2014 was an exciting year for our beloved coffee, some good, some bad, some strange. As we approach the end of the year we've taken a look at some of the more notable stories of 2014.
December: A Time For Giving … But Probably Not Cocaine.
December, time for giving and the warm feeling when we see others open their presents. These acts of generosity were put to the test in Berlin when a local coffee roaster opened up their latest shipment of coffee from Brazil, to find it contained 33 kilos of cocaine! We're unsure whether they had a hearty Christmas smile on their face, but we're presuming confusion and fear was a more likely response. They reported the "shipment" to the police and Santa.
November: Peak Coffee Prices
Coffee prices reached their peak in 2.5 years during November. The dry weather in Brazil that has affected much of their yearly crop played a significant role in the increase. Much of the speculation now is how this year drought will affect the crop in 2015. Although there have been rains over recent months, the question still remains as to how this will impact the flowering of new plants over 2015.
Many are predicting that if the weather returns to a semblance of normality, then the crop should be roughly the same as 2014. If weather continues to become more extreme then production would fall below the levels of 2014.
October: Cup North
A little closer to home we saw the inaugural "Cup North", a coffee party for all coffee lovers in the north of England. Put together by the local coffee community it was a chance for the spotlight to shine on the culinary and coffee developments outside of London.
While the focus was on coffee, the 2-day event also promoted beer, chocolates and some of the exciting "foodie" developments in and around Manchester. Let's hope it continues for 2015.
September: Coffee & Biofuels
There are many known alternative uses for leftover coffee ranging from an effective compost, to being used an odor remover for whiffy socks. One of the most exciting developments of 2014 was the new company Bio-Bean.
Set-up in January by Arthur Kay, the company takes the used coffee grounds from London coffee shops and turns the waste into an advanced bio-fuel. In September they received a € 500,000 grant from the Dutch Lottery.
Although widely suspected as a bribe with which to increase their scores from the UK during EuroVision (OK I made that bit up), the money will help the environmentally green Bio-Bean expand their operations and build a plant large enough to handle the processing of the collected coffee grounds. One gold star for Bio-Bean. A great idea and good luck for 2015.
August: Coffee Theme Park Given To Green Light
If you've ever dreamed of visiting a theme park with a giant caffeinated mouse, then August may have been the month for you. Funding was granted to develop a 64 acre coffee theme park in the Gangwon Province in South Korea.
The area has seen lot of development ever since the announcement that the 2018 winter Olympics were going to be held in the area. Designed as an environmentally friendly family theme park, the location will also house a production, roasting and distribution facility. Presumably the latter won't be of interest to the kids. A distribution roller coaster with embossed livery on the side doesn't really appeal to children.
The project will however create over a thousand jobs for the local community and feature a resort and coffee museum.
July: Fresh vs. Instant
In July the Euromonitor International Study published their latest research highlighting the continuing growth of instant coffee in countries that historically were associated with tea drinkers, namely China, Turkey and India. Almost half the world prefers instant coffee to freshly ground coffee .
In the UK, although the coffee market maturing and we're seeing a greater understanding of fresh and gourmet coffee products, the instant coffee market continued the gain strength especially when being consumed at home. Quite surprisingly in the UK us Brits are responsible for over a third of all instant coffee sold in Western Europe.
While it's still often viewed as unacceptable to offer instant coffee in many social or business situations, when at home these malleable rules seem to go out of the window. Convenience in many situations wins over quality.
Part of the growth was attributed to the marketing of instant coffee, many of the words traditionally reserved for fresh coffee were finding their way onto packets, jars and bags in the supermarket. One product describes itself as the world first "whole bean instant" … we still have no idea what that means!
June: World Championships
June saw the winner of the 2014 World Barista Championships. The title eventually went to Hidenori Izaki of Maruyama Coffee Company, Japan. The judges awarding him the prize after evaluating all contestants on a selection of criteria including their cleanliness, creativity, technical skills and presentation.
Hidenori was the 15th winner of the competition, produced and held by the World Coffee Event (WCE). The annual championship was held in Rimini, Italy and was the culmination of many local and regional finals throughout the world.
Congratulations to all participants especially Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood from the UK who eventually came in 5th, yes we are showing geographical bias.
Champion: Hidenori Izaki, Japan
2nd: Kapo Chiu, Hong Kong
3rd: Christos Loukakis, Greece
4th: Craig Simon, Australia
5th: Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, United Kingdom
6th: William Hernandez, El Salvador
May: Coffee & Cows
It seems that used coffee grounds can be used for almost anything! Starbucks partnered with a Japanese manufacturer of contacts lenses in the hope of turning leftover coffee grounds into a viable and environmentally friendly livestock feed for the Tokyo dairy market.
The fermented grounds were removed from the stores at Starbucks and incorporated into the food for cattle. The process has been tried before but the results showed that the coffee acted as a diuretic among the cattle and the high salt content was a concern. Apparently the new process includes lactic acid fermentation that ensures the feed produced became a viable option. Again, we have no idea how this works, but it sounds very impressive.
April: UK Barista Championships
If you mentioned the World Championships during April most people (probably tea drinkers) would immediately think of the F1 Grand Prix in China, or the start of the Snooker World Championships with its whispering and dapper waistcoats. To the creative coffee folk of the UK, April could only mean one thing; the build up to the Barista World Championships had begun.
Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood who took home his second title ultimately won the regional UK Barista Championships, held during the London Coffee Festival. Congratulations to Maxwell. With the award firmly tucked under his arm he would travel to Italy to compete in the World Championships in June. Flying the flag for the UK … probably without a waistcoat.
Feb / March: The Football World Cup
Much of the speculation during February and March was around the football world cup and how the Brazilians passion for their national sport would affect the coffee industry.
With around a third of all coffee coming from Brazil, the concerns were that the games held in Rio De Janeiro would disrupt the production, delivery and overall infrastructure of the coffee industry. At the risk of sounding anti-climatic it all worked out OK, even if it did not for the Brazilian football team.
January: Myth Busted
We've probably all heard the old wives tale that coffee causes dehydration. We're told that we should drink a glass of water for every cup of coffee we consume. Where this theory comes from we have no idea, but research released in January from the University of Bath connected that this was actually a myth.
Rather than cause dehydration, moderate coffee consumption actually hydrates us in a similar way to water. Personally if I was stranded in the Sahara with the choice of either a cup of coffee or nothing, I'd definitely choose the former … but only if it had cream … and sprinkles.