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Monthly Archives: October 2013

On The Table

This morning, did you sip a Sidamo from Ethiopia, hit back a Huehuetenango from Guatemala, or maybe tipple a Tarrazù from Costa Rica? Did your coffee come from Africa, Asia or South America?

These single-origin coffees, alongside current industry issues, were on the table in Washington this week. NCA brought coffee – the beverage and the business – to the halls of Congress. At the biennial NCA Coffee on the Hill event, members joined members of Congress, their staff members, foreign diplomats and executive branch personnel to meet, greet , enjoy coffee and discuss related issues.

Coffee on the Hill is an event designed to afford NCA members an opportunity to interface with their legislators and legislative staffs to discuss industry-wide as well as local issues affecting their business. The event also puts the U.S. coffee industry front and center in the eyes and ears – not to mention palates – of government decision makers and influencers. Also invited to the event are diplomats and diplomatic staffs of coffee-producing countries, as well as Executive Branch officials from agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Trade Representative’s Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The October 23 event took place in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. The building is one of several that house offices of members of the House of Representatives and Senate. The tables were lined with pots of freshly brewed and served coffee, identified by their country of origin. Along with the brewed coffee, samples of the green beans and roasted beans were also on display.

Bringing a flavor of a different kind to the event were demonstrations of “cupping” and “pourover” coffee preparation. Cupping is the process by which highly trained experts taste coffees to determine their flavor profiles for the purposes of buying coffee beans or for determining which coffees to use in a roaster’s proprietary blends. Pourover is the latest craze in coffee brewing, consisting of deceptively simple-looking equipment used with great precision and expertise. The filters are wet with 200 degree water, freshly ground coffee is added, a quick water soaking is administered followed by a timed pause to allow the coffee to de-gas, which increases its absorptive properties, the remaining water is filtered through the grinds, and finally the coffee is robustly swirled in the carafe to homogenize the extraction outcomes.

Visitors to the event also received a detailed primer on the significance of the coffee industry to the U.S. and world economies, as well as a description of the key issues currently facing the coffee business. This year’s highlighted issues included: Congressional acknowledgment of the distinction between coffee consumption and caffeine ingestion in energy products at a time when government officials take a look at overall caffeine consumption; Congressional support for U.S. agricultural programs that support sustainability; Congressional funding of the Foreign Agricultural Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (FAS) and USAID to support efforts promoting coffee production that sustains farmers and the coffee supply chain; Congressional support for federal legislation that would establish a national standard that affirms the safety of foods developed using bioengineering technologies; Congressional dedication to working toward the passage of Free Trade Agreements with other nations and support for treaty provisions that would confer U.S. origin on coffee roasted in the U.S.; and continued Congressional commitment to an active role for the U.S. as a member of the International Coffee Organization (ICO). NCA is part of the official United States delegation to the ICO.

The event attracted about 500 participants, including several members of Congress and foreign dignitaries. Coffees on hand included those from Brazil, Burundi, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Rwanda.

So, next time you sip that Sidamo or tipple that Tarrazù, you may well ponder on the universe of individuals, nations, cooperative processes and governmental issues that make up the world of coffee. Perhaps, too, you’ll reflect not only on the complexity of the flavor, but also the complexity behind its arrival in your cup.



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What Kind of Brewer Are You?

Did you make coffee this morning? If so, what kind of brewer are you? A purist with a French press? A discriminating consumer using a drip coffee maker, perhaps with freshly-ground whole beans? Maybe you went cutting edge with a new pourover, Chemex or even glass titrating apparatus?

Or, are you a trend-savvy early adopter who brewed an individual cup using single-cup brewer? Statistically, one in five of you did – so says new market research from NCA.

Indeed, 20% of daily coffee drinkers said they made their coffee in a single-cup brewer. NCA’s newly published Single-Cup Format: Another Year of Growth and Impact, says that’s up from just 7% who used a single-cup brewer in 2010. At the same time, daily drinkers who use traditional drip coffee makers fell from 77% in 2010 to 58% in 2013.

If you own a single-cup brewer, you’re also in good company. Statistically, 12% of coffee drinkers do, up from 10% last year and just 4% in 2007. Awareness has soared, up to 82% versus 71% last year. If you’re in the market for one, you’re part of 17% of aware consumers who plan to purchase one in the next six months, up from just 7% in 2007.

Variety and Visibility
Drivers of the popularity of the single-cup brewing format appear to be convenience and variety. Often, making a full pot of coffee can be a time concern for the morning routine, or yields more coffee than you need. Convenience has been an important factor in consumer choices that plays out in other NCA tracking studies.

Syncing with other NCA market research, another driver of single-cup popularity is the ease of sampling a variety of coffee options. Over the last decade, consumers have told NCA they’ve become more aware of the expanding menu of available coffee options, and they appear to have an insatiable appetite to sample them. The marketplace appears to have enormous elasticity, as consumers seek out more options and look to different coffees to fill various roles throughout their day. Single-cup brewers give consumers an easy option for sampling a wide variety of coffees, even multiple ones at any given time.

Anecdotally, just take a look on supermarket and retailer shelves. The space that’s now being devoted to coffee in various capsule formats is huge. Also, appliance sellers, big-box retailers and even home furnishing retailers are creating new space to display and sell the capsules. Clearly, the marketplace is reflecting what NCA market research is measuring.

Other Data
Other data in the report span a wide array of factors related to single-cup brewer usage. Among the detailed tracking data relating to usage are: purchase intent, gifting trends and intent, time owned, usage by age group, types of beverage made, time of day, cups per day, share of coffee, and attitudes toward quality, value and convenience.

You can learn more about Single-Cup Format: Another Year of Growth and Impact and other National Coffee Drinking Trendspublications at

Information or Knowledge?

Smart business people keep up with best practices. It’s a competitive must and emblem of personal and professional pride. There’s always something new to learn. And, increasingly, there are more and more ways to seek it out. It’s a long and growing list that includes conferences, online courses, e-seminars, podcasts, and more. Just check your email inbox, and you’ll probably find more than one a day.

But information alone is not always enough. Facts, figures and presentations can make you more informed. But, information doesn’t always become knowledge. Often, it’s not what you know that counts, but how you put it to work to make changes, reach goals and solve problems.

That’s the premise behind the NCA Coffee Summit, which was held last week in Philadelphia. It’s a hybrid learning platform that combines traditional education with collaborative thinking and “open space” engagement. The facts and figures are filtered through the prism of the expertise and experience of fellow professionals. The output is knowledge that’s ready to put into play to solve nettling problems you face each day.

Say you’re a small café owner who wants to deliver a new coffee experience to customers. Or, a micro-roaster who wants to promote sustainable coffees. Or perhaps a maker of coffee-related accessories who needs to keep on top of consumption patterns and brewing trends?

The NCA Coffee Summit is designed to bring together diverse professionals from up and down the coffee “supply chain.” Bringing a spectrum of perspective to each discussion, participants mold raw information into workable strategies to solve real-time business challenges. In this way, participants can attack individual challenges from the different angles that come from their different business roles and functions. In turn, participants can go home with strategies and solutions that have been put through the business filter of professionals who know how things work.

This year’s Summit teed up three topics with special currency – sustainability, the single-serve format and risk management. Four, short presentations on the topics were followed by opportunities to interact with the expert speakers, as well as brainstorm on the topic with other attendees.

The Summit also featured a collaborative Learning Exchange. Three broad questions were raised by the professional facilitator to spark thinking and discussion on the topics. Each table of 10 participants captured their collective thoughts on flip charts, which were posted publicly for all to review. After each question, participants were shuffled to maximize attendee interaction.

Another important element of the Summit’s design is “open space” discussion. Two sessions were held, during which participants were encouraged to pose their own “big questions” to engage others in problem-solving discussions. The sessions are designed to cull the expertise and perspective of colleagues who share your concerns, and put them into play to tackle your problems. Often, insights emerge when issues are approached from the viewpoints of those who fill different roles along the supply chain.

Interactions among the participants were dynamic and fruitful. The group generated over 100 pages of flip-chart notes, which will be shared with all attendees as well as transcribed into a report. Speaker presentations will also be made available.

Clearly, the NCA Coffee Summit is a dynamic PD choice for coffee professionals in all functions and sectors. It’s a chance to explore industry issues, get your big questions answered, and go home with some practical solutions.

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Is Coffee Liver’s Firewall?

The research is rampant with evidence about coffee’s protective effects on the liver. Numerous studies from around the world have come to the same conclusion – coffee somehow shields the liver from inflammatory damage and the diseases that can result.

Over the last decade, researchers have found that coffee reduces the risk of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, fibrosis and liver cancer. Reduced risk of liver disease also carries through for higher risk individuals, such as those with diabetes, iron overload, obesity, viral hepatitis and high alcohol consumption. Researchers also found that coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer, including among those with risk factors such as pre-existing cirrhosis or hepatitis.

To boil complex chemistry down to a simple analogy, coffee appears to act as a “firewall” that blocks an enzyme implicated in liver disease. The name – alanine aminotransferase – may be hard to pronounce, but the impact appears clear. And, the compound in coffee that seems to deliver the punch is a strong antioxidant called chlorogenic acid.

Fatty Liver Disease
The latest study on the subject is a review paper from scientists in Turkey. Scouring the literature, the researchers confirm that coffee intake appears to reduce the risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), a condition that can lead to NAFLD.

All of the literature was in agreement – there is an inverse relationship between coffee intake and NAFLD. That means coffee consumption is linked to reducing the risk for the development of NAFLD. The preponderance of evidence also found that coffee reduces the risk of MetS.

As for the source of the protection, the scientists cited coffee’s strong antioxidant properties. In fact, several coffee components appear to scavenge free radicals, which in turn could contribute to the development of NAFLD. However, the researchers also cite an independent protective effect on the liver delivered by caffeine.

Complex Chemistry
In presenting their findings, the researchers noted that coffee is a very complex beverage made up of about 1,500 components. They include many antioxidants and other physiologically active compounds. It’s a long list that includes phenolic polymers, polysaccharides, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, cafestol, kahweol, and minerals. Interestingly, caffeine accounts for just 1% of what’s in the brew.

So, the next time you have that morning mug of coffee, you’ll know you’re sipping a complex beverage that may pack a powerful punch of protection for your liver. Is your firewall engaged?

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