The interactive map was created by data visualization outfit Kiln, along with the UCL Energy Institute. It counts emitted CO2 (in thousands of tonnes) as well as the running total of the maximum freight carried by each type of vessel. The map that the data is plotted on is also bathymetric, which means it uses shading to convey the depth of the ocean at any given point.
The more this map is explored, the more it rewards the viewer. The first thing a viewer may notice is the difference between the relatively quiet seas surrounding North and South America to the busy shipping routes nearby Europe, India, Southeast Asia, and especially China.
It’s also worth following the ships that go up some of the world’s biggest rivers. How do you get goods to Moscow? Through the Black Sea and up the Volga River. On the other side of Asia is the Yangtze River in China, which is loaded with ships from Shanghai all the way to Nanjing.
To cap it off, check out the global shipping chokepoints, where you can observe thousands of ships passing through the world’s tightest and most dangerous thoroughfares such as the Panama Canal, The Bosphorus (Istanbul, Turkey), the Strait of Hormuz, or the Strait of Dover (in the narrowest point of the English Channel). For the polar opposite effect, look off the coast of Somalia, were piracy is rampant and commercial ships venture at their own risk.
What can I see?
You can see movements of the global merchant fleet over the course of 2012, overlaid on a bathymetric map. You can also see a few statistics such as a counter for emitted CO2 (in thousand tonnes) and maximum freight carried by represented vessels (varying units).
What can I do?
You can pan and zoom in the usual ways, and skip back and forward in time using the timeline at the bottom of the screen. The controls at the top right let you show and hide different map layers: port names, the background map, routes (a plot of all recorded vessel positions), and the animated ships view. There are also controls for filtering and colouring by vessel type.
What the are types of ships shown?
The merchant fleet is divided into five categories, each of which has a filter and a CO2 and freight counter for the hour shown on the clock. The ship types and units are as follows:
Container (e.g. manufactured goods): number of container slots equivalent to 20 feet (i.e. a 40-foot container takes two slots)
Dry bulk (e.g. coal, aggregates): combined weight of cargo, fuel, water, provisions, passengers and crew a vessel can carry, measured in thousand tonnes
Tanker (e.g. oil, chemicals): same as dry bulk
Gas bulk (e.g. liquified natural gas): capacity for gases, measured in cubic metres
Vehicles (e.g. cars): same as dry bulk
Why do ships sometimes appear to move across land?
In some cases this is because there are ships navigating via canals or rivers that aren’t visible on the map. Generally, though, this effect is an artefact of animating a ship between two recorded positions with missing data between, especially when the positions are separated by a narrow strip of land. We may develop the map to remove this effect in the future.
Why are there fewer ships visible in the first part of the year?
Unfortunately the data we are using for the map is incomplete for the first few months of the year: roughly January to April.
Who created this map?
The map was created by Kiln and the UCL Energy Institute (UCL EI)
Visualization: Duncan Clark & Robin Houston from Kiln
Research & data: Julia Schaumeier & Tristan Smith from the UCL EI
Music: Bach Goldberg Variations played by Kimiko Ishizaka
How was the map created?
UCL EI took data showing location and speed of ships and cross-checked it with another database to get the vessel characteristics, such as engine type and hull measurements. With this information they were able to compute the CO2 emissions for each observed hour, following the approach laid out in the Third IMO Greenhouse Gas Study 2014. Kiln took the resulting dataset and visualized it with WebGL on top of a specially created base map, which shows bathymetry (ocean depth), based on the GEBCO_2014 Grid (version 20150318), as well as continents and major rivers from Natural Earth.
Where did you get the data and who paid?
Our data sources for shipping positions are exactEarth for AIS data (location/speed) and Clarksons Research UK World Fleet Register (static vessel information). We are very grateful to our funders, the European Climate Foundation.
April 27, 2016
Economist Article – Burundi & Echoes of Rwanda
WHEN a Hutu politician says it is time to “pulverise and exterminate” rebels who are “good only for dying”, outsiders should sit up. When he talks of spraying “cockroaches” or urges people to “start work”, it is hard to miss the old codewords for massacring Tutsis. When the politician is not some obscure backbencher but the president of the Burundian Senate, the world should be alarmed.
History does not always repeat itself in central Africa, but it rhymes cacophonously. Rwanda and Burundi, two small countries with Hutu majorities and Tutsi minorities, have seen large-scale ethnic massacres in 1959, 1963, 1972, 1988, 1993 and 1994. These were not, as some outsiders imagine, spontaneous outbursts of tribal hatred. They happened because those in power deliberately inflamed ethnic divisions. The Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which perhaps half a million Tutsis were hacked to death, was meticulously planned by Hutu army officers and politicians. They did it to avoid sharing power with Tutsi rebels after a peace accord to end a civil war. They raised a militia, cranked up the genocidal propaganda and imported hundreds of thousands of machetes in advance. The outside world barely noticed until it was too late. The genocide ended only when a Tutsi army swept in to stop it, led by Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame.
Today in Burundi, many people hear echoes of 1994. Since last April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza, a Hutu, declared that he would seek a (probably unconstitutional) third term in office, the country has been plunged into turmoil. Bujumbura, the pretty capital on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, has endured a botched coup and street fighting. Its cobbled streets are deserted after dark and ring to the sound of gunfire. In recent months repression has gathered steam. Mr Nkurunziza’s youth militia terrorises his opponents, many of whom are Tutsis. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, mostly young men, have been “disappeared”. Torture is rife. Maybe 250,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries; more are displaced internally. The economy is collapsing.
Tutsis have cause to be afraid. They are quietly being purged from the army. On the radio, they hear murderous rhetoric of the sort that preceded the Rwandan genocide. As was the case in Rwanda in 1994, today’s Burundian government feels besieged. Several of its members have been assassinated, and rebels have launched attacks into Burundi from foreign refugee camps. It is far from clear that genocide is looming. But even if the worst is unlikely, it makes sense to take precautions. History shows that calamity can happen very quickly: Rwanda’s genocide lasted a mere 100 days. And conflict can often spread across borders: the ripples from Rwanda started a great war in Congo that eventually claimed even more lives.
A short fuse
What can be done to defuse Burundi? The European Union is cutting aid to its government, but Mr Nkurunziza has simply redirected spending from health and education to the security forces, leaving the UN and charities to look after children and the sick (see article). The African Union considered sending 5,000 soldiers—but then backtracked when Burundi objected. The UN has suggested sending peacekeepers but has done nothing. This is not good enough.
More targeted sanctions, which hurt the president’s cronies personally, are needed. If things get worse, outsiders should be ready to send in troops, under the aegis of the African Union or the UN. There are 19,000 UN blue helmets just across the border in Congo. They should be prepared to step in, and the great powers should make sure that Mr Nkurunziza knows it.
April 05, 2016
Economist Article – Kenya Coffee, A Bitter Harvest
COFFEE was once Kenya’s biggest foreign-exchange earner, but these days the industry looks less perky. The country’s record, 127,000-tonne crop was all the way back in the 1987-88 season. Output plunged by 40% the following year, after the global coffee cartel axed its quotas, exposing the industry to competition. It has been falling ever since: last year it was less than 45,000 tonnes, a mere 0.5% of coffee production worldwide.
That is not for lack of quality. Kenya’s arabica coffee, grown in the highlands around Mount Kenya, is world-renowned, unlike the robusta produced in places like Vietnam and Brazil and used in instant granules. Domestic consumption is tiny, but growing by as much as 20% a year, as coffee-shop chains expand to cater to Kenya’s growing middle class.
That middle class also craves better housing, however, generating an insatiable thirst for land among developers. Nairobi’s property market is bubbling. The road between the capital and Thika, a town on the brink of being swallowed by its northern suburbs, is lined with coffee plantations that have been sold to developers. No one has bothered to pull up the weeds overtaking the coffee bushes on one hill-top outside Thika that is destined to become 500 homes.
For many smallholders, who account for 60% of the country’s coffee production, there just isn’t enough money in beans anymore. Some small farmers have abandoned the crop altogether for vegetables or other, more lucrative export crops, such as macadamia nuts. It doesn’t have to be this way. Coffee production in neighbouring Uganda has more than doubled since 1990, to 285,000 tonnes. In 2010, the most recent year for which comparative data are available, Kenyan coffee farmers received 20% of the export price of their crop, compared with more than 80% in Uganda.
Mismanagement has played a part in the Kenyan industry’s decline. The Kenya Planters Co-operative Union (KPCU), which owned 70% of the country’s milling capacity at its peak as well as providing its smallholder members with loans and cheap fertiliser, went bust in 2009. It came out of receivership in 2014, but allegations about its past were aired last autumn and led some farmers to threaten to leave their harvests on the bushes in protest. These included stories of a boardroom fistfight over the purchase of new computers, and of the theft of all the machinery from the KPCU’s Nairobi mill, as well as unconfirmed reports that some of the organisation’s directors had looted loans and coffee-sale proceeds meant for its members for nearly two decades before it went under.
Regulation has left the industry with a Byzantine structure that presents many opportunities for skimming off money. Only 10% of beans are bought directly from farmers. Most smallholders belong to a co-operative, which skins, ferments and dries the coffee beans before passing them on to a miller that finishes the processing and grading. The bags then go to one of eight licensed marketing agents, which sell the coffee to 60 local and international dealers at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
The exchange’s auctions, which take place in the bowels of a half-empty building in a rundown area of the city, had to introduce a $1,500 dealer registration fee after marketing agents withheld coffee in 2012 in protest at buyers that existed solely to resell the free coffee samples to which they were entitled. Disgruntled participants claim that “cartels” rig the bidding, suppressing prices. One Kenyan journalist claims to have witnessed dealers whistling to each other as a signal to hold down prices. The only noises your correspondent heard in the dimly-lit room, which resembles a 1960s lecture theatre, were hushed murmurs and bleeps as traders pressed buttons to place bids, and polite applause when one lot of coffee sold at a record price for the season.
Nonetheless, many of the mills, marketing agents and dealers are sister companies, which probably reduces competition to buy the wares of farmers. The multi-layered system has been further complicated by the decision of some local governments to set up their own mills and marketing agents. Further government meddling of this sort, needless to say, is unlikely to solve the industry’s problems.
In Uganda, in contrast, the industry has been completely liberalised since 1992. There are no auctions: middlemen compete vigorously to buy directly from farmers and sell on to exporters. If Kenya’s government wants to make good on its promise to double coffee production by 2020, it should wake up to the smell of its neighbour’s success.
February 19, 2016
Inventor of Moka Pot … buried in Moka Pot
Renato Bialetti, the man behind the iconic octagonal coffee pot from Italy, has died, and his freshly ground ashes were buried in a fitting urn — a giant version of the Moka that made him famous.
The 93-year-old’s children, Alessandra, Antonello and Alfonso, brewed up the plan to bury their dad’s remains in a stovetop espresso maker on Monday, La Stampa reported.
The pot was blessed by a priest at a church in his hometown of Casale Corte Cerro in Piemonte, then buried next to his wife, Elia, in nearby Omegna, The Local of Italy reported.
Bialetti didn’t invent the classic pot, but he turned it into a must-have object in kitchens around the globe.
His dad, Alfonso, an aluminum vendor, acquired a patent for the gizmo in 1933 — but it failed to catch on with the espresso-savvy Italian public.
In fact, by the time Renato took over the company in 1947, a mere 70,000 pots had been made.
The younger Bialetti pumped a major marketing campaign into the Moka. Among his ideas was adorning all the pots with the caricature of himself, a mascot known as “L’omino con i baffi” — the little man with the mustache.
Business perked up quickly. As of today, some 330 million of the pots have been sold worldwide.
February 10, 2016
Long recovery ahead for West Coast ports in aftermath of settlement
An update from the CBFANC Ocean Committee regarding Ports America Outer Harbor Terminal.
The January 19, 2016 announcement from Ports America terminal terminating operations in 30 days at Port Oakland gave short notice to Port of Oakland who in turn gave their own press release mid-afternoon. News that Ports America was pulling out 6 years into the 50 years lease surprised many port stakeholders. After all it was the 50 years lease and nice accommodations Ports America received that prompted a lawsuit by SSA Terminals and settled in 2013 for its own “mega-terminal”. Ports America cited their reason for leaving Oakland was due to their “four-corners” gateways and investing instead for their terminals in Seattle-Tacoma and Vancouver, LA/LB, Newark, Baltimore, and Miami.
Port of Oakland are reassuring port stakeholders that 90% of the ocean carriers currently handled at Ports America terminals will transition smoothly to the remaining terminals at the Port. However to date, only one carrier, MSC, has announced transfer of operations to Oakland International Container Terminal/SSA. While Maersk and CMA would likely also decide on SSA, there remains several carriers who have not publicized whether they will operate out of SSA or Trapac. Under negotiations since latter part of 2015, Trapac indicated interest to take over two additional berths (from PAOH area), would likely take on K-Line and maybe one to two other lines. Ben E. Nutter Terminal which was previously managed under Seaside Transportation Service (a joint venture between Ports America and Evergreen) is now managed solely by Evergreen. Since re-opening early January, Everport is still undergoing migration to new system and unlikely to take on any additional carriers.
On February 1, 2016, Outer Harbor Terminal, the entity name for the joint venture between Ports America and Terminal Investment Ltd. filed Chapter 11. The only statement made by Ports America was that “the filing will allow the joint-venture partners to continue offering terminal customers the services they require until Outer Harbor Terminal ceases operations on March 31“. Oakland Port Executive Director Chris Lytle stated his disappointment but assured the Port will do everything for smooth transitions of cargo operations including port funding for extended gates services to handle the increase at the remaining terminals.
Complicating that message though was the long lines January 25th through most of the week resulted possibly from short labor or rumored longshore reactions to the loss of ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) jobs at the port. Also, Ports America disallowing return of empties and with carriers not yet nominating new terminal, per diem is a huge concern and yet another setback for port truckers already stressed from last years’ port disruptions. Beginning of 2016, some truckers were reducing or omitting their congestion fees. Unfortunately, congestion fees will remain or be reinstated. Still, citing recent Port Efficiency Task Force benchmarks including 90 minute dual transaction turn times, Bluetooth measured metrics and enhanced appointment systems, the Port is committed to keeping Oakland as viable West Coast gateway.
Additionally, note the following information for upcoming President’s weekend:
Everport announced February 3rd that they will be open for Friday February 12th (Lincoln’s Birthday) and Monday February 15th(President’s Day)
Ports America announced closure on Friday February 12th (Lincoln’s Birthday) and Monday February 15th(President’s Day)
Please check SSA and Trapac website for their holiday schedule updates.
Empty Container Restrictions
OHT is not receiving the following empties:
SUD- ONLY ACCEPTING REEFERS, all others locked out
ANL- All size types
CMA – ONLY ACCEPTING 20′ REEFERS, ALL OTHER SIZE TYPES LOCKED OUT
COS – All size types
CSC – ALL size types
EGS – All size types
HAP – All size types
HAN – All size types
HMM – All size types
MOL – All size types
PIL – All size types
POL – ALL 20′ Containers
UAS – ALL size types
USL – ONLY ACCEPTING 20′ REEFERS, ALL OTHER SIZE TYPES LOCKED OUT
YML- ALL SIZE TYPES
January 21, 2016
Reinventing the (Flavor) Wheel: Industry Collaborates to Identify Coffee Flavor Attributes
December 18, 2015
Jamaica Coffee Gets IFC Help To Reverse Productivity Decline
Jamaica coffee prices are at an all-time high, yet the industry’s earnings are at an all-time low.
This apparent contradiction led the IFC, the financing arm of the World Bank, to embark on a technical support project worth over US$560,000 ($67 million) to improve the productivity of the globally respected crop.
The project, revealed this week, seeks to work with coffee-processing and/or exporting firms to implement a proposed action plan to “reverse” the declining trend of farm productivity and preserve Jamaica’s reputation for premium coffee, according to the IFC.
“The overall goal of the project is to contribute to establishing the conditions to preserve the Jamaican coffee brand and protect smallholder coffee farmers’ livelihood by maintaining the quality and increasing the quantity of coffee produced,” the IFC said.
The project also aims to facilitate Jamaican coffee-processing firms by providing “high quality” technical support to coffee farmers.
“We have been in discussions at various levels with IFC and they have been accommodating and offering to assist with research,” said Jason Sharp, director of Coffee Traders Limited and chairman of Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association (JCEA), on Monday.
Although the IFC disclosed the project this week, work actually began in January 2015 and aims to end in December 2016.
Coffee Traders represents one of the largest exporters of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. It also sells a number of roasted brands and operates CafÈ Blue coffee shops across the island. Sharp indicated that the umbrella grouping of processors, Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association, wants assistance to create a registry of the six-to-seven thousand coffee farmers. It is aimed at collecting technical and productivity data of each farmer, reducing crop theft and facilitating the restart of crop insurance.
In 2013, the World Bank publicly released a study done in 2011 on the feasibility of weather insurance for the coffee sector in Jamaica. That study was reportedly read by the coffee sector regulator, the Coffee Industry Board. Talk of crop insurance, however, is still ongoing.
The industry was previously insured through the defunct Dyoll Insurance as the local broker. That scheme ended with the demise of Dyoll in the mid-2000s. Sharp indicated that insurers now require more sophisticated data from farmers and farming zones in order to compute the output per farm and risk associated with growing zones hit by fires or hurricanes.
“They are working with the JCEA to assist the association in its drive to modernise the industry in farmer registration and access to micro-financing,” Sharp said of the IFC. “We have been working together but nothing is formalised as yet from a JCEA perspective. But I know IFC has been working with various other entities, including assisting with a seedling programme.”
The seedling programme should allow farmers to replant and increase productivity, all things being equal. Experts agree that many of Jamaica’s farms produce yields of 30 to 50 boxes per acre, while 75 to 100 boxes remains the target.
“There is a great need for coffee seedlings, especially since the fires earlier this year,” said one respected farmer, who requested anonymity as he is not directly involved in the seedling programme. “Farmers are getting record prices now, but it’s coming from two years of drought and rust disease, so productivity is low. This IFC programme is a good thing if it can increase productivity.”
Jamaica exported US$33.8 million ($3.03 billion) worth of coffee in 2009 but that dropped to US$13.4 million ($1.5 billion) in 2014 one of the lowest in decades. Over the same period, coffee farmers’ earnings for a box of cherry coffee fluctuated slightly at around $2,500. However, the price rocketed to $5,000 in early 2014 with steady increases to its current level of $11,000 a box.
The shortage of coffee, along with its increased demand in Asia, catapulted the prices. It resulted in disheartened farmers returning to the industry, some of whom went right back to old practices and methods.
December 01, 2015
ECOM Coffee Partners in the Sustainable Coffee Challenge
Paris/Arlington, Va. USA (December 1, 2015) – Today, at the U.N. climate negotiations, Conservation International (CI) announced the launch of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge — a call to action to make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product in the world. The announcement comes as ministers gather to write a new climate agreement and as momentum builds for businesses to take direct action to combat climate change.
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge aims to transform coffee production, moving specialty and mainstream producers toward sustainability. It will convene industry, conservation and agricultural development partners to develop a common framework for sustainability in the coffee sector. Over the next 100 days, CI will formalize engagement with partners for the Challenge, while developing a plan to drive the industry toward total sustainability. The initial plan of action will be unveiled to coincide with the 4th World Coffee Conference next March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Currently, nearly half of the world’s coffee is being produced according to a sustainability standard, a figure that does not yet account for a number of recent significant investments made by the sector to support farmers in their transition to more sustainable practices. Yet only 12% was sold as sustainable coffee in the market. The Sustainable Coffee Challenge will work to strengthen demand for sustainably produced coffee and better account for progress made within the sector.
“We need a common definition of sustainability for the coffee sector,” said Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO of Conservation International. “This will require commitments by roasters to support increased demand for sustainability. It will also require improved measurement of how far the sector has come in the sustainability journey — and just how far we have to go.”
CI kicks off this challenge with key partners including Starbucks Coffee Company, Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, 4C Association, Allegro Coffee Company, Ceres, Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), Counter Culture Coffee, ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. Ltd., Fairtrade America, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS), Keurig Green Mountain Inc., Lutheran World Relief, Pelican Rouge Coffee Roasters B.V., S&D Coffee & Tea, Solidaridad and SustainAbility.
“The longevity of the coffee industry is directly linked to the social, economic and environmental conditions of coffee communities around the world and at Starbucks we are committed to sourcing all of our coffee in the most ethical way possible that is good for the planet,” said Craig Russell, executive vice president, Starbucks Global Coffee. “We are proud to be a part of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a call to action for the industry focused on creating meaningful and lasting solutions to ensure farmer and family livelihoods for generations to come.”
“The Specialty Coffee Association of America has maintained a commitment to the support of sustainable coffee production for more than a decade as a core value of its members,” said Ric Rhinehart, Executive Director of the SCAA. “We are pleased to demonstrate that commitment once again, and to drive for coffee to realize its potential as a fully sustainable crop. This challenge can be met when we dedicate our efforts in transparent and collaborative initiatives like the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.”
“IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative and the Sustainable Coffee Program are excited by this partnership in the coffee sector which builds strongly on the broad public private Vision 2020 collaboration agreed earlier this year by ICO (International Coffee Organisation), 4C Association Platform and IDH (Program Management of the Sustainable Coffee Program SCP),” said Ted van der Put, Member of the Executive Board of IDH. “The Sustainable Coffee Challenge will enable greater coordination of efforts and effective use of resources as more coffee sector stakeholders deepen their commitment to long-term sustainable production. It also has a big potential to accelerate the interest of roasters globally to offtake sustainably produced coffee. ”
The Sustainable Coffee Challenge comes at a time when nearly every major coffee-producing region of the world is feeling the impacts of climate change. Even as consumer demand increases — people drink 600 billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee industry is a US$ 22 billion business — warming temperatures, drought and changing weather patterns are affecting coffee production.
Yet the industry has a part to play in reversing climate change. Halting deforestation globally, including through fostering sustainable farming practices in coffee production, can provide more than 30% of the carbon sequestration and storage needed to limit global temperature rise to safe levels.
As its plan goes into effect, the Challenge will stimulate economic development across the industry and benefit the lives of 25 million coffee producers, the majority of whom are small-scale farmers. It will also provide environmental benefits, including the conservation of vital forests that help fight climate change by storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and also protect freshwater resources.
November 16, 2015
Ethiopia, ECX Announces New Traceability Platform
Report by AFKinsider
The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) has launched a national traceability system that will make it possible for international buyers to track the footprint of Ethiopian coffee in granular detail.
The new electronic tagging system worth $4.5 million — powered by IBM and Frequenz IRIS technology — encompass over five million smallholder farmers engaged in producing multiple commodities traded at the ECX.
The system is expected to increase exports of high-quality Ethiopian coffee world-wide and enhance market access for specialty coffee from Ethiopia.
“True traceability goes beyond the commodity’s type or origin to tracing where the commodity has been,”CIO East Africaquoted Ermias Eshetu, chief executive ECX, saying.
“We wish to track the footprint of our coffee and where and when it was washed, stored, who sampled and graded it, and when it was shipped. All of these facts will help improve our ability to move commodities traded within the exchange and create premium value for all stakeholders in the value chain.”
The initiative is expected to increase the nation’s coffee exports by allowing buyers to track the commodity’s ‘footprint’ to better ensure its quality and sustainability.
The ECX tagging system will link bags of coffee traded on the platform to one of over 2,500 geo-referenced washing, hulling and cleaning stations located in Ethiopia’s southern, central and western coffee growing regions.
“The traceability system will utilize IBM’s powerful cloud platform, analytics and mobile to provide ECX with continuous real-time data insights that enable the system to learn and predict the quality of Ethiopian coffee based on local growth and processing conditions.” IBM General Manager for East Africa, Nik Nesbitt, said.
“The system will analyze incoming client coffee quality needs and match that with the needs of buyers across the globe.”
Africa, a continent that largely depend on commodities for revenue, only has two commodity exchanges in South Africa and Ethiopia.
According to data from the African Development Bank, there have been plans to create a commodity exchange in at least 28 African countries in the last 25 years, but none of them has moved beyond the concept and studies phase.
Lack of commodity exchanges on the continent has forced many farmers to sell their produce through middlemen at very low prices compared to the true market value. This could be as low as a tenth of the value of the commodity,Mail & Guardian Africareported.
As I type this sentence, I’m chewing on half a cup of cold-brew coffee gelatinized into a gummy cube. I’ve been chewing them in lieu of a morning iced coffee for two days. My focus is up. My bathroom breaks are down. My dad jokes are on point, which is probably (but not necessarily) due to the 100mg of caffeine coursing through my veins.
If all of those qualities sound good, gummy coffee might be worth a shot.
Enter the Go Cube.
Go Cubes, which are currently just a project on Indiegogo, are being marketed as chewable coffee by a San Francisco-based company called Nootrobox — but there’s a lot more going on here.
First, Nootrobox experienced some notoriety after successfully funding a product called Sprint, which combines caffeine with L-Theanine, an ingredient in green tea thought to cut the jitters of caffeine. Basically, it offers a lot of focused, ass-in-chair energy without the “instead of writing I’m going to arrange my books chronologically by author’s spouse’s birthday” effect.
I’ve tried Sprint before. It’s a nootropic, or a supplement designed to help mental function. (Coffee is also considered a nootropic.) Sprint offers more caffeine than a cup of coffee but without the jitters. According to Geoff Woo, one of the co-founders of Nootrobox, Sprint is meant to be used for specific scenarios, like a term paper or a hard bout at the gym, and not for daily consumption, like a daily vitamin.
“I’m personally pretty bursty with Sprint,” Woo told Mic. “Sometimes [I take it] every day for a week and sometimes [I don’t use] it at all.”
Go Cubes are actually made with the same ingredients as Sprint. The difference is, they actually taste like coffee and they’re more pleasant to consume — Sprint comes in white powder to be swallowed in gel caps.
“From a consumer perspective, capped pills are scary,” Woo told Mic. “Even though they’re the most efficient way to get the active ingredients into your system, they’re intimidating. After seeing how gummy vitamins are a huge phenomenon, we thought getting nootropics to be used in the mainstream would need something that tastes good.”
So what’s it like to actually eat a Go Cube?
We found out. Each cube contains 50mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of about half a cup of coffee. (The package suggests a serving size of two cubes.) The Go Cube is also hard to chew and swallow all at once, which means you might be taking bites out of what looks like a big brown marshmallow for a couple minutes and leaving your co-workers scratching their heads.
The outside of the cube tastes like coffee candy. It’s savory. It satisfies the coffee flavor you associate with getting in the zone to do work. But the gelatinous inside, where all the ingredients live, doesn’t feel like a brilliant Willy Wonka concoction that replicates precisely the experience of drinking a latte.
And that’s where Go Cubes hit a hurdle. All the ingredients in the Go Cube — caffeine, L-Theanine and all the different B vitamins — taste like shit in their original state, which is why you usually take them as a pill or already diluted in milk and sugar. With Go Cubes, it’s hard not to taste all the supplements.
Woo compared the flavor of Go Cubes to how Red Bull was described almost three decades ago. At first, it was widely regarded as tasting terrible, more bitter and intense than a soft drink. Now, though, the flavor’s been assimilated: When you buy a Red Bull, you accept its flavor for its effects. “[Go Cubes are] distinctive, funky,” Woo told Mic. “We want to stay true to the health angle, but it still has to taste good and be interesting to people.”
Many people drink coffee for the ritual — it’s how you start your day. But you’re getting more out of these cubes than just the rush of caffeine.
The combination of L-Theanine and caffeine is a basic tenet of the nootropics scene: It keeps you energized and focused without some of the negative effects, like not being able to sit still and having to run to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting. The Go Cube compound also includes Inositol, which is a chemical found to help ease panic attacks and anxiety.
The drawbacks: Thanks to the extra focus, I felt especially irate when someone would interrupt my work or otherwise disrupt the flow I’d achieved on a long project that required all my concentration — so Go Cubes might not be the best idea if you’ve got distractions (like small children or interns) around you and lack noise-cancelling headphones. In addition, the extra B vitamins can make you really hungry, so keep snacks and water handy.
If I switched to Go Cubes, I’d miss the ritual of starting the day with a cup of coffee. That said, I wouldn’t miss that feeling after my first cup, when I’m too jacked up to sit down and focus. If coffee is doing a number on your body and you’re on the hunt for an alternative, it might be time to embrace change. Gelatinous, cubic change.