loving coffee in the time of COVID-19

As we transition into what we all hope will be a temporary new normal, it’s natural to expect an impact on cafes and the coffee industry as is the case with pretty much every business in every industry.

Here are a few changes that have already happened:

  • some cafes have stopped allowing customers to bring their own reusable cups, among them Starbucks, 3fe in Dublin, and Wrecking Ball in the SF Bay area. Stumptown‘s cafe in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill wasn’t accepting reusables when I visited yesterday, but I’m not sure if this holds true to all their locations.

  • Counter Culture has suspended its weekly public tastings and monthly cupping events

I haven’t seen a specific notice from Counter Culture if they are also suspending one-off classes at their various training centers, but I went to the listing for their Washington, DC training center and the registration links to all the listed events show them to be unavailable.

  • per Sprudge, coffee festivals/expos have been canceled or postponed in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Paris, London, Dubai, and Hamburg. The fate of the Specialty Coffee Association’s upcoming major events in Portland and Warsaw is currently up in the air, but they have postponed or canceled gatherings and courses in Shanghai, Frankfurt, and Trieste, Italy. Sprudge has a page of live updates of coffee-related Coronavirus news.

  • we may see some shops shift to cashless, as handling currency could potentially help spread viruses. You’ll likely see a lot more staff making drinks and handling food while wearing protective gloves.

  • be particularly thankful and supportive of shops that are taking steps to protect their staff, their customers, and their business partners, and are transparent about it. Looking at 3fe again, they have been out ahead on this front, notifying their customers of the increased cautions they are taking:

Wrecking Ball has also publicized the steps they are taking, which go so far as cash handling protocols and providing protection for customers using the cash register touchscreen:

And while I am no fan of their coffee, kudos to Starbucks for their efforts as well. You can find a page on their website with updated information on the steps they are taking to support their employees and customers.

I’m no expert, and no one has asked me, but my advice at this point would be to continue to support your regular merchants if you feel comfortable doing so. If you don’t, then make your coffee and home and hopefully we can return to normal soon.

Please continue to wash your hands often and thoroughly, and stay home if you’re not well.

And finally, be even kinder than usual to your barista. Cut them some slack if they can’t take your reusable cup or if they have stopped accepting cash, that’s to help you as much as it is to help them. If you can, consider stuffing an extra dollar or three in the tip jar. They’re likely seeing reduced business these days and it will probably get worse on that front before it gets better. Now is the time to be at your best, given that the person on the other side of the machine may be an hourly worker without sick leave.

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