Many of us drink coffee every day as part of our morning ritual, pounding down the door at Starbucks like junkies in need of a fix, only turning back into normal people after that first sip of delicious brown liquid.
Unfortunately, we are supporting an industry that is bad for the environment, and grossly mistreats both local workers and coffee farmers. For those of who you only might be bothered for purely selfish reasons, they are also deceiving you every day, and probably gleefully cackling away as they pocket your money day in and day out.
10. Starbucks Legally Evades Taxes In The UK
Starbucks has come under serious fire in the UK for cheating on their taxes. Of course the astute, or perhaps cynical among you, will point out that pretty much every company cheats on their taxes. It’s as obvious as pointing out that baseball players use steroids, or that Chevy Chase has become a horrific actor.
However, Starbucks is under investigation by two British Parliamentary committees, to find out how they were able to avoid paying 1.2 billion pounds in taxes since 2009. Why all the special attention to Starbucks in particular? Well, because Starbucks decided to break new ground in tax cheatery, with a deceptively creative approach. You see, many companies simply report losses to avoid taxes. However, Starbucks, while reporting said losses, were also telling their investors how profitable they were, which is pretty much an awful thing to do.
9. Starbucks Has Been Found Guilty Of Numerous Union-Busting Tactics
Many companies try to bust their employee’s attempts to unionize. It’s not exactly profitable to give workers more benefits and pay after all. However, Starbucks gets special attention because they call their employees “partners,” and go to great effort to claim how great they are to said partners. While they are making these claims, they are doing everything they can to bust the backs of any attempts to organize.
In Chile, Starbucks was ordered to pay a settlement to workers, and sign a contract with their union. In Michigan and Ohio, Starbucks had to post a notice in their own stores, admitting to wrongdoing. Starbucks attorneys have also been described as “aggressive,” and some lawyers say they have a track record of flaunting labor laws. We could give examples of their anti-union actions for pages, but there’s only so much time in the day.
8. Famous Coffee Chains Do Not Have Very Good Coffee
The top coffee chains will go to great lengths to talk about how great their coffee is. Who hasn’t heard slogans like “America runs on Dunkin,” and other such tripe? However, what they don’t want you to know is that, while they may be profitable companies, their coffee is actually not that good at all. In taste tests, not only do most popular chains not take the top spot, they are rarely anywhere near it. In recent years, Eight O’Clock has been one of the top coffees, though the taste testers can get things wrong as well. This leads us to our next point.
7. Most Coffee Isn’t Any Different From Any Other Coffee
Every company tries to differentiate their product, but most coffee is similar to any other coffee. Most coffee beans come from Brazil and Colombia, and many coffee companies buy from the same farms. And those experts who decide what coffee tastes the best? They are easily fooled. In their most recent taste test, they claimed that Eight O’Clock did not taste as good as it did in previous years, but a spokesperson from the company says that the only thing that changed was the packaging. It seems that all it takes is a difference in visuals to fool supposed expert tasters.
6. The Decaffeination Process Involves Toxic Chemicals
Decaf coffee is quite popular among that strange breed that enjoys the taste of coffee, but doesn’t want any of its useful effects. It seems similar to drinking non-alcoholic beer, and makes about as much sense.
But for those of you who do enjoy it, you might be alarmed to find that the decaffeination process involves toxic chemicals. To remove caffeine, the beans are soaked in a solvent, usually Dichloromethane. Also known as methylene chloride, this is a toxic chemical that can metabolize as carbon monoxide, and is a suspected carcinogen. Skin contact can lead to burns, and inhalation has caused hepatitis and optic neuropathy. While you probably will not be inhaling the chemical, it is believed that long term exposure to it can cause damage to the liver and kidneys, memory loss, poor coordination, and reduced thinking ability. To put it simply, drinking decaf over a long period of time might make you stupid, and damage the same parts of your body that you hurt with alcohol abuse.
5. Coffee Companies Are Pulling A Bait-And-Switch With Your Beans
The price of coffee has recently been on the rise. Some companies just deal with this by raising their prices, and explaining to consumers that it’s due to the increased demand and decreased supply. Some companies however, in an effort to remain competitive, have tried to keep prices level by changing to lower-quality beans. Most coffee is Arabica, which is much more pleasant to drink, and tastes better. However, Robusta is another type of bean, and it is cheaper because demand is not nearly as high. Robusta not only doesn’t taste as good, but generally makes you more irritable, jittery, and aggravated than Arabica does.
An agricultural bank found that demand for Robusta has increased by 25%, and demand for Arabica has fallen 27%, which sounds like one is starting to replace the other without them telling us. One roaster has admitted to it, but they are all trying to keep it on the down low.
4. Mycotoxins Might Be In Your Coffee
Mycotoxins are a natural and poisonous fungus that can grow on many products, and that includes coffee beans, if the conditions are right. It is hardly talked about, although it’s been a problem in agriculture for years. The initial contamination is sometimes hard to avoid, because it comes from spores in the air and the ground. Even though it’s a poisonous fungus, most countries have an allowable limit, so basically you can be given product that’s poisonous, as long as it poisons you just a little bit, and slowly.
One of the most popular methods for removing mycotoxins from green coffee beans only reduced the amount by 75%. It’s hardly encouraging to know that you are only being poisoned by 25% as much fungus as you would have been otherwise. In news that will surprise probably no one, it seems that the coffee roasters don’t care all that much about our health.
3. Coffee Makers Explode All The Time, And Manufacturers Are Dangerously Negligent
Many big companies like Jarden and Tassimo put badly tested products on the market, that are made with inferior quality materials. They are known to explode, causing bad burns and sending glass shards flying into people’s skin. They will often sell all the stock of a particular product before they bother with a recall at all, because getting it all out of the way in one shot is less expensive than dealing with multiple issues over time.
This can mean dozens, or even hundreds, of injury complaints before they take action. In one case, 164 people had to complain to a company, with 59 reporting serious burns, before a recall was issued. In another situation, over half a million Mr. Coffee units had to be recalled because steam built up, and eventually caused hot water and coffee grounds to explode all over the place, causing serious burns. It is far cheaper to simply toss an untested product, made of inferior quality materials, and issue a recall after all the units are sold, than to actually be responsible. So of course, that’s the route that companies go.
2. Coffee-Growing Causes Serious Damage To The Environment
Coffee is not the first thing that jumps to mind when it comes to damaging the environment, but the truth is it takes an awful lot just to produce one pound of coffee. A single coffee tree only produces 1 to 1.5 pounds of coffee a year, and production isn’t even profitable until its fifth year onward.
It also turns out that growing coffee takes an incredible amount of water, to the tune of 110 billion cubic meters per year, just to keep the world supplied with coffee. Because water is a renewable resource, that initially doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize that many countries that produce coffee are facing water shortages. It turns out that about 99% of coffee production degrades soil and water, and destroys habitats. It also turns out that, since the 1970’s, many rain forests have been cleared away to make way for coffee plants, many grown with substances that some consider toxic. Not to make this too depressing but, if you are environmentally conscious, there really isn’t a guilt-free way to drink coffee.
1. Coffee Growers Are Ritually Mistreated By The Industry
Speaking of depressing: it’s rather important to point out that most coffee is grown by what essentially amounts to slave labor, a mouthful of suffering in every sip. Many coffee farmers actually make less than the cost of producing their product, and will be cheated out of their hard-earned product by middlemen, ultimately profiting maybe $500-1000 per year. This leads to an endless cycle of debt, borrowing to keep an unprofitable business going for an industry that makes boatloads of cash. Much of the coffee you drink is harvested by children. Some of the bigger farmers who own coffee plantations can get the market price for their coffee, though their workers are still treated terribly.
While these facts may be quite depressing, they are unlikely to get people to stop drinking coffee. Coffee is, of course, a drug, and drug addictions are typically hard to break. Just remember next time you sip your latte at Starbucks, someone, somewhere, got screwed so you could perk up for a few hours.
Written By Gregory Myers