On the surface, McDonald’s and Ford don’t appear to have much in common. They’re both huge corporations, sure, but they’re worlds apart in terms of their product offerings. That’s what makes the new collaboration between the two giants so strange, but also incredibly cool.
As Ford explains in a press release issued today, McDonald’s produces “millions of pounds” of coffee chaff per year. Chaff is a flaky byproduct of the roasting process coffee beans undergo before they are ground and used to make the fast food chain’s various coffee drinks. Normally it goes to waste, but Ford has a better idea.
Coffee chaff, as it turns out, can be used in the production of bioplastics, which can be used as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional plastics. Ford is going to make car parts out of coffee waste.
The chaff composite meets the quality specifications for parts like headlamp housings and other interior and under hood components. The resulting components will be about 20 percent lighter and require up to 25 percent less energy during the molding process. Heat properties of the chaff component are significantly better than the currently used material, according to Ford. This is the first time Ford has used coffee bean skins to convert into select vehicle parts.
The partnership will see Ford receive a whole bunch of McDonald’s coffee chaff when it is produced in North America. The automaker will then incorporate that into its bioplastic production process, turning that leftover coffee waste into car parts that are even better than they are today.
Ford doesn’t offer an exact timeline for when the coffee-infused car components would begin rolling out into its various models, but as the company already uses bioplastics in a variety of ways, it would seem Ford is well-equipped to make it happen.
After 13 years in business, the local bakery chain Swissbakers, known for its pretzels and croissants, abruptly shut down operations Thursday, shuttering its four locations in Allston, North Station, Reading, and the Smith Campus Center at Harvard University. It also shut down its catering and wholesale business.
The family-run bakery was started in the Reading home of Helene and Thomas Stohr. Their son Tobey Stohr, who runs logistics and sales for the chain, said the company had faced various challenges over the last few years, though he declined to elaborate, citing legal concerns.
“There were a lot of factors that came into play, a lot of which I can’t talk about,” Stohr said. “Unfortunately, it’s not what you want when you start something as the American dream.”
But he said the decision to shut down was rather sudden, and stemmed largely from ongoing troubles in their Allston headquarters, where they run their manufacturing plant and cafe.
“Certain things that we had no control over that prevented us from succeeding in the neighborhood of Allston specifically,” Stohr said. “There have been things that been happening there that have really hurt us.”
The flagship cafe and bakery has operated in its Barry’s Corner location in Allston since 2013, in the site of a former VW dealership at 168 Western Ave. The bakery leased its space from Harvard University and has been part of an ongoing revitalization of the university’s Allston properties along the strip.
The university is planning a major redevelopment of the 14 acres along Western Avenue for its science and engineering campus. The initial plans call for 400,000 square feet of offices and labs, 250,000 square feet of apartments, and a 250,000-square-foot hotel and conference center, which will include ground-floor retail and restaurant spaces.
In a statement Thursday, Harvard said, “We are disappointed to learn of the closure of Swissbakers. We appreciate the nearly seven years of operation it had in Allston, and its past year in the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center. While Swiss Bakers will be missed, we remain excited about the ongoing activation both in Barry’s Corner, and up and down Western Avenue.”
Harry Mattison, an Allston resident who has lived in the neighborhood since 1994, was among the chorus of upset patrons who took to Twitter on Thursday morning to share their grief. In an interview, he said the bakery had become an institution.
“I was just there Tuesday morning for a meeting of neighbors and elected officials,” he said, and often met there with the November Project workout group Wednesday mornings after running at the Harvard stadium. “For lots of people and lots of different parts of the community, it was a great spot, and really one of the only spots like it on Western Ave.”
Mattison said he’s concerned about the status of the neighborhood, pointing to other recent closures such as 7-Eleven and Stone Hearth Pizza.
“For 15 years, Western Ave. has been held out by Harvard and the BPDA as the new Main Street of Allston, and it isn’t,” he said. “It’s surprising, Harvard is going to have how many hundreds or thousands in that engineering building in nine or 10 months. You would think they’d certainly not want fewer places to have lunch.”
Stohr, for his part, said he and his family are working to ensure that his 36 employees all find new jobs.
“Our goal right now is to get everyone in one place, and let them cry if you need to, yell if you need to,” Stohr said. “We need to go and get everyone jobs and so they can go on to kill it somewhere else.”
West Hollywood’s first-of-its-kind cannabis cafe is getting a new name. The former Lowell Cafe will now be known simply as Cannabis Cafe. Other than the name, little about the cafe will change–but it will no longer be publicly linked to popular California-based cannabis grower Lowell Herb Co.
“Since we opened, our guests and employees have colloquially referred to the restaurant as the Cannabis Cafe, when talking about us to their friends and on social media. We’re excited to make the name change official as we focus on the community,” says Ami Gan, the cafe’s V.P. of marketing and communications.
She adds that the shift in name and branding reflects the cafe’s intent to broaden out to include more of the cannabis industry. Taking a scroll of the cannabis menu for the rebranded lounge, guests will find products from 45 different growers, many of them smaller brands like Lola Lola, Higgs, and A Golden State.
Partner and executive chef Andrea Drummer, long an advocate for the reform of marijuana policy, echoes the value of bringing more producers into the space. “This important social and historical establishment should belong to the cannabis community and industry, not any single cannabis corporation,” she says. “By no longer being branded with a single company, our Cannabis Cafe will focus on its goal of presenting our diners with as diverse a range as possible of cannabis from small independent growers and entrepreneurs.”
Meanwhile, Lowell Herb Co. is focusing on an expansion plan. The brand’s whole line of smokables, oils, and low-dose mints will be available in Nevada starting soon. To launch the new chapter, the company is hosting a pop-up restaurant and consumption lounge concept in Las Vegas later this month. Unlike at Cannabis Cafe in L.A., at the Vegas pop-up, the food itself will be infused with cannabis. Reservations for the pop-up, which will be helmed by Tao Group exec chef Marc Marrone, are available to book online.
“We thank the city of West Hollywood for hosting us for the initial launch of the Lowell Cafe concept,” says David Elias, co-founder and CEO of Lowell Herb Co. “Now we are turning our focus to expanding our innovative cafe concept and brand to new markets starting with Las Vegas. As we expand, our mission is to deliver the elevated brand experience consumers have come to expect from Lowell.”
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Here’s some cheeky news for you.
You’ve heard of “suns out buns out”, but this is a whole ‘nother level. Per a new story in the New York Post, “perineum sunning” is the latest health trend making its rounds amongst the Instagram influencers of a certain ilk. According to one influencer who goes by the name Ra of Earth, “In a mere 30 seconds of sunlight on your butthole, you will receive more energy from this electric node than you would in an entire day being outside with your clothes on.”
In fact, the practice is so powerful that one influencer, Metaphysical Meagan, says that she’s given up her morning cup of coffee in favor tanning her own hide. As per the Post:
“For the past few weeks I have included sunning my bum and yoni into my daily rising routine,” a woman who goes by Metaphysical Meagan captions an image of herself fully naked on a rock. Meagan says she first learned about perineum sunning through her study of Taoism and has recently given up her morning cup of coffee in favor of sunning her anus.
Celebrities have even gotten in on the sun-der down under. Big Little Lies actress Shailene Woodley states she has “practiced a version of perineum sunning” as part of her “holistic lifestyle.” And even Thanos himself Josh Brolin broiled his purple butthole redder than the Reality Stone and was none too please about it. He took to Instagram to express his dissatisfaction with the new trend: “My pucker hole is crazy burned and I was going to spend the day shopping with my family and instead I’m icing and using aloe and burn creams because of the severity of the pain. I don’t know who the fuck thought of this stupid shit but fuck you nonetheless. Seriously.”
But before you trade in your coffee for your kundalini, one medical professional suggests that the results of perineum sunning may be tainted. “There is no evidence that sunbathing in this way has any effect on physical well-being,” Dr. Diana Gall of Doctors 4 U states.
To be on the safe side (and to the delight of my neighbors), I say why not enjoy both? I’ll be enjoying a nice cup of coffee in the morning while pointing my pooter at the sun. It’s the only reasonable option.
Top image © Adobe Stock/Emmi
Our celebration of the holiday season continues here on Sprudge. First, we brought you our annual Sprudge Holiday Gift Guide, a curated selection of gift-giving ideas for the coffee lover in your life. Now we’re bringing you something a little more personal—a Founders Guide, created exclusively for Sprudge by co-founders Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen. This guide reflects how we make coffee at home, and the products we’re really loving as coffee drinkers during the holidays. Happy slurping!
The first item on my Christmas gift list is a simple Hario brewing scale. Coming in at just around $40 it’s a blush less expensive than the more advanced Acaia Pearl recommended in the Sprudge Holiday Gift Guide. It’s the perfect gift for someone in your life that wants to up their coffee game without diving too deep. It’s also just a simple, dependable piece of equipment. It turns on, it has a timer, and it weighs coffee/pour-over/my smoothie ingredients. — ZC
Another time-tested piece of equipment coming in at under $150 ($130 on Amazon last time I checked) for someone in your life that might still—gasp—grind their beans at the grocery store or use a—clutches pearls—blade grinder. The Baratza family of grinders range from the entry-level like the Encore to the pro-sumer level like the Baratza Forte W. We think the Encore is a great little grinder for those who maybe make a big pot in the morning and a little pick me up in the afternoon. —ZC
Coffee subscriptions are nothing new, of course, and the market has gone through several phases: from fresh-faced new concept to same-y clutteredness to today’s stratified milieu, in which a couple of the best, most interesting services are able to rise to the top. Over in our Staff Guide, we recommended Yes Plz Weekly, a subscription service from Los Angeles that delivers a very accessible filter coffee and an alt-weekly style zine to your door each week. (I’ve written a couple of things for the zine.) This year I’ve also fallen deep in love with another subscription, this time from Europe, called Kaffe Box—a monthly rotating selection of roasters with a focus on Scandinavia.
Yes, the light roast Scandivanian coffee craze feels very Twenty-Teens, and yes, I agree, a lot of American roasters who tried to imitate it over the last decade wound up with a lot of undrinkable, ghastly product. But in the right hands, a lighter roast profile can, I assure you, yield a cup with expressive, fruity, tea-like notes, which isn’t what I want to drink every single time I have a coffee, but can be delightful from time to time when done well. This shouldn’t be a controversial opinion. Different styles of roasting are fine. Don’t yuck my yum.
Over the last year, I’ve got to try Kaffe Box offerings from some really interesting Nordic micro-roasters, whose stuff I cannot otherwise regularly enjoy here in America. Being able to drink through a bag of Jacu, or Langora, or Morgon Coffee Roasters is interesting and fun. Kaffe Box’s packaging always shows up clean and crisp; the bags are never damaged by the journey, and the coffee is always rippingly fresh, impressive for having been shipped from literally the other side of the world. This is my special treat coffee and I love it. JM
I use this kettle every morning and not a day goes by that I don’t admire it. Fellow released this in 2016 and since then have released different versions that have spouts better suited for tea, plug-in kinds for those that don’t wanna use their stovetop, and all manners of colors and finishes. But the shiny copper stovetop kettle is my favorite. Get it for around $100 on Amazon. ZC
I’ve never met an automated tea brewer that I didn’t like. The Breville Smart Tea Maker has been a staple in my kitchen for over six years. You see, what I do is, I take big chunks of ginger, I cram it in the tea-hole, and then I set it to brew for ten minutes at a boil. By the time I’ve forgotten, I started this spicy tisane the dang thing is beeping at me telling me my perfectly steeped ginger brew is ready to glug. On days that I’m not gobbling root, I’m making delicate oolongs steeped at precisely one minute at just the right temperature. This is a tea toy for tea lovers and I’m living for it. ZC
I love a good, weird subscription and I love good, weird tea. We talked a bunch about the Kunming, China-based brand White 2 Tea here on Sprudge during Tea Week 2019, and in the months since I’ve come to really appreciate the monthly delivery of White 2 Tea’s tea club offerings.
Each and every month is totally different: sometimes it’s an entire fresh (or “sheng”) pu ‘er tea cake ready to be drunk; other times it’ll be a handful of little oolong parcels, or 50 grams of nice green tea, or a little pressed brick of cooked (or “shou”) pu’erh to be picked at and enjoyed over the course of a month. Each month’s club comes with a little note written by the mysterious White 2 Tea brain trust, which includes info on the tea and recommended steeping instructions. The club feels fun and seasonal, and like I’m getting a really good value for my money (it’s $29.99 a month), and you can commune with fellow tea nerds on Instagram because trust me, they all follow White 2 Tea and will be sharing images of their club arrivals.
Tea is good, this we know. The White 2 Tea club is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it throughout the year. JM
The colorful reusables from KeepCup have been a perfect stocking stuffer for years and in 2019 they’ve introduced a whole new line of stainless steel cups. Available in six different colors and finishes, the stainless steel cups are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. For Star Wars fans in your galaxy, the folks at KeepCup have adorable R2D2, Chewbacca, Stormtrooper, and Darth Vader themed cups. ZC
I spent a lot of time this year thinking about clothes, for reasons both work–related and personal, but along the way I’ve been surprised to see how much overlap there is with the world of coffee. Earlier this year we brought you a story about coffee and sneakers, but it turns out there’s a whole world of coffee + contemporary streetwear fashion collaboration, most especially in the realm of promotional mugs. Brands like Supreme, Patta, A Bathing Ape, Kith, Palace, Only NY, Aimé Leon Dore, Human Made, Stussy, and many more are producing fashion-forward, eye-catching mugs that look great both at home or in a nice cafe. It seems like pretty much every good brand has a mug, or has done one in the past; a lot of times these are in-store-only pick-ups, which rewards checking out physical retail locations wherever you might be.
If your favorite local cafe is run by sneakerheads, or someone on your list has recently used the term “drop” as a clothing-related transitive verb in casual conversation, these mugs make a truly delightful holiday gift. — JM
A Meaningful Donation
There are so many great charities worth donating to this year. One in particular we’re fond of is @getchusomegear, a Durham, NC based organization whose mission is “hookin’ up marginalized baristas w/free coffee stuff.” The org, created by Chris McAuley, works with baristas just getting started in the industry or looking for a leg up to access equipment and information. Both companies and individual donors are welcome to contribute to the project—you can reach out by emailing [email protected] and get involved this holiday season. JM + ZC
Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen are the co-founders at Sprudge Media Network, and the authors of The New Rules of Coffee: A Modern Guide for Everyone out now on Ten Speed Press.