Since we’ve been spending so much time at home recently, we decided to try growing our own mushrooms again. If you have read some of my blog posts on coffee and the circular economy here on the ‘cafespaces’, you may well have already heard about GroCycle who I have mentioned before.
GroCycle produce kits for growing mushrooms at home using recycled coffee grounds, alongside helping others to start their own mushrooms farms, and providing various mushroom cultivation courses.
I have tried this before and was impressed with the results. Given I could guarantee I was going to be at home to use the mushrooms, and it seemed like a good activity to entertain the toddlers for a few minutes a day, I decided to try this again.
The box arrived and we made an incision in the inner package and soaked it overnight as per instructions. Then it was just a case of keeping it in a corner of the kitchen away from the light, and spraying it with a bit of water in the morning and in the evening.
Then after a while it’s possible to see changes happening inside the pack, and after a few days, the pace of growing seems to pick up. Once you can see tiny little mushrooms they seems to grow really fast. There is a noticeable difference between morning and the evening.
Then it’s just a case of waiting until they are big enough to harvest and then find ways to cook them.
We are now growing our second crop from this box, so we’re going through the same process again, so it looks like I need to find more mushroom recipes. The box suggests you should 2-3 crops per box, so we may have more after this round too.
From coffee to mushrooms, an excellent way to recycle used coffee grounds, and a great example of how coffee can be part of the circular economy.
Until recently the UK had a thriving coffee shop culture, with most high streets offering a range of different independent and chain coffee shop outlets. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold, fewer people were leaving home until the country was placed in lockdown and travel was only possibly for a much smaller number of people. The high street coffee shop culture that was present in so many towns and cities across the country completely changed. Many coffee shops, including the large chains closed, while some tried to implement new takeaway only models. As the lockdown restrictions begin to be relaxed, there are signs that some coffee shops are working on ways to reopen.
With the closure of most coffee shops, many people have been spending weeks and months at home, and have had to prepare their own coffee. There have been reports on the BBC that many coffee roasters were seeing rising online sales as people tried to ensure they had the coffee experience they were used to out of the house. For some people this has meant investing in equipment for making coffee, and finding out about new coffee roasters, or brewing methods. For others there may have been just a change in the amount of coffee consumed, but not necessarily the type of coffee, or how it was prepared.
At Coventry University we’re beginning a new research project which explores consumption behaviours during the COVID-19 lockdown to try and understand how people may have altered their coffee consumption habits, and perhaps more importantly about their consumption intentions for the future.
One of my earlier research projects on coffee shops highlighted their role in as ‘spaces of community’, places that brought people together whether that was for the coffee, the space, the food, or the people in them. In the face of ongoing measures to ensure social distancing there are implications for the roles that coffee shops can play. Changing coffee consumption patterns are just one element of this, and acts as a starting point for a broader research agenda around the role and future of coffee shops.
We have created a short survey which aims to capture information about if, and how people have changed their coffee consumption habits during the lockdown restrictions due to COVID-10, and how these might change in the future when restrictions are eased. Please consider taking a few minutes to complete the survey here: Coffee consumption and the impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions
Note: While we are exploring the situation in the UK, we are interested in experiences from elsewhere around the world too, and recognise there have been a range of COVID-19 restriction. There is a question at the end of the survey to identify which country you are from.
Until recently the UK, like many other countries across the world, had a vibrant coffee shop culture. Towns and cities filled with bustling coffee shops, with many people visiting them on a regular basis as part of their daily lives. In the last few months, this has all begun to change as COVID-19 began to spread and countries sought to implement progressively stringent measures of social distancing, culminating in lockdowns for many populations. The high street coffee shop culture that has become an integral part of many places abruptly receded. Some stores tried to limit customer numbers to enable social distancing, others switched to a takeaway only model, and ultimately many have had to close due to government restrictions on which essential businesses could remain open. While many retail sectors have tumbled due to store closures as a result of the UK-wide lockdown restrictions, a recent BBC News article reported how coffee was one of the few industries that was experiencing a rise in sales. It used the example of Rave coffee roasters, based in Cirencester, that had to take on more staff to cope with increased demand. However, this boom is not being experienced by all coffee shops and roasters, which do not have the option to stay open, do not have a roasting part of their business, or do not have the facilities to change their business to an online model.
At the other end of the scale there are indications that for some coffee shops the loss of income resulting from the extended closure will mean that business will be permanently closed, which in turn has impacts on baristas and staff who have been furloughed or may lose their jobs. Given the size of the coffee shop industry (£10.5 billion in the UK alone with over 25,000 outlets), even a small percentage change in activity will have dramatic impacts on businesses and livelihoods. As in many other sectors of the economy, the coffee industry has had to adapt rapidly. Online sales of coffee have risen sharply as people in isolation seek to ensure they have coffee to keep them supplied at home.
The Specialty Coffee Association ran a survey of its members (from a range of countries) to gauge the impacts from and responses to the COVID-19 situation. The large majority of coffee shop retail and roaster respondents acknowledged that the spread of the virus was going to have a negative impact on their business, with some suggesting that they were likely to go out of business as a result. The survey revealed how for many businesses sales to consumers in-person had drastically reduced, while sales to consumers online had increased. It also highlighted how there were a range of ways businesses were responding to the spread of the virus, with key strategies including a move towards online sales, switching to takeaway sales, communication, considering grocery channels and investigating delivery which were explored in more depth in a series of webinars.
The COVID-19 crisis has meant that for those coffee shops and roasters that have been able to remain active, they have had to adapt their businesses rapidly. There have been examples of coffee shops changing their physical layout so they can facilitate takeaway online and ensuring social distancing, with others focusing on online retail sales of their roasted coffee (or coffee of other local roasters) to try and maintain their customer base. Other coffee shops are trying to completely shift to an online model, and other still that are trying to team up with other local businesses to expand their product offering. There are clearly lots of different activities taking place in the industry to try and stay active.
In many places, coffee shops are an important part of the community, with people enjoying the routine of visiting a local coffee (or one near their workplace) as part of their daily lives. Many coffee shops and roasters have sought to maintain that connection with their consumer base through enhancing their marketing and engagement online via social media and email communications. Communication has been key for these businesses to let consumers know they are still operating, and to maintain that connection. While for many businesses social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are already an important part of operations, for others this is a more embryonic part of the business and has required a shift to use these as the dominant communication channel, rather than face-to-face interactions in the coffee shop. For some business, these adaptations of moving to online sales and increased digital marketing may come naturally, while for others these require new skill sets and resources, and they will need to support to be able to do so.
At the same time, with more people drinking coffee at home and a reported increase of purchases of coffee-making equipment for the home, there is the potential for consumer habits to change, which could have an impact on coffee consumption habits in the future. Many coffee businesses have recognised this shift and have been producing various brew guides for making different types of coffee that people would have previously just had made for them in the coffee shop.
There is currently no detailed plan for when restrictions in the UK will be relaxed, or when coffee shops may be able to resume operations again, although other countries have started to remove some restrictions, with coffee shops being some of the first businesses to reopen. On 20th April, Germany – having experienced a sustained reduction in the rate of new COVID-19 infection case, has eased restriction on shops, with many people returning to some of their favourite coffee shops in part to resume their coffee habits, but also to re-connect with their local coffee shop and its staff. While many businesses may be keen to reopen, an opinion piece on United Baristas highlights how there are many challenges associated with this. It stressed that there needs to be government support for the industry, and there also needs to be clear government guidance on issues related to social distancing, personal protection requirements for staff/customers, as well as support from landlords. When the UK emerges from lockdown, it is not going to be a return to business as usual; business will still need to navigate the changing landscape, and will need support to do so.
The impact of COVID-19 on coffee shop culture has been global, and the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) has recognised in a recent report on the crisis that the spread of the virus is ‘likely to have a profound impact on the global coffee sector, including production, consumption and international trade’. These impacts on the coffee industry, and on coffee shops and roasters in particular are still uncertain. So many questions can be raised about the future of the coffee industry, in part, because the COVID-19 situation is still rapidly evolving and societies are having to adapt and shift as it does so. Researching the coffee and coffee shop industries has been ongoing in the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) with research examining its development and roles in towns and cities, their function as ‘spaces of community’, as well as considering issues around the circular economy, and sustainability in the coffee supply chain. CBiS will continue to explore the developments in this sector to examine: What impact COVID-19 will have on the operation of coffee shops and roasters? What impact will this have on the places they are located? Will consumers shift their behaviours back to pre-lockdown conditions after restrictions are relaxed, or will a new coffee culture emerge? Will coffee shops return to the vibrant, bustling spaces in the high street as they have been in the past?
For more information on research on the coffee and coffee shop industries from the Centre for Business in Society, please contact: Dr Jennifer Ferreira or visit the research blog ‘Café Spaces’.
Several times over the last few weeks I have started to write a blog post, but I’ve never been able to finish it, the world keeps changing at a rapid pace.
Many countries around the world are dealing with the impacts of covid-19.
Inevitably this has had a huge impact on the coffee industry from producers to the coffee shops.
For our research project on sustainability in Indonesia-UK coffee supply chains we have had to move to alternative activities than had originally been planned. I will try and provide an update soon. We weren’t able to hold the workshops we had planned, but are continuing with the research where possible through different methods.
I have spent many years observing activities and change in the coffee industry, with a particular focus on coffee shops and coffee shop cultures. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen high street coffee shop cultures reduce and then disappear as coffee shops (in the UK, and in many other countries) have had to close – leaving many businesses unsure of the viability of their future, and many baristas and other staff furloughed, or in even more difficult cases losing their jobs. That said coffee cultures are still strong and many coffee roasters have seen a rise in demand through online sales, as people try to ensure they get quality coffee at home. The BBC News recently reported that coffee was one of the six things that were booming in sales, referring to the activities of Rave coffee roasters.
The Specialty Coffee Association has been doing an amazing job of keeping track of what is happening in the industry and have produced a series of webinars presenting the findings of some of their research, and discussing key issues for the industry at present, these include:
Survey results and key learnings
Pivoting to online sales: what are best practices and opportunities?
Walk-up and takeaway business in the time of Covid-19 and
The importance of communication during business interruptions.
These are great rapid response webinars that given an overview of what’s happening in the industry. You can find out more about these, and sign up for the webinars here.
As soon as I realised that I was likely to have to work from home from a while (or as it seems a very long time) I ordered some coffee from some of my favourite roasters (thanks to Cricklewood Coffee and Well Roasted Coffee), and reactivated my subscription to Dog and Hat coffee subscription. Sprudge have produced a great map of coffee companies still roasting across the world. If you’re at home and want coffee to keep you going there are many coffee roasters still operating than can send you coffee by post – think about trying to support and independent business.
It’s clear that covid-19 is going to have a big impact on the coffee industry, now, and for the foreseeable future, but its uncertain what that long term impact may be. Where you can, try and support it, and the people involved in it, wherever you are in the world.
The global coffee industry faces a number of sustainability risks from price volatility, and supply of labour to climate change and changing prevalence of pests and disease. The challenges it faces are complex, with adjustments to supply chains shaped by a variety of factors.
Indonesia is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, producing around 12 million bags (60kg) of coffee in 2018/2019, behind only Brazil (53 million), Vietnam (28 million) and Ethiopia (7 million) (ICO, 2019). For the UK, Indonesia represents an important market to source green coffee, it is the third largest supplier (15%) behind only Vietnam (22%) and Brazil (21%) (CBI, 2019).
Therefore, the sustainability risks that affect the Indonesian coffee industry are important for the future sustainability of the coffee industry in the UK too.
At Coventry University we are embarking on a new project that explores sustainability risks in the coffee supply chain between Indonesia and the UK, with a particular interest on the risks around sourcing of green coffee beans. The project is designed to generate discussions amongst key stakeholders, including industry and policymakers, about sustainability risks that are crucial for the future of the Indonesia-UK.
The research will take place in three stages:
A survey will be undertaken with stakeholders in the coffee industry in the UK who have any interaction or interest in the Indonesia-UK coffee supply chain. The results of the survey will be analysed to produce a document which outlines key sustainability risks for the Indonesia-UK coffee supply chain. To complete the survey as part of the first stage please use the following link: https://coventry.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/indonesia-uk-coffee-supply-chain-risks
A workshop will take place with stakeholders in the coffee industry in Indonesia in order to generate responses on the perceived sustainability risks identified by UK stakeholders.
The Indonesian responses and discussions will then be assessed in a further workshop with UK stakeholders.
The research has been designed to facilitate discussions between key stakeholders in both the UK and Indonesia to enhance understanding of sustainability risks in the Indonesia-UK coffee supply chain, and begin to explore how some of these may be addressed.
There are many different definitions of the circular economy, which at their core they have the same thing in common: the reduction of waste, and the movement away from a linear economy which operates on a take-make-consume-throwaway model (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2012). The circular economy has been heralded as a potential strategy to reduce consumption in resources and the production of waste, and has been adopted as an important concept for many industries seeking to ensure a sustainable future (Bundgaard and Huulgaard, 2018).
The coffee shop industry has experienced substantial growth across the globe in recent decades, with increased coffee consumption in many countries and rapid expansion of coffee shop chains and independents increasing the industries energy and resource consumption, as well as waste production. It has been recognised by many within and beyond the coffee shop industry that there are various avenues for potential engagement in the circular economy, to work towards a more environmentally sustainable model.
While disposable coffee cups have often been the point of discussion around coffee shops and waste from strategies to increase recycling rates of disposable cups, to schemes to encourage increased use of reusable coffee cups, there are a plethora of activities and products in the coffee shop that have the potential to contribute to a more circular economy.
A new research summary from the recent research project ‘From the Grounds up: exploring the coffee shop industry and the circular economy’ explores some of the activities taking place in the industry involving the circular economy. The research involves a small scale study into activities in the UK and Germany, and reveals a range of opportunities for the coffee shop industry to be integrated into a circular economy form considerations of building design and energy use, to options around coffee cups, packaging and what happens to used coffee grounds once the coffee has been made. The research revealed a range of activities related to the circular economy from zero waste cafes and coffee grounds recycling innovations to coffee cup sharing schemes and the use of refurbished materials in coffee shops.
Through examining these activities from coffee cup sharing schemes in Germany, to coffee grounds recycling schemes in the UK the research explored the different barriers and drivers for engaging in the circular economy. A crucial point the research highlights how important partnerships are between businesses and organisations for many of the circular economy innovations to be successful. These could be small scale partnerships where coffee grounds are collected by someone traveling around on a bike. Or they could be larger scale partnerships like the example recently documented in the media between Ford Motor Company in the USA and McDonalds using coffee chaff in the creation of some of their car parts (Brown, 2019). Whether it is a small volume of coffee grounds remade into just a few products or large scale recycling processes, they are all contributing to a more circular economy in which waste is reduced, and a more sustainable future may be possible.
As businesses increasingly seek to enhance their environmental sustainability, greater engagement in the circular economy is likely. In doing so this is likely to require new partnerships, new working practices, new innovations and new business models, and greater research will be needed to understand how these all work, and how the benefits can be maximised to create a more sustainable future for all involved.
There are many different definitions of the circular economy, which at their core have the same thing in common: the reduction of waste, and the movement away from the linear economy which operates on a take-make-consume-throwaway model. Many have recognised that this model is unsustainable, and by moving towards a circular economy it is possible to minimise environmental impacts while maximising economic, social and environmental benefits.
Engagement in circular economy practices varies in many way with different industries finding multiple avenues to change their behaviours. In 2019 we published a white paper which provided some insights into the activities of the coffee shop industry related to the circular economy.
Having completed the research project ‘From the grounds up: the coffee shop industry and the circular economy’, we have now published a research summary which provides some of the key findings with examples and consideration of the implications for future research. It can be downloaded using the button below.
The research explored examples of how actors in, and related to, the coffee shop industry in the UK and Germany engage in circular economy practices. It was designed to be an exploratory piece of research, and this research summary is designed to showcase some of the innovations from different areas of the industry, as well as to consider some of the enablers and barriers for engagement. In the future there will be some journal articles that provide more detailed analysis of the data from this research.
While coffee grounds are often the most obvious source of waste from coffee shops that have circular economy potential – as most recently demonstrated by Ford who are using recycled coffee chaff to make car parts (headlamp houses) – there are lots of ways the coffee shop industry and related industries can engage in the circular economy, and I will continue to explore these over time.
Much of the recent discussion in the mainstream media
related to coffee has been about the ‘coffee crisis’, the historic low of
coffee prices, and the impact this is having on the livelihoods of coffee farmers
around the world (Alameida, 2019; Jha, 2019; Prasad, 2019; Terazono, 2019 are
just some examples). It has been discussed
extensively within the coffee community, at multiple international events with
stakeholders from across the industry – you can listen to some of these
discussions and views from various stakeholders online. For example the SCA’s webinar as part of a
series on the coffee price crisis or Ric Rinehart’s lecture reflecting on the
coffee price crisis from this year’s Re:Co symposium. A
series of ‘Calls for Action’ have been launched by organisations (e.g. Global
Coffee Platform and World Coffee Producers forum) and individuals.
It is an in-depth report with a wealth of information that I
would never be able to effectively summarise in one blog post. Crucially it is
an important contribution to knowledge around the state of the coffee sector
and will hopefully prompt further discussions and actions that can help some of
the issues affecting the coffee sector. While the report spends time
documenting the state of the coffee market, and issues around price levels, volatility
and the impact on livelihoods and economic and social development it also suggests
a series of solutions to address some of the issues at production-level,
market-level and governance-level.
Importantly, it highlights: ‘public, private and civil society actors in the coffee sector all share responsibility to be part of the solution by taking measures individually and collectively in partnership’ (p.43). But also that: ‘there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the coffee sector as production systems vary greatly between countries and regions’ (p.67).
The report is rich in information about the coffee sector,
the multiple stakeholders that affect its operations and the range of
challenges it faces. The geography teacher side of me can see a range of
teaching materials that could be producers around this report, around coffee,
global value chains, and global challenges. The researcher side of me can see
how this can clearly act as a spring board to a series of research projects,
and should certainly act as a starting point for dialogue around various issues
facing the coffee sector.
A book about cafés and cities is a great addition to my growing collection of coffee and café culture books. ‘Filtered: coffee, the café and the 21st century’ by Dr Emma Felton is a book which discusses so many of the issues that are at the heart of my research, and is in many ways a book I would have loved to have written. The book begins with a quote from Merry White’s ‘Coffee life in Japan’ –“The café is a shape-shifter. Its persistence is due to it malleability” – and this is an important starting point for examining café culture, and the role of the café in different places around the world. The book takes the reader on a global journey around different café cultures with particular emphasis on Australia, Japan and China, although lots of other places are also discussed.
Chapter 1 sets the scene for the remainder of the book by considering the developments of cafés in cities, the rise of specialty coffee culture, the implications of this for some cities, and consumer culture. Chapter 2 explores the social and community aspects of the café, and how this has changed over time. It highlights how the concept of the café as a ‘third place’ as termed by Ray Oldenburg, is not a new concept, with cafés as social gathering sites dating back to 16th century. It moves on to discuss has cafés can be places of sociality, consumption and the extent they can be hospitable places in cities. The author makes interesting observations about how socially inclusive cafés can be – as is noted throughout the book there is a great diversity in types of cafés and the people that inhabit them, which has implications for what activities take place their position in the city’s consumptionscape.
The book then moves onto focus more specifically on coffee, exploring production and consumption patterns, the rise of specialty coffee and various aspects of the coffee production process. Important sections highlight the problems facing coffee producers, issues around inequalities faced at different stages of the coffee industry as well as environmental issues facing the industry.
Chapter 4 moves on to focus on café culture in Australia, it’s history and development, and how the concept of Australian café culture has itself been exported to other cities around the world inspiring places such as Bluestone Lane in New York to Kaffeine in London. Chapter 5 shifts to explore cafés in Japan acknowledging how like many other countries ‘Japan’s café history is clearly linked to it’s metropolitan development’ (p.90). The chapter provides an in-depth look into Japan’s coffee and café history. Moving across the continent to China and Hong Kong chapter 6 considered some of the different coffee and café development trajectories experienced on the Asian continent. There is an acknowledgement of the role of international chain coffee shops in the development of urban café cultures in China, as well as the importance of technology in the development of the industry in this area of the world. The book then moves onto discuss different aspects of café interiors and the importance of café ambience and environment for affecting interactions in the café space, and how the aesthetics of a café can affect its appeal. The book touches upon the importance of technology for the café at various points, but makes it a core focus in chapter 8 to examine how technology has shaped modern café cultures – from Wi-Fi provision to social media, virtual reality and café as a place of work.
This book takes the reader on a global journey of café culture, covering different aspects of café histories to more recent developments. The author brings the café spaces to life with vignettes of different visits to cafés in multiple cities, and excerpts of interviews with various people related to the cafés. It helps the reader understand how the café has become an important element of the global urban fabric in different ways, and the various approaches that can be taken for understanding the café phenomenon. While the presence of cafés may be a global phenomenon, and very much one that is centres in urban areas, the nature of these cafés, and café cultures is varied, and this book provides great insights into some of this diversity and the important elements of it, for cities and their inhabitants. This book represents not only an important addition to scholarship on café culture, but about a particular element of urban life, and the various roles that a café can play in the development of urban spaces.
1st October is International Coffee Day. This event is designed to both celebrate coffee and recognise the millions of people from across the globe that are involved in maintaining and developing the coffee industry from the farmers to baristas and beyond. It is estimated that around 3 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day, across the world, with this number continuing to rise each year. While this popularity and growth is something to celebrate it is also important to consider in terms of the challenges facing those working in coffee, and the challenges facing the coffee industry as a whole. This is something that International Coffee Day tries to do.
2019 has seen some of the lowest coffee prices
in decades, sparking many to recognise that the coffee industry is in
crisis. These prices have serious implications for the sustainability of
livelihoods for coffee farmers.
“Coffee faces a dramatic issue, as the prices that
producers receive today are more than 30% below the average of the last ten
years, threatening the livelihoods of coffee farmers and their families”. (Source:
“research shows that from a US$3 cup of coffee the vast majority of small growers receive as little as the equivalent of one cent”
Related to this year’s International Coffee Day is a petition has been started on change.org for a pledge to support a living income for coffee farmers. There are also lots of events happening all over the world related to International Coffee Day which you can find out more about on the website.
On 27th September the International Coffee Organisation announced that against the backdrop of sustained low coffee prices a new taskforce was being established involving the ICO, private sector companies and organization to try and explore potential actions to stabilise price levels and ensure sustainability for the industry. It also announced in an ICO press release that it will be launching a flagship report on International Coffee Day: the 2019 Coffee Development Report priding an assessment of key trends in the coffee sector and potential actions to address some of its challenges.
The coffee price crisis is of course in addition to growing challenges such as climate change, and diseases such as coffee leaf rust which contribute to a multi-dimensional coffee crisis. For more information about climate change and coffee, there is an excellent report from the SCA in 2018 – Climate Change and Coffee: Acting globally and locally. A new book has also just been published ‘Coffee is Not Forever’ by Stuart McCook which charts the history of coffee leaf rust, and in doing so an environmental history of coffee.
Coffee is integral to many of my research interests: from
how coffee shops became important parts of modern life; the role of coffee
shops in different urban and rural spaces; to considerations of sustainability
and how the circular economy can be an important concept for the coffee and
coffee shop industries. The challenges facing the coffee industry affect all of
these things and so are integral to my research interests too. I’ll be trying
to highlight these more in the coming months as some of the findings from my
research are disseminated, and integrate them more into future projects.
If you’re enjoying some coffee today, take some time to
consider all the people that have been involved in creating that drink for you
from the farmer who grew the coffee, the people who worked at the processing
station, to the roasters and barista who prepared it for you.