On the rise of independent coffee shops in Guatemala…
The El Injerto coffee shop, with its silver stools, brick-and-chalkboard walls and The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” playing softly in the background, resembles many cafes in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. But it is in Guatemala City, where paying $5 for a cup of coffee has not always been so common.
Coffee has been one of Guatemala’s most important export crops since at least the early 1800s. Only in the past few years have Guatemalans started to consume their own world-renowned product on a larger scale.
“The growth has been exponential in the last five to eight years,” says Evelio Francisco Alvarado, general manager of Guatemala’s National Coffee Association, known by its Spanish acronym, Anacafe. “This growth has stemmed from the increase in coffee shops not only in the capital, but also in other parts of the country.”
Coffee — it’s something many can’t start the day without. In Italy, it is a cultural mainstay, and the country is perhaps the beverage’s spiritual home.
After all, Italy gave us the lingo — espresso, cappuccino, latte — and its coffee culture is filled with rituals and mysterious rules.
Caffé Greco is Rome’s oldest café. Founded in 1760, it’s also the second oldest in all of Italy, after Florian in Venice.
On a recent hot summer afternoon, Caffé Greco was packed with tourists on settees upholstered in red velvet. They sipped coffee served on tiny, marble tables, while admiring 18th-century landscape paintings that hang along damask-lined walls.
Varying opinions on the medicinal value of coffee, tea, and chocolate…
When Italian botanist Prospero Alpini traveled to Egypt in 1580, he discovered a world of unusual plants—strangely shaped bananas, bright red opium poppies, chunky baobab trees. After returning to Europe three years later, Alpini publicized his findings in two volumes, De Plantis Aegypti and Da Medicina Aegyptiorum. Among their illustrations and descriptions of the wondrous flora of the Middle East and North Africa were observations of a peculiar plant: the coffee bush.
This plant would not only find its way into daily rituals across Europe—it would upend a millennia-old medical mindset.
If you’ve stepped into a hip coffee shop lately, or bought a bag of gourmet beans to grind at home, you’ve probably noticed something: Coffee now arrives with lots of information about where it came from, sometimes as specific as the name of the farm where it was grown. There’s Bella Carmona from a volcanic region in Guatemala, or Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe varietal—which often smells of blueberries. In short, this “third-wave coffee,” as it’s known, is going the way of wine. A fine cup of joe supposedly reflects the soil and microclimates where the beans were cultivated, as well as the labor practices surrounding their harvesting.
“In the course of a few years, a fancy coffee went from a Starbucks latte to a cup of individually poured coffee from some particular cooperative in the highlands of an equatorial country,” explains journalist Alexis Madrigal. He’s the host of a new podcast called Containers, which is all about how the shipping industry shapes the global economy, and is way more riveting than you might think. He joined us on our latest episode of our food politics podcast, Bite, to talk about the “hidden back end” of the fancy coffee revolution.
Good news, Americans who love starting the day with hand tremors: Black Insomnia Coffee, a bag of caffeine that debuted in South Africa last year under the guise of being coffee, arrives Stateside today. To make sure people grasp what they’re reckoning with here, the company has come armed with lab tests scientifically backing its “world’s strongest coffee” claim. Creator Sean Kristafor says he worked with Gerald Charles, a top South African roaster and barista, to reach a borderline-dangerous caffeine level — 702 milligrams for 12 ounces — through painstakingly sourcing robusta beans. Also, 16-ounce bags are Amazon Prime eligible, making them, for better or worse, “instantly available to the American public.”
Jonathan Zagouri, 29, owns Zaggi’s, a coffee bar in Copenhagen. What makes Zaggi’s stand out in this city that drowns in cold brew, $6.50 lattes, and Aeropress filters is that all of Zaggi’s coffee, cake, toast, and sandwiches cost $2.20. And Jonathan is not the prototype of a Copenhagen barista; he has been with combat troops in Afghanistan, he brews coffee for the upper class as well as street people, and he has declared war against Copenhagen coffee prices.
More than three decades ago, during a trip to Milan, Howard Schultz was inspired to turn the coffeehouse chain into a space that served as a community gathering place. Now Schultz, the company’s CEO, has announced Starbucks is opening its first location in Italy, in the heart of Milan’s city center.
One might think Italian coffeehouses would be shaken by the looming arrival of this global java giant. But many are saying, bring it on.
Offering to do the office coffee run can seem like the only way out of a long Tuesday afternoon in front of a screen, but as anyone who has ever ordered seven almond milk macchiatos at once will know, it can also get expensive. Especially when the whole floor’s ears prick at the mere mention of free caffeinated beverages.