of the move isn’t the business strategy involved in re-focusing a brand after a major acquisition. It’s simpler than that: Don’t leave  your customers in the dark when you’re taking away their favorite shop.

The news came without warning and without much explanation, and it came through employees before it came from the company itself. In a report on the closings on April 8, Chicago’s WGN said simply, “A spokesperson wouldn’t return our phone calls or emails.”

President and CEO Mike Tattersfield did release a brief statement on April 8, as reported by the Detroit Free Press:

“Over the past few months, we at Caribou have revisited our business strategy, including closely evaluating our performance by market to make decisions that best position us for long-term growth.”

Since the company didn’t publish a list of the affected locations, reporters had to deduce which local stores were closing by contacting employees at each store. WGN interviewed an employee who said Caribou only gave him nine days’ notice before the store was to close.

Meanwhile, whoever handles the company’s Twitter and Facebook is now responding individually to customers groaning about the store closings. Shortly after Caribou released a vague press release about the closings, Carol Tice criticized the brand’s social media strategy on, saying that they should have posted more about why the decision was necessary. What we’re seeing now seems to be an improvement, even if some customers are still confused. Maybe the company hired a new PR specialist?

People are highly emotional about their coffee — especially, perhaps, because the company’s conversational, upbeat brand strategy makes for loyal customers and employees. As Mary Schmich said in the Chicago Tribune:

Caribou customers have been in mourning, as if for a pet or a friend, grief that has been met with some mutters of, “It’s only coffee.”

Caribou Coffee napkin photo by Anjum, Flickr Creative Commons.

Family owned: seed to beverage

Portland, Oreg. may be weird, but they know how to brew.

A Portland family has taken the next step from owning a coffee farm in Brazil to opening up their own coffee shop, Nossa Familia.

“My family has been growing coffee for more than a century in Brazil and I am so proud to showcase the fruits of their labor,” (Owner Augusto Carneiro says). “At our espresso bar, our customers will experience what we do from seed to cup.”

Carneiro believes this is the first coffee shop of this kind with no middleman standing between the production and sales.

And since I will be in Portland in about three weeks, I may just have to visit this family-owned cafe.

How does production of the beans change how you view about coffee? Comment below.




Are K-Cups sustainable?

When you’re in a rush and are lacking the time needed to brew an entire pot of coffee, single brew machines just might save your life. Or they just might make you happy.

However, Green Mountain Coffee has seen some skeptical attitudes toward their use of these one time use pods, with some saying that they are being wasteful and are not following their ec0-friendly values.

Green Mountain Coffee is standing by their belief that the pods actually reduce waste. To prove this, the Keurig Company has introduced My K-Cup, a reusable filter that inserts into the machine.

Eco-friendly or not, My Keurig saves me time and gives me my morning cup of coffee, and I am eternally grateful.

have you used K-Cups before? What do you like, or dislike, about them? Comment below.



Coffee an ever-growing trend


I’ve never really thought of coffee as anything but popular. I mean, my mother first introduced me to coffee as a child, limiting my consumption to special holidays which only heightened the drinks value in my adolescent eyes.

Now, at 21, I drink a minimum of one cup a day.

According to a recent article published in USA Today, the author discovered that coffee consumption and sales are only increasing:

About 83 percent of adults drink coffee in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer of the beverage, up from 78 percent a year earlier, according to the National Coffee Association’s 2013 online survey. That’s an average of three cups a day per person, or 587 million cups. The only weak spot: volatile young drinkers, who last year drank less coffee.

Industry experts credit a handful of diverse factors driving coffee’s escalating popularity. The most cited is the growth in hot-selling home-brewing gadgets, with single-serve coffee makers leading the pack. Other strong factors: gourmet offerings, coffeehouses with hip appeal and health benefits.

“Coffee has become important to us on so many levels and there’s no signs its cachet is going away any time soon,” said Joe DeRupo, National Coffee Association president. “It’s part beverage, another part pop culture.”

While I think this seems blatantly obvious, it got me thinking: could coffee finally be overtaking tea as the most widely consumed beverage? Not including water, of course.

As detailed in an article on, coffee is starting to overtake some previously tea dominated Asian countries as the preferred drink of choice. Japanese consumption is up by almost 300 percent, 400 percent in Taiwan and 1,800 percent in South Korea since the mid-1990s.

While the demand for coffee grows in these countries, consumption in the United States has switched from customers seeking the average cup of joe to an artistically designed, non-fat, caramel latte – or any other gourmet cup.

The USA Today article depicts this:

According to the recent NCA survey, consumption of gourmet coffee remains strong and steady, with nearly one-third of U.S. adults drinking a gourmet coffee each day. At the same time, those drinking traditional coffee dropped from 56 percent in 2012 to 49 percent this year.

“We’ve gone from drinking mass-produced coffee to specialty coffee. People today are more educated about coffee than ever before. They know where it’s grown and how it’s roasted,” said Matt Poole, owner of Giant Coffee, a downtown Phoenix shop that pours single-origin coffee roasted in San Francisco.

“They want coffee to taste exactly how they like it.”

Not only is demand for artisanal coffee growing, sales are increasing for single serve brewing machines like K-cups, or pods to satiate the apparent need for at-home coffee shop coffee.

However, a new study shows why people are eager to reach for the daily cup of java; regular coffee consumption may lower the risk of a stroke.

People who drank at least one cup of coffee daily had about a 20-percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who rarely drank it. People who drank two to three cups of green tea daily had a 14- percent lower risk of stroke and those who had at least four cups had a 20-percent lower risk, compared to those who rarely drank it.

Also coinciding with this study was the growing number of tea sales, which have risen over the past 20 years with annual sales of $2.2 billion.

So, in the end, coffee may not be overpowering tea as world-wide drink of choice, but consumers of either beverage seem to have a chance at lowering health risks with whatever path they choose.

No matter what outcome, though, coffee will always be my first morning choice. And afternoon. And evening.