4 Alarming Things You Should Know About Your Cup Of Coffee
Do you drink coffee? If not, you're weird. 83 percent of Americans do, and 64 percent down the brown at least once a day. And whether you're drinking a super syrupy Unicorn Frappuccino or a $12 cup of stuff that's passed through a weird cat-like creature, there are some things about this industry which you should definitely know. Like how ...
K-Cups Are Terrible For So Many Reasons
If you saw a bag of coffee on the shelf for $50 a pound, you'd rightfully expect either a transcendental taste sensation and/or a level of mental alertness that would allow you to see into other dimensions. Yet you can easily wind up shelling out that much if you're buying it in the form of K-Cups.
Developed by a guy who regrets inventing it, the Keurig system uses small plastic pods that are filled with coffee grounds and then used once, which is how NINE BILLION of them were thrown away in a single year. Keurig's Waste Producer (TM) is now amazingly popular -- some version of the tech is found in almost one in three American homes, and it's getting more widespread every year. It's just so convenient! Not like the brutal, backbreaking process of using a drip coffee maker.
Oh, you want to buy reusable coffee pods to limit the damage? Too bad, as Keurig purposefully changed the software in their coffee makers to prevent you from using their greener competitors' designs and ignored plans for reusable pods of their own. Want to at least throw your used pods in the recycling bin? You can't, as they're mainly made of a non-reusable plastic and designed not to be dismantled (the company keeps insisting a recyclable version is coming).
All this just for coffee that tastes bad for a whole bunch of technical reasons (grounds that are somewhat stale, water temperature too low). But hey, at least it shaves like 20 seconds off the coffee-making process.
Those Small Artisanal Brands Are Actually Owned By Huge Companies
Picture the target demographic for high-end "artisanal" coffee roasters like Intelligentsia, Stumptown, or Blue Bottle. You're probably seeing a 20- or 30-something hipster with an undercut who reposts AOC's Instagram stories. This is not a person who bows down to The Man when they're drinking their fair trade juice. Giant corporations see that guy and say, "I bet we can turn his anti-corporate rebellion into a pretty sweet profit!"
So as the "third wave" anti-Starbucks coffee movement began to sweep across the United States in the 2000s, Big Coffee took notice. Brands like Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Caribou, Pret A Manger, and Peet's were all swallowed up by JAB Holdings Inc., whose backers incidentally admitted to Nazi ties and war profiteering back in the day, and are currently worth an estimated $37 billion.
Meanwhile, Blue Bottle coffee was acquired by Nestle in 2017. Nestle, if you haven't heard, has one of the worst track records of any corporation -- which is really, really saying something. So the next time you're feeling good about yourself for paying an extra couple bucks for a more ethical and flavorful coffee experience, remember that you're supporting a company that (allegedly) spent decades lying to mothers about the health effects of its products and can't say for certain that it doesn't use slave labor to produce its coffee.
Good Coffee Will Only Get Harder To Grow
While those of you living in Canada might enjoy wearing jorts in January, global warming has severe implications for the coffee-growing regions of the world (along with, well, everywhere else). It starts with the fact that coffee beans come in two varieties, Robusta and Arabica. While both can be used for brewing, Arabica beans are preferred by consumers for their more neutral flavor -- Robusta beans are actually much higher in caffeine, producing a bitter taste. If you're even the mildest of a coffee snob, chances are you're drinking Arabica. Everyone from McDonald's to Bulletproof Coffee uses them exclusively.
Unfortunately, Arabica beans are extraordinarily sensitive to, well, pretty much everything in the environment, needing a very specific amount of shade, rainfall, and altitude. They're also vulnerable to a bunch of diseases -- really, any change in their conditions at all. Robusta beans, on the other hand, thrive under more basic farming conditions, merely requiring direct sunlight. Too bad they taste like the inside of the Death Star trash compactor.
According to former Starbucks CEO and current "Meh, I guess I'll run for president" guy Howard Schultz, there's no way to make the more practical Robusta beans palatable to the public. This is gonna be a problem. One study proposed putting Arabica beans on the endangered species list after major coffee exporters like Ethiopia and South Sudan saw rising temperatures accompanied by a decrease in rainfall.
As similar conditions arise in South America and East Asia (where the farmland suitable for Arabica beans is expected to drop 70 percent by 2050), we are headed toward an inevitable coffee shortage that would simultaneously spike prices and put millions of farmers out of work. It's a good example of how climate change isn't one big problem, but hundreds of big problems affecting every little thing in your life.
We're Peeing Caffeine Into Our Waterways
Like Bruce Banner in everyone's favorite Marvel movie, caffeine can be found in South America, where it occurs naturally within coffee beans, cacao beans, kola beans, and tea leaves. These caffeine sources are also found in Africa, East Asia, and other tropical regions, but not North America. So when caffeine began to show up in the seas of the Pacific Northwest, scientists took note.
It appears that we are now drinking enough caffeine that our urine carries it out into the ocean, where it is then consumed by wildlife. High levels of caffeine were previously found in the Boston harbor and were attributed to "treated sewage," like some sort of extremely roundabout homage to the Boston Tea Party. Treatment plants typically don't specifically monitor caffeine, maybe because they never thought we'd ever piss that much of it. Don't underestimate us, science!
What effect does caffeine have on plant and animal life? Who knows! In humans, the conventional wisdom has swung from "Coffee is ruining your heart" to "Coffee is literally the only thing keeping you alive right now" just in the last few years. So it could be decades before we figure out how caffeine affects, say, jellyfish. But let's admit that the odds are against it making their lives better.
Also, we'd love to know more about you and your interesting lives, dear readers. If you spend your days doing cool stuff, drop us a line at iDoCoolStuff at Cracked dot com, and maybe we can share your story with the entire internet.
Follow us on Facebook, ya'll.