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Has Coffee Gotten Too Fancy? - The New York Times
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"But unlike those shops, where a cup can cost $3 or more, Locol charges just $1 for a 12-ounce coffee, or $1.50 if you want milk and sugar. Rather than offer free condiments and pass on the cost to all customers, those who want milky, sweet coffee pay for their pleasures, while drinkers of black coffee get a break. As for getting it chilled, that’s on the house: Iced coffee costs the same as hot.

“There’s an extreme democratization that I really want to make happen in coffee,” said Tony Konecny, 44, the head of Locol’s coffee operation, who goes by Tonx. Good coffee, Mr. Konecny said, should be brought to a broad audience, not just a “self-selecting group” of epicures.

“Coffee still thinks that mass appeal is a sign of selling out and inauthenticity, but everybody wears Levi’s,” he said of the culture. “I think contemporary coffee has failed to find the consumers it should be finding.”"

"Locol is rolling out a coffee brand called Yes Plz and plans to eventually open coffee windows and stand-alone shops in addition to supplying its three locations: a restaurant and a bakery in Oakland, Calif., and the restaurant in Watts. A 12-ounce bag of Yes Plz coffee sells for $8 to $9. (By comparison, a 16-ounce bag of Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend is $8.99.)

There is, of course, another fast-food chain that is known for its coffee: McDonald’s. The company has embarked on a project to make all of its coffee sustainable by 2020 by innovating at every level of its supply chain — investing in its farmers, for instance, as many of the much smaller, high-end coffee companies do. (Coffee sold at McDonald’s restaurants in Europe already meets the company’s sustainability standards.)

The scale of McDonald’s business is vastly different from Locol’s, but the consumer experience isn’t, not when it comes to coffee: Both offer a cup that is cheap and approachable.

The efficiencies of the fast-food model are what allow Mr. Konecny to buy high quality beans at a premium of about three times the price of commodity coffee and still sell it for $1. The coffee comes from Red Fox Coffee Merchants, a boutique importer that supplies some of the country’s most exacting roasters; Mr. Konecny work closely with that company’s buyer, who in turn works with farmers to finance them and determine best practices for growing the beans.

The coffee is brewed by Locol’s kitchen staff, and when a new batch is prepared the old batch is cooled and mixed in with cold-brew coffee to be served on ice: There is no waste. Black coffee is easy to scale up; stand-alone coffee shops, with their intricate menus (cortados, almond milk lattes, iced matcha spritzers) can’t compete.

“You couldn’t run a coffee shop selling coffee for a dollar,” Mr. Konecny said. “It wouldn’t be a sustainable business.”"

"Still, Mr. Rubinstein says that Mr. Konecny makes a good point. “Kudos to him for trying something so out of the box,” he said. “It makes you think about all the restaurants that are doing exactly what he’s doing, and literally are charging five times what he’s charging.”

Mr. Konecny’s ambitions for Yes Plz go beyond selling a high-quality cup of coffee at that magic price point, though he recognizes that it sends a powerful message. What he wants to do is shift the very nature of coffee culture. He has no patience for what he calls the “culinary burlesque” of pour-over bars, with their solemn baristas and potted succulents. “It’s dress-up,” he said.

Those settings and presentations, he said, send the wrong message: that good coffee must also be expensive and fetishized.

“We have become overly focused on this ingredient preciousness, single-origin puritanism,” he said. As a result, he added, coffee just keeps getting “fancier and fancier.”

In a sense, Mr. Konecny is facing off with his own history. A respected veteran of “specialty” coffee, the industry term for the high-end market, he worked for Victrola Coffee Roasters in Seattle starting in 2002, when the company was a hive of innovation. He was then hired by Intelligentsia Coffee to help direct its expansion to Los Angeles, and later started his own roaster, Tonx, which he sold to Blue Bottle Coffee in 2014.

“A lot of my colleagues don’t understand what I’m doing here,” he said.

The mistake, in his view, was for independent coffee shops to define themselves in opposition to Starbucks and other chains, and to create — inadvertently — a culture of nerdy superiority.

“You throw at all your customers that coffee is this delicate, special thing that has to be done exactly right on exactly this equipment,” he said.

But does the $1 price go too far? “My worry is that this will reinforce the idea that specialty coffee is inherently overpriced, when it’s the opposite,” said Charles Babinski, a co-owner of G&B Coffee and Go Get Em Tiger, in Los Angeles. “The best coffees in the world cost nothing when you compare it to the best beers or a fancy glass of wine, and the margins that businesses take on coffee are smaller than you’re going to find in a bar.”"

"Mr. Konecny is following a different formula. If Verve and other high-end shops identify with the world of gastronomy, Locol looks to street culture. “There’s something about street wear in particular, where a kid from around here and a billionaire getting off a private jet are both wearing the same thing,” he said. His vision is for Yes Plz to be the shaded part on a Venn diagram where the tastes of wildly different demographics converge.

That’s why there is no gastro-sermonizing at Locol, no talk of farms or varieties. The coffee on the menu is either hot or cold, and served with a cheerful lack of ceremony.

Still, the information is there for those who want it: A dedicated Twitter feed will relay details of that week’s coffees. “People who want to go down the rabbit hole can, but it’s not what we put on the bag,” he said. “You don’t have to buy into a set of conceits about how to buy or understand coffee to enjoy it.”

The way Mr. Konecny sees it, good, inexpensive coffee can and should be everywhere, and not just at Locol: “What we know about coffee sourcing, coffee roasting, coffee brewing, coffee service — there’s really no reason why you couldn’t make the coffee at every bodega taste good.”"
2016  food  coffee  locol  mcdonalds  yesplz 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Corporations are taking advantage of our underfunded public schools
"There are a lot of problems with McTeacher Nights, teachers and advocates for reduced commercialism in school argue. The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood conducted research last year on how much money is actually raised on these nights and found that they typically only provide $1 to $2 per student. In return, McDonald’s gets free labor from teachers, free advertising, and introduces a product to children in the hope of creating brand loyalty.

“What are we saying to educators? Are we not telling our educators to put in eight hours a day and then asking them to work a shift at McDonalds? For paltry field trip money?” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, NEA vice president of United Teachers, Los Angeles, who added that teachers shouldn’t be promoting unhealthy food. “It’s another way to privatize education. Education is already privatizing and this is just another way to do it.”

These events also help its public image. McDonald’s looks like a great corporate citizen, despite the fact that it could simply donate money to schools in amounts that would dwarf what schools receive from participating in McTeacher’s Nights."
schools  publischools  labor  economics  funding  money  politics  policy  privatization  corporatization  uber  mcdonalds  verizon  advertising  nestle  pepsico  generalmills  bumblebeefoods  cocacola  togethercounts 
october 2016 by robertogreco
McDonald's: you can sneer, but it's the glue that holds communities together | Business | The Guardian
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"“Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.” When our public institutions no longer serve the public."

and noting
"Same with other chains (like Starbucks, KFC) in my neighborhood. Places for youth to assemble too, when programs come with too many strings."

"When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks. They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s.

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy."

"In almost every franchise, there are tables with people like Betty escaping from the streets for a short bit. They prefer McDonald’s to shelters and to non-profits, because McDonald’s are safer, provide more freedom, and most importantly, the chance to be social, restoring a small amount of normalcy.

In the Bronx, many of my friends who live on the streets are regulars. Steve, who has been homeless for 20 years, uses the internet to check up on sports, find discarded papers to do the crossword puzzle, and generally escape for a while. He and his wife Takeesha will turn a McDonald’s meal into an evening out. Beauty, who has been homeless for five years, uses the internet to check up on her family back in Oklahoma when she can find a computer to borrow.

Most importantly though, McDonald’s provide many with the chance to make real and valuable connections. When faced with the greatest challenges, with a personal loss, wealthier Americans turn to expensive therapists, others without the resources or the availability, turn to each other.

In Sulfur Springs, Texas, in the late morning, Lew Mannon, 76, and Gerald Pinkham, 78, were sitting alone at a table, the last of the morning regulars to leave. She was needling him about politics. (“I like to tease the men who come, get them all riled up, tell them they just don’t want a female as president.”) Both are retired, Gerald from working for an airfreight company, and Lew after 28 years as a bank teller.

When I asked Lew about her life, she started to tear up, stopped for a second, and composed herself. “Life is hard. Very hard. Seven years ago I lost my husband to leukemia. Then three years ago I lost one of my sons. Health complications from diabetes. When my son died, I had nobody to help me, emotionally, except this community here. Gerald lost his wife three years ago, and we have helped support each other through that.”

She stopped again, unable to speak from tears. After a moment of silence: “I look composed on the outside. Many of us do. But I struggle a lot on the inside. This community here gives me the support to get by.”"

[Update: Kenyatta Cheese blogged this with the following notes:

I’ve learned through @triciawang that spaces like these are known as third places in sociology. Third places are neutral, accessible spaces where people can meet with old friends and be exposed to possible new ones.

Tricia spent a decade living in, mapping, and understanding third places in Beijing, Wuhan, Brooklyn, Bangalore, and Oaxaca. (She’s badass that way.)

She taught me that Starbucks and Pizza Hut serve a similar role among young folks in China, especially for people who don’t necessarily feel comfortable sleeping in the third places that are internet cafes.

Small note on how this connects to @everybodyatonce: tv networks and creators sometimes ask us if they should create a dedicated app or website for their fandoms to which we almost always say no.

Much like the government-run community center, a dedicated app creates an unnecessary barrier to entry for new fans and requires you to program the space in the same way that you need to program and organize physical space. By meeting fans in neutral spaces (tumblr, twitter, IG, LJ, even reddit), you build bigger community by supporting the culture that already exists. ]
2016  chrisarnade  community  cities  mcdonalds  poverty  society  inequality  elitism  us  bureaucracy  elderly  aging  economics  civics  lowerclass  precarity  classism  thirdspaces  kenyattacheese  triciawang  beijing  starbucks  china  brooklyn  wuhan  bangalore  oaxaca  pizzahut  kfc  everybodyatonce  fandom  socialmedia 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Chris Hedges: Boycott, Divest and Sanction Corporations That Feed on Prisons - Chris Hedges - Truthdig
"Former prisoners and prisoners’ relatives—suffering along with the incarcerated under the weight of one of the most exploitative, physically abusive and largest prison systems in the world, frustrated and enraged by the walls that corporations have set in place to stymie rational judicial reform—joined human rights advocates at the church to organize state and nationwide boycotts inside and outside prisons. These boycotts, they said, will be directed against the private phone, money transfer and commissary companies, and against the dozens of corporations that exploit prison labor. The boycotts will target food and merchandise vendors, construction companies, laundry services, uniforms companies, prison equipment vendors, cafeteria services, manufacturers of pepper spray, body armor and the array of medieval instruments used for the physical control of prisoners, and a host of other contractors that profit from mass incarceration. The movement will also call on institutions, especially churches and universities, to divest from corporations that use prison labor.

The campaign, led by the Interfaith Prison Coalition, will include a call to pay all prisoners at least the prevailing minimum wage of the state in which they are held. (New Jersey’s minimum wage is $8.38 an hour.) Wages inside prisons have remained stagnant and in real terms have declined over the past three decades. A prisoner in New Jersey makes, on average, $1.20 for eight hours of work, or about $28 a month. Those incarcerated in for-profit prisons earn as little as 17 cents an hour. Over a similar period, phone and commissary corporations have increased fees and charges often by more than 100 percent.

There are nearly 40 states that allow private corporations to exploit prison labor. And prison administrators throughout the country are lobbying corporations that have sweatshops overseas, trying to lure them into the prisons with guarantees of even cheaper labor and a total absence of organizing or coordinated protest."

"The corporate state seeks to reduce all workers at home and abroad to the status of prison labor. Workers are to be so heavily controlled that organizing unions or resistance will become impossible. Benefits, pensions, overtime are to be abolished. Workers who are not slavishly submissive to the will of corporate power will be dismissed. There will be no sick days or paid vacations. No one will be able to challenge unsafe and physically difficult working conditions. And wages will be suppressed to keep workers in poverty. This is the goal of corporate power. The 1 million prisoners employed at substandard wages by corporations inside prisons are, in the eyes of our corporate masters, the ideal workers. And those Americans who ignore the plight of prison labor and refuse to organize against it will increasingly find prison working conditions replicated outside prison walls."

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chrishedges  2015  corporatization  work  labor  costco  microsoft  mcdonalds  kochindustries  verizon  exxonmobil  jimcrow  blackpanthers  aramark  elililly  at&t  kmart  prisons  control  poverty  wages  prisonindustrialcomplex  incarceration  slavery  prisonlabor  submission  power  blackpantherparty 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Awesome Oatmeal - Ta-Nehisi Coates - Personal - The Atlantic
"I often hear this complaint from people who cook directed at people who don't. The notion basically holds that cooking isn't as inconvenient as people make it out to be. I don't know…

The bigger thing here is understanding why people go to McDonald's in the first place. I strongly suspect that the entire experience is comforting. In a day of constant work, pushes and pulls, you have this one clean place, which is the same everywhere, dispensing joyful shots of sugar and salt. That's just me thinking about how I've eaten the past--and also how I eat when my brain is crowded with everything besides what I'm eating.

I think what Bittman urges in his writing is is consciousness. He wants people to think hard about what they're eating. I strongly suspect that people go to McDonald's for the exact opposite reason--to get unconscious. Understanding why that it is, goes beyond our food. It's about how we live."
ta-nehisicoates  oatmeal  cooking  time  work  unconsciousness  mcdonalds  markbittman  understanding  empathy  perspective  food 
february 2011 by robertogreco
"Molleindustria aims to reappropriate video games as a popular form of mass communication. Our objective is to investigate the persuasive potentials of the medium by subverting mainstream video gaming clichè (and possibly have fun in the process)."
activism  mcdonalds  videogames  seriousgames  satire  comics  design  culture  politics  religion  gaming  media  netart 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Os Mutantes | PRI's The World - "In the McDonald's spot, the Os Mutantes song "A Minha Menina" plays while kids in a youth soccer league seem distraught after losing a match."
"The blogosphere has been bloated for several weeks already. The music website stereogum has been hosting some heated debate...Some critics are slamming Os Mutantes for selling out...then and now. But as another writer at Stereogum opines:"How else are these bands going to make money? You damn kids are getting your music for free and gas prices are making nationwide tours into three city ventures!""

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osmutantes  music  mcdonalds  advertising  brasil  brazil 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Beginners Guide - Find the Lost Ring (2008 Olympics) Wiki
"project being run by a group of teams well-experienced in the ARG genre, including Jane McGonigal, AKQA (of Iris), sponsored by none other than McDonald's, and combined with the backing of the International Olympic Committee itself"
arg  olympics  mcdonalds  play  games  gaming  janemcgonigal  lostring 
march 2008 by robertogreco
New ARG's Special Sauce? McDonald's
"In a sign that alternate-reality games have finally hit the mainstream, McDonald's appears to be sponsoring what could be the biggest, most ambitious such campaign to date."
arg  games  gaming  play  videogames  mcdonalds  marketing  lostring 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Study: Food in McDonald's wrapper tastes better to kids -
"Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches."
ads  advertising  branding  children  diet  health  food  marketing  mcdonalds  nutrition  packaging  psychology 
august 2007 by robertogreco
McDonald’s Strange Menu Around the World
"So you think you know the McDonald's menu like the back of your hand? Think again. From McDonald's international, here are some menu items you have probably never tried before."
food  global  culture  localization  mcdonalds  business  travel  world  international 
july 2007 by robertogreco

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