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Behind the Cup |September 2, 2020

No Coffee No Work

Labor Day has me thinking about the great variety of workers that make this country run, and more specifically about the role of coffee in the workplace. In an earlier blog, we talked about how soldiers relied upon caffeine to power through their duties. Today though, is a tribute to the civilian soldiers, blue-collar, white-collar, academia, healthcare, government, service sector, the working men and women who wake up early every day, battle the traffic to get to the office and spend 8-10 hours, 50 weeks a year, moving society forward. Often under-appreciated, often underpaid, often over-worked, and micromanaged, workers must find the bright spots in the day to keep them rolling on.

Hopefully, positive relationships with co-workers, a sense of satisfaction, and personal growth fuel the inner fire, but let’s not overlook the role of coffee to help us get through the work day with a sparkle in our eyes and pep in our step.

With a higher level of coffee available worldwide than in previous generations, the coffee break/desk coffee/cup to go can be a much more relaxing and soothing experience releasing endorphins and raising dopamine levels through amazing flavors, rich aromas, and enhanced job performance that only coffee can deliver.

To give you a better picture of just how important our daily brew is to the working world, let’s look at a few anecdotes from the real world.

The Practical Uses

The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, is known to have drunk about a gallon of coffee a day. He took his with 7 lumps of sugar and was famous for having an exceptionally large cup, once described by his son as more of a bathtub than a mug.

The first webcam ever put in use was at the University of Cambridge in England. In 1991, rather than walking the corridors only to find an empty coffee pot, researchers wrote code allowing a basic video camera to monitor how much coffee was in the pot at a given moment. In 1993, when the first version of the internet went live, this pot was visible to all on the web and was a popular symbol for how the web would connect us all.

In 2015, in the middle of the Hopman Cup tennis match in Australia, superstar, Serena Williams, was feeling sluggish. She had lost the first 6 games of the set. She thought to herself, “I need some coffee.” After checking with the umpire that it was ok, she sent the ball girl to get her an espresso. She went on to win the match 0-6, 6-3, 6-0. She later called it her “miracle coffee.”

What these three episodes demonstrate, and what most of us already know, is that a cup of Joe can make us better and now that concept comes with a significant amount of scientific support.

The Health Benefits of Coffee

According to Healthline.com, a number of studies show that coffee enhances mood, energy levels, reaction times, and general mental function. Caffeine blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, allowing other neurotransmitters to increase leading to enhanced firing of neurons.

Caffeine has been shown to increase metabolic rate by 3-11% depending on the person. It is one of the reasons it is included in most fat burning supplements. Increased metabolic rate is directly connected with energy and motivation levels.

Your cup of Joe has several important nutrients including, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Manganese, Potassium, magnesium, niacin, and a host of anti-oxidants.

Coffee has been shown to decrease the risk of depression, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, and stroke.

It is interesting to note that coffee contains over 1,000 individual chemical compounds and many of the above-mentioned benefits do not manifest when caffeine is consumed as an individual extract. It is believed that all or many of the compounds working together produce coffee’s unique benefits.

In addition to the health benefits above, Harvard School of Public Health researchers have calculated productivity increases by providing staff with high-quality coffee and coordinated breaks. One study at a single call center for Bank of America, which provided better coffee and adjusted break schedules to allow more employee interaction, translated to a $15 million productivity increase for the company.

Benefits to the Employer

The number of employees drinking coffee in the workplace is in the 60-70%.

Employees who “venture out” to get their java lose 30+ minutes of productivity per day.

Employees have shown to be more engaging, more inclined to social interaction, with readily available coffee.

In a Japanese study, two staff members prepared specialty coffee and tea drinks twice a day and then served them to working staff at their desks on a tray. The study sites a heightened sense of being appreciated, a warmer view of the company, company-wide thousands of hours of increased productivity per week and came to view their coffee service as a financial perk of working at that company.

Many millennials consider coffee essential and now account for 44% of America’s consumption. According to the money app, Acorn, the average millennial spends about $2,008 per year on coffee. That is roughly $167 a month. Having excellent coffee at the office is viewed as a money-saving perk. One financial planner states that the typical millennial spends more on coffee than they put into their retirement account.

Considering the above, does it make sense to offer your staff specialty coffee? Is the cost recovered in productivity? Are your staff truly better workers when their coffee needs are met? If you think so, you may ask how to set up the proper coffee service.

Let me share with you what a simple office set up for specialty coffee service would look like and estimated costs. These are not K-cups, or pods, which can be convenient but wouldn’t fall into the specialty coffee category.

An Office Coffee Set-Up

A lot is going to depend on how many people are in your office, if you’d like to carry the Airpots to meeting rooms, and how much is actually consumed by your group.

For a basic set up you will need:

Bunn Airpot Drip Maker ($300)
Kalita Wave Paper Filters ($10, 155 count)
Baratza Encore Grinder ($140)
Lever Action Airpots ($70, will need more than one)
Oxo Scale ($50)
Monthly Coffee Subscription ($150-250)

Set up cost: Between $600-700
Ongoing Subscription: $150-250

Other Things to Consider:
a) At the main employee coffee station, always have two choices available. One should be a consistent everyday favorite loved by the staff and the other should be something new.

A great way to pull this off is with a subscription for the same coffee (like Greenwell Farms Private Reserve) and a taster subscription (like Trade Coffee) which will send a different roaster’s coffee each cycle.

b) The Bunn Airpot drip-maker comes with an instant hot water spigot for tea and cocoa drinkers.

Don’t forget that some people simply cannot drink coffee, but inclusion in the social setting and appreciation of their needs should not be overlooked.

c) Keep condiments simple, cream and sugar, and if employees desire other additives they can bring their own.

d) Depending on your situation, consider ceramic mugs with your company logo, and each person’s name written on the mug. This helps eliminate waste, feels personal, and allows for better enjoyment than paper cups.

e) One or two staff members should be designated to make the coffee and clean the pots daily. Absolute consistency is important and keeping the pots clean paramount.

On a final note, if you have found yourself working at home in 2020, you can set up a smaller-scale version of this for home consumption. A decent grinder and scale are essentials, and please shop around for the extraction method that best suits your needs.

You, the hard-working Americans that keep this country running, despite all the craziness in the world, will always have my respect and admiration. This mug is for you!

About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.

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