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Coffee News Roundup, 1/16/2015

GE's Cafe French Door Fridge with K-Cup Brewer

Starbucks Flat (You Can Say That Again) White

We'll be giving our take on the new Starbucks Flat White in this space soon, but in the meantime, it seems like many who've tried it would probably put the emphasis on "Flat." Starbucks' own blog entry introducing the product features many comments from customers who aren't even sure the baristas were trained to make the drink, and found that the drink worked better as a concept than in its execution. The situation probably isn't helped by the fact, as Quartz pointed out, that there's not much consensus as to what, exactly, constitutes a Flat White.

By Any Other Name

Speaking of Starbucks, CityMetric reports on a new trend for the industry leader: what it calls "Stealth Starbucks." In much the same way that the biggest beer brewers like Coors and InBev (owners of the Budweiser and Heineken brands, among others) have tried to hide behind faux "craft" brews (like MillerCoors' Third Shift and Batch 19 and InBev's Landshark and Diageo's Smithwicks), Starbucks is trying to camouflage its presence behind one-off neighborhood cafes "inspired by" Starbucks. Some operate under the Starbucks Reserve imprint, while others have been given new names altogether (like Seattle's 15th Ave Coffee & Tea). Largely confined to New York and Seattle, there are signs the company plans to take the brand(s) to a wider public, opening up to one hundred locations. Some coffee drinkers (and coffee shop owners) are less than pleased, but Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz insists it's a benign move, designed to allow Starbucks to try new things that would not be in keeping with their traditional outlets and the expectations that go with the existing brand.

Ice, Water, or Coffee?

Gizmodo had an interesting write-up on GE's latest offering in its Cafe line of refrigerators. The Cafe French Door refrigerator has the bits you'd expect (namely, an ice maker and water dispenser), and something you probably wouldn't expect: an added module that brews Keurig K-Cups. The Cafe series already had the option to dispense hot water, so the addition of the Keurig feature wasn't as much of a stretch as it might seem at first. What's novel is that the fridge's LCD changes with the addition of the Keurig module to show a display similar to that found on higher-end Keurig machines (including options for size and brew strength). The appliance debuts in late 2015, and will also have built-in smart technology that allows it to be remotely controlled and programmed.

Strictly Commercial

Finally, a bit of coffee-related humor, courtesy of the folks at I Need Coffee. There's a decades-long tradition of celebrities who wouldn't be caught dead shilling for companies on the American airwaves filming commercials overseas, from the unexpected (Sylvester Stallone advertising for Knorr) to the even-more-unexpected (like guitarist Adrian Belew's endorsement of Daikin). They've uncovered coffee commercials starring the likes of John Malkovich, Edward G. Robinson, and Tommy Lee Jones, mostly made for Japanese television, with a couple of European markets represented for good measure).