Considering the future of coffee – ICO launches ‘Coffee Development Report 2019’

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.

This month, the International Coffee Organisation (2019) launched a new flagship publication – The coffee Development Report 2019: Growing for prosperity: Economic viability at as the catalyst for a sustainable coffee sector – which explores the complexity of the coffee price crisis and the sustainability of the sector more generally. The report uses a range of ICO data, complemental by data from external sources as well as outcomes of dialogues at a series of international events to approach some of the issues around the sustainability of the coffee sector.

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.

References

Alameida, I. (2019) Starbucks pays farmers $20 million more as coffee crisis deepens. Bloomberg. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-03/starbucks-pays-farmers-20-million-more-as-coffee-crisis-deepens

Jha, M. (2019) Coffee Prices in London Tumble to a nine-year low. Bloomberg 08/10/2019. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-08/coffee-in-doldrums-as-bearish-bets-send-robusta-to-nine-year-low

Prasad, R. (2019) How the 2019 coffee crisis might affect you. BBC News 11/07/19. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-48631129

Terazono, E. (2019) Trades wake up to the cost of coffee crisis. Financial Times. 17/04/2019. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/21907ea6-5f98-11e9-a27a-fdd51850994c

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Book Review: Filtered: Coffee, the cafe and the 21st century city by Emma Felton

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.

Arabica Berlin Coffee
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.

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International Coffee Day 2019: Celebrating coffee and considering global coffee challenges

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: https://www.internationalcoffeeday.org/ )

“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”

(Source: https://www.internationalcoffeeday.org/)

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.

To learn more about the world of coffee, the BBC has recently produced a short documentary ‘How the world came to run on coffee’.

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.

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Coffee, Berlin and cheesecake

Berlin has always been one of my favourite cities. I spent quite a bit of time here over the years for different research purposes. This time I was here to explore coffee in Berlin, and in particular the coffee shop industry and sustainability as part of my current research project ‘From the grounds up: the coffee shop industry and the circular economy’. There’ll be more about the research findings in the report that will be published soon, and further down the line in academic articles that stem from this project.

Berlin Keep Cup

There’s only so much of Berlin that you can fit in a few days, but I made a good effort to try and explore lots of what the city has to offer.

  • Cheesecake from Five Elephant

So many people have told me that trying the cheesecake from Five Elephant is a must in Berlin. So, taking this advice this was high up on my ‘to visit’ list. I didn’t necessarily think this through and ended up having cheesecake for breakfast! I’d agree with all the people advising me to try it – it’s definitely worth making sure you include in your trip.

  • The Barn Roastery

I’ve now had the opportunity to try coffee from the Barn a few times when I’ve stumbled upon it a few coffee shops. It was nice to be able to visit the Roastery and see what’s going on there. A really interesting space where you can see all the roasting activities going on in the back, while also being able to people-watch out of the front window. As you’d expect from a place like this there’s range of coffee on offer, but with very friendly staff to guide you through the different options.

  • Coffee cups

I’ve written before about the Recup a reusable cup scheme that operates across a few cities in Germany. You pay a €1 deposit with your drink which you get back if you return it, there, or in any of the other participating outlets. I wanted to see how practical the scheme was in Berlin, so when I came across them when walking passed a McDonalds in a shopping centre in Potsdamer Platz I thought I’d give it a try. There’s a website, and app you can use so you can find the nearest participating outlet. Certainly in the centre of Berlin, there are plenty – and if you have a look at the map, there are plenty of options across the country. In principle it means you don’t have to worry about cleaning the cup like you would if you had your own reusable cup, and you don’t have to carry it around all day if you don’t want to. This certainly wouldn’t ever be my regular reusable cup, mainly because it’s really hot to handle when it’s full of coffee compared to my KeepCup, and more generally because I try to just stick to using the one cup when I travel. However, if I’d forgotten my cup, this kind of scheme would be good to avoid creating another wasted disposable cup.

recup Berlin coffee

On visiting Oslo Kaffeebar it was good to see a range of Kaffeeform cups for sale, as well as in use. These are cups, made in Berlin, using recycled coffee grounds. They’re an innovative example of how waste products in the coffee shop industry can be used.

  • Most sustainble

I enjoyed visiting Isla coffee, a coffee shop that tries to produce minimal waste. This article from the Nomad Barista shows you a little more of what it’s like and discusses some of their activities. It’s a coffee shop that’s managed to quite a lot with the space it has – it even had a little outside garden seating area at the back! In keeping with its ethos around sustainability there were even workshops held in the coffee shop around being more sustainable and engaging in circularity. It’s a great example of a coffee shop that’s making a real effort to be sustainable in many areas of its activities, from the furniture to the food it produces.

  • First visit: % Arabica

I’ve been following the rapid growth of % Arabica for a while now starting Japan to spread into 11 countries with lots of more branches around the world planned. It has with it’s slogan ‘See the world through coffee’. I haven’t managed to get along to the London branch yet, so the one in Berlin was my first. A range of coffee’s as you would expect, great service, and although I didn’t try the food the layout allows you to see into the kitchen to see food being prepared – it all looked very tempting. While drinking my espresso I browsed through a range of coffee shops guides for various cities and places all over the world – definitely fitting with the theme of seeing the world through coffee.

  • Favourite coffee shop

It was thanks to a connection on Twitter I was made aware of Ben Rahim specialty coffee, a little coffee shop in the Mitte area of Berlin. In addition to the range of brewing methods you would expect in a specialty coffee shop, they also had coffee brewed in an ibrik. It’s nice to be see different coffee cultures represented, and how they can be celebrated through specialty coffee too.  

These are just a few highlights from my recent activities in Berlin – a city with a fascinating history, and a diverse coffee and coffee shop landscape. It’s a city I’ll always enjoy visiting, not just for the coffee, but the place, the people and its stories.

 

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From coffee grounds to grand designs – talking about coffee shops and the circular economy at the RGS conference

Royal Geographical Society entranceIn London this week the Royal Geographical Society hosted its Annual Conference with an overarching theme of Geographies of trouble / geographies of hope. This year I presented some of my research in a session on Sustainablity, re-use and waste. The session encompassed a range of perspectives on the geographies of sustainability including research on topics from coffee, to plastic in Nepal, plastics and small island developing states to sanitation in India. While many of these presentations highlighted a series of problems around waste production, there was also glimmers of hope for how behaviours can change amongst a range of stakeholders to create a more sustainable future.

In the 15 minutes I had for the talk I tried to provide an overview of my current research project ‘From the Grounds up: exploring the coffee shop and the circular economy’ as well as some of the preliminary findings.

I’ve written on this blog before about some of the activities of the coffee shop industry and the circular economy, and some of these points were covered in the talk. After highlighting some more general ideas about the circular economy and where existing research has focused on this topic and the coffee shop industry I moved on to try and highlight some of the interesting activities taking place based on research focusing on the UK and Germany. Some examples included:

  • Cups made from coffee shop industry related waste – I had with me my Huskee cup, a reusable cup made from coffee husks, and I also talked about the Kaffeeform cups, made with recycled coffee grounds made by a company in Berlin.
  • I talked a little about new products made from recycled coffee cups, and the importance of waste management companies in transforming this form of waste. Coffee Notes are a type of notebook made from recycled disposable coffee cups. Coffee Notes is currently has a Kickstarter campaign to try and raise funds.
  • There are increasing numbers of organisations trying to do innovative things with coffee grounds. One of the most successful in the UK has been the coffee grounds recycling schemes established by Bio-bean which turns the coffee grounds into a range of biofuels. I was pleased to see when walking to one of the conference buildings one of Imperial’s coffee shops takes uses Green Cup Roasters and Recyclers which not only provide roasted coffee but services and processes to deal with the used coffe grounds afterwards.

I talked a little about some of the barriers and enablers for greater engagement in the circular economy for the coffee shop industry as perceived by businesses and consumers. This research is trying to explore some of these in more depth to begin to understand how greater engagement in the circular economy might be fostered, and the implications of this.

I’ve recently published a Centre for Business in Society White Paper on the coffee shop industry and the circular economy which covers some of the points in this presentation, and once fieldwork and analysis has been completed for this research a project summary will be made available – as well as a series of journal articles in the longer term future.

After hearing the talk several people came to talk to me with interesting things they had seen people doing related to coffee and the circular economy. I’m always interested in hearing about these, so if you know something that’s taking place with coffee and the circular economy from innovative designs to abstract uses for used coffee grounds, please do get in touch!

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Centre for Business in Society White Paper: Seeking Sustainability in the Coffee Shop Industry: Innovations in the Circular Economy

Across many sectors and industries, efforts are being made to be more sustainable, reduce consumption of materials and energy, and in many cases engage in more circular economy practices – reusing materials to create new ones, in turn reducing the need for new resources. The coffee shop industry is no exception to this, there are lots of examples of how individuals and organisations involved in the coffee shop industry are trying to do this too from using recycled material to produce coffee cups, to the use of coffee grounds in the production of energy.

As part of our research around the coffee shop industry and sustainability we have produced a White Paper that explores innovations in coffee and the circular economy. It considers the circular economy concept and how this has been adopted by some people and organisations in activities related to the coffee shop industry.

This includes a discussion around coffee cups, but also innovations around coffee grounds to produce new products, and the production of energy. It is designed to act a starting point for further research and discussion around the opportunities for different stakeholders in the coffee shop industry to engage with the circular economy.

It is available to download here:

This paper forms part of a White Paper series produced by my research centre, the Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University. There are White Papers available (and more soon to be available), related to each of the research clusters from the future of the high street, the importance of remanufacturing, to disruption and strategy in the automotive sector.

There will be more research published around the coffee shop industry and the circular economy once I’ve completed fieldwork for a current research project exploring these issues further in the UK and Germany.

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Summer sun, coffee shops and specialty coffee roasters in Porto

Portugal is a country with a long coffee history and rich coffee culture. Over the last few years I’ve been exploring the story of Portuguese coffee culture and the rise of specialty coffee in the country, particularly around the Porto area. Traditional Portuguese coffee shops remain key important spaces in communities across Portugal, and I still very much enjoy visiting these types of coffee shops not only for the views into Portuguese life, but also for the breads, croissants and doughnuts – if you’re in Portugual I really recommend the brioche type croissants and the bola de Berlim (a type of doughnut).

Porto Portugal

This summer I returned to Portugal visiting a few familiar places, as well as trying some new ones. In the past I’ve written about how some of the international coffee shop chains had begun to develop a presence in Portugal, particularly Costa Coffee being one of the first things you see when you come out of arrivals at Porto airport. This time I noticed two branches of Starbucks had appeared, both in central Porto, both busy with tourists.

Back in 2017 I went to meet Diogo Amorim, founder of Luso Coffee Roasters, one of the few specialty coffee roasters in the country, based not too far outside of Porto.  While in Portugal I received an email from the company to explain they had undergone some rebranding to reflect some changes in their activities. Luso Coffee Roasters has now become Senzu Coffee Roasters and the roaster was now located in the centre of Porto at the back of the specialty coffee shop Bird of Passage.

Bird of Passage Coffee Shop Porto

I didn’t get a chance to visit Bird of Passage on my last visit so this was one of my first stops while in Porto. A very light space, with plenty of seating towards the back. Serving Senzu coffee, we tried two V60s. With an open patio at the back right outside the roaster, it’s a quite space in the heart of the city.

There is clearly a developing interest in specialty coffee in Portugal, evidenced not only by the growth in shops and roasters, the increasing frequency of coffee competitions and events, but also indicated by the emergence of abcoffee, Porto’s first SCA approved coffee school. Abcoffee provides a range of courses and workshops on different areas of coffee led by Diogo from Senzu Coffee Roasters and Hugo Ferraz, head barista at Chá das Cinco another specialty coffee (and tea) shop in Porto.

On another trip into the city we went to Mesa325, one of the first specialty coffee shops I visited in Portugal a few years ago. Returning this year, the coffee was excellent as ever – a V60 of a coffee roasted by Senzu Coffee Roaster. They even their own roasted coffee branded for Mesa325 (roasted by Senzu). It was here that I finally got a chance to use a Kaffeeform cup. I became aware of the Kaffeeform cups through my project on coffee shops and sustainability – these are cups created with reused coffee grounds. This was the first coffee shop I’ve seen using these as one of their standard cups.

Last year I discovered a new favourite coffee shop and roaster in Gaia, just underneath the famous Porto bridge – 7g roaster. Just off one of the main tourist streets, this coffee shop has made great use of space. The roaster is really the centre piece to the coffee shop, with all the roasting activities on view. There’s also some outdoor seating and table service should you want it. 7g is part of a business that also has a series of tourist apartments so it’s not a surprise to find the place is often a mix of languages and cultures, but it’s already clearly very popular with most tables full minutes after opening. Interesting to see a few more Portuguese visitor this year. We tried a few coffees over a couple of visits during our time in Portugal, espresso, V60, a cortado and some batch brew, all of which were excellent. They had quite a range of coffees with different origins, processing methods and tasting notes, something I continue to try and learn about.

Last year we only made  a really brief stop to Fabrica Coffee Roasters, so this time we went back with a bit more time to take in the surroundings. There was a roaster on view towards the back of the shop – I don’t remember it being there last year, but it was such a quick visit I’m not sure I would have noticed. Again they had a good selection of coffees on offer, we chose to try a couple of different coffees as V60. In addition to the coffee they have a range of freshly prepared food too, with lots of great smells wafting past of plate of food went past to other customers – if I hadn’t had just had lunch I would have ordered some too!

On another day, we also made a quick trip back to Combi Coffee. It’s just outside the very centre of the city, a few minutes walk but clearly close to a lot of tourist accommodation. Like some of the other specialty coffee shops in Porto there roaster is on view at the back of the shop, and while I was there several people went over to look. They are clearly points of interest for people who are visiting.

Something that I’ve felt in all these specialty coffee shops in Portugal, is that they have a very welcoming atmosphere. The presence of specialty coffee in Portugal is more recent phenomenon compared to some other European countries, and the places I’ve been to are trying making this type of coffee accessible, with lots of information about it, if you want it. In most places where we showed an interest in the coffee or roaster, staff were very keen to give lots of details about the coffee the tasting notes and the brewing methods on offer. If you get talking with baristas and other staff in the coffee shops it becomes clear that most of the baristas and roasters know each other (as is the case in many coffee communities), but with many of them taking a collaborative approach. This was demonstrated recently when two roasters from Porto, Vernazza and Senzu teamed up to produce a coffee roasted together – with a coffee tasting held at Abcoffee coffee school. It’s clear that people in the coffee industry in this region recognise that to grow the visibility and popularity of specialty coffee it is important at times to work together.

As always, I look forward to future visits to Portugal to see how the coffee culture is developing, and to find new cafes and developments in the coffee shop industry.

If you’re interested in coffee culture in Portugal you may be interested in the previous blog posts on this topic:

 

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Costa Coffee, Coca-cola and the quest for global expansion – India and the Middle East

In 2018 it was announced that the global soft drinks company Coca-cola was going to buy the UK based coffee shop chain Costa Coffee, owned at the time by Whitbread, for nearly £4 billion. This was not the first big money deal to move into the coffee market by companies outside of the coffee industry, with the global investment JAB Holdings making a series of acquisitions including the specialty coffee companies Stumptown and Intelligentsia in the USA. Recognising a growing demand for coffee, and the popularity of coffee shops as a point of consumption many companies not wholly focused on coffee are seeking to expand their presence in this market, and in different global regions.

One country which has been experiencing fast coffee shop growth, is India with forecasts suggesting that the number of coffee shops is set to grow to 6,200 by 2020. One of the most successful coffee shop chains in India is Café Coffee Day, with estimates suggesting it had around 46% of the coffee chain market in 2015 and over 1,700 coffee shops in over 200 cities across the country by 2018. With positive growth prospects it’s not surprising to hear the other companies are trying to move into the market.

According to the Economic Times of India there are rumours that Coca-Cola are entering into talks to try and acquire a significant stake in Café Coffee day, although there has been no official confirmation. The move isn’t surprising given Asia and the Middle East are seen as key markets for expansion for coffee chains, given there is such saturation of the market in Europe and the USA.

Costa Coffee Riga 2Another region in the world that is experiencing strong growth in coffee shops, is the Middle East. Costa Coffee entered the Middle East region in 1999, but now has over 40 stores across 9 countries according to Allegra Strategies. Last year Allegra identified a series of growth dynamics for the region: the importance of convenient location for coffee shops; growth in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait the importance of localisation of coffee shops alongside the increased demand for specialty coffee. It appears these points were accurate as it has been announced that there has been an expansion of an existing partnership in the region between Costa Coffee and Alghanim Industries (established 2013) to open branches in Saudia Arabia, Oman and Qatar, with alterations to the Costa coffee menu to reflect local tastes.

In terms of future dynamics for the industry, saturation of the market in established regions is likely to continue to push companies to seek to expand in other regions, with the Middle East and Asia being at the forefront of expansion plans at present. It will be interesting to see if the global chains and brands are as successful in these regions as they have been elsewhere, or if different dynamics take place which mean the coffee shop industry takes on different characteristics.    

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Innovations in the circular economy: coffee grounds as a waste opportunity

In the UK around 95 million cups of coffee are consumed every day, which means it also produces a lot of coffee waste – around of 500,000 tonnes waste coffee grounds every year. Such amount of waste contributes to rising pressures on landfill, and decomposition of coffee grounds will ultimately contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Such volumes of waste however presents potential innovators with a huge resource base to work with, and one which many people have been trying engage with. The BBC recently reported on how two entrepreneurs in Scotland have developed a method to extract oil from coffee grounds which could be used in a wide range of products, and could even be used as an alternative to palm oil (Black, 2019). Palm oil has become an ingredient in so many products, around 50% of packaged products in the supermarkets according to the WWF (2018), but one which has also been linked to driving deforestation which has a range of damaging environmental consequences. Finding an alternative from coffee grounds is an attractive prospect if it can be scaled up and can become a viable alternative to palm oil. The two entrepreneurs Mr Kennedy and Mr Moore established Revive Eco to try and work towards this. They are contenders in a Chivas Venture competition, a global competition for social entrepreneurs to try and secure funds to continue to develop the process and develop an industrial coffee ground processing plant. According to the Chivas Venture profile Revive Eco have ‘diverted 20 tonnes of coffee ground away from landfill, saving approximately 36 tonnes of CO2’ (Chivas, 2019). Through engaging in the circular economy, using coffee waste the potential for reducing waste from the coffee shop industry and reducing CO2 emissions is vast.

They are not however first, or the only organisation which has seen the rising amount of coffee grounds as an opportunity. bio-bean, are another UK based clean technology company that collects coffee grounds and recycles them on an industrial scale to produce a range of biofuels and biochemicals. If you look in your local DIY store you may see their ‘coffee logs’ for sale, an alternative to traditional logs. Bio-bean has successfully grown from a small start-up in 2013 based in London to become a successful waste management and recycling organisation that operates nationwide. bio-bean’s life cycle assessment suggested that ‘sending waste coffee grounds to bio-bean produces 80% less Co2 emissions than sending them to landfill’ (bio-bean, 2018), again highlighting the environmental potential for this process. The proliferation of coffee waste is also evident from the types of places that bio-bean collect their waste coffee grounds, from independent cafes to instant coffee factories, highlighting that there are a range of business and organisations that can get involved in this process.

These are not the only innovators who have utilised coffee waste as a resource, there are many examples at a range of scales from GroCycle, a social enterprise who use coffee grounds as a base for growing mushrooms, to Rosalie McMillan (2014) a jewellery designer who uses a unique material made from recycled coffee grounds.  Each views coffee waste as an opportunity, to reuse and recycle and existing product, in turn contributing to the circular economy.  Given the size, global nature and growth trajectories of the coffee and coffee shop industries, the potential for using coffee waste is huge and one which needs further exploration. At Coventry University, I’m working on a research project, ‘From the Grounds Up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy’ to begin to explore this area, with a particular focus on activities in the UK and Germany.

References

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The Cup Fund has launched – seeking new ideas for coffee cup recycling

Disposable coffee cups have recently been in the news again. This time it’s because of a new effort to try and increase coffee cup recycling – The Cup Fund –  a £1 million funding scheme to kick start some ideas about how to boost paper cup recycling in different areas. The fund launched by the environmental charity Hubbub and the global coffee shop chain Starbucks is designed to support organisations (such as local authorities, business improvement districts, or even shopping centres) to get a range of recycling programmes off the ground –  at least 10 with grants of between £50,000 – £100,000 available. According to the Cup Fund website these funds could be used towards: recycling infrastructure, collecting costs, communications materials and marketing support, and staff time to create, deliver and evaluate the campaign.

Since the issue about the number of disposable coffee cups was made visible to the wider public a couple of years ago, great efforts have been made to increase recycling facilities, collection points and to reduce the number of disposable coffee cups used in the first place. The Paper Cup Recovery & Recycling Group have already reported how the UK’s capacity for recycling disposable coffee cups has increased from 1:400 to 1:25 in two years with expectations for this to increase to 1:12 by the end of 2019. However, there’s still much more work to be done, and hopefully this scheme might kick start some more activity. One thing I think this scheme demonstrates well is the capacity for different organisations with an interest in this issue to work together, not only the global coffee shop chains and charities, but paper cup recyclers (who have endorsed the programme), and professional organisations such as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory committee (who have representatives on the panel that will be judging the submissions for the Cup Fund).

The closing date for applications is Friday 24th May with announcements of the successful applications on Tuesday 9th July.

I am currently in the fieldwork phase for a research project on coffee shops and the circular economy, with the issue of disposable coffee cups being a key component. From a research perspective, this fund is well timed, and I look forward to seeing what  innovative suggestions can be devised.

Posted in Cafe Culture, circular economy, coffee culture, coffee cups, Coffee industry, environment, Starbucks, Sustainability, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment