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Coffee Trends: Urban Coffee and the Legends

Urban Coffee and the Legends


April 29, 2008
By Brian Martell

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A dear old uncle of mine, once a journalist for the Montreal Star and
later the Ottawa Citizen, often said, “don’t let the facts get in the
way of a good story.” Of course he was having fun, but from whence his
words sprung doth a fertile whopper propagate.

A dear old uncle of mine, once a journalist for the Montreal Star and later the Ottawa Citizen, often said, “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Of course he was having fun, but from whence his words sprung doth a fertile whopper propagate.

Nowhere in our modern culture do these tall tales seem more prevalent that in the age-old tradition of urban legends (I wonder if before the industrial age they were known as rural legends?). And while they gained legs through the medium of the Internet, it seems that no part of our society has been immune to Loki’s antics.

Now I have to admit, I enjoy a good story just as much as the next guy. And if you get my annual April 1 news release, you’ll know that I may even be responsible for a few “myths” (one of the more memorable ones was the SPCA striking a deal with a coffee grower to import coffee cherries into Canada to feed to the cats in the pound. The by-product was Calico Coffee designed to compete with Luak Coffee, thus providing a revenue stream for the SPCA.) 

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More and more, coffee is becoming a focal point in some of the urban legends that, in reality, never were. The following are a few examples of current urban legends that have a coffee twist:

Caribou Coffee, the second largest coffee chain in the States (after Starbucks) is majority owned by Islamic Militants.
As always, a grain of truth allows for the rest to follow. After Caribou Coffee got its start, it headed into operational difficulties that spawned a cash crunch leaving current investors unwilling to pony up any further capital.
The executives went looking for other investors and came across Crescent Capital of Atlanta, who in turn is backed by the First Islamic Investment Bank of Bahrain. They acquired over 80 per cent of the shares of Caribou and left the actual day-to-day operations of the company to the U.S. executives. While the First Islamic Investment Bank may be owned by Muslims, they are not militants.

Tim Horton’s Coffee is addictive because it has nicotine in it.
I have to admit I liked this one; but if one is an objectivist, one must be objective. There is no nicotine in Tim Horton’s coffee … period. There is caffeine, quinic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, pyruvic acid and acetic acid, to name a few, but no nicotine.
There is no amount of nicotine that could be added to the coffee which would be “under the radar” of the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and furthermore, tests that look for organic compounds have come up negative on TH’s coffee. One test that I did see used gas chromatography (super high sensitivity) to detect the presence of nicotine and came up with a big goose egg.

Starbucks told the US military to get stuffed when a GI requested coffee for his platoon because it did not support the war in Iraq.
Now you have to figure there is something playing with legend number one (see Caribou Coffee) and this one. Not to fan the fires of the grassy knoll crowd, but it seems the Starbucks camp would have done well promoting the Caribou legend while the Caribou side would have benefited from this little headline.
Apparently, Starbucks has gone to great lengths to disprove this one by encouraging participation at the store level to help the troops in the field. As a corporation, they have wisely remained neutral on supporting the war, while whole heartily supporting the service men and women.

Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, who set his 32-foot Winnebago on cruise control, left the driver's seat to brew a cup of coffee, crashed, then sued Winnebago for not having a warning against the dangers of doing so and received a jury award of $1,750,000 plus a new motor home.
This one, unfortunately, is believable due to the real story of Stella Liebeck, who successfully sued McDonald’s for coffee that was “too hot.”  Happily, it is an urban legend and will never make it to the “Stella Awards” (The Stella’s are named after the above mentioned McDonald’s incident and are awarded to outrageous lawsuits, both successful and under appeal which challenge the morality and/or sanity of common sense and decency).
So there you have it, a brief synopsis of what mayhem can be wrought with a pen and a fertile imagination. The next time an article or e-mail crosses your desk, you may want to temper your incredulity with a sober second thought, unless it is from me and you get it on or around April 1 … honest. o
Questions or comments?  Reach Brian at Brian@heritage-coffee.com