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The Bizarre and the Beautiful: How Coffee Inspired and Confounded in 2014

From Hitler on coffee creamers to an upscale cafe concept with individual French presses from KFC, it was a bizarre and sometimes confounding year in coffee. Here we present some of 2014’s strangest coffee stories, along with collections of some truly beautiful images that coffee has informed and inspired.

For some more focused looks back at the top coffee stories of 2014, check out our year-in-reviews of news in roasting, origin issues and sustainability, trading, and high-end retail.

After Starbucks Cease and Desist, Micro Brewer Not Giving Up Without a Laugh

After receiving a cease and desist letter from Starbucks for a beer named “Frappiccino,” the owner of a micro brewery in Cottleville, Missouri, replied with a sarcastic bit of comedy writing that concludes with “us small businesses need to stick together.”…

Coffee’s ‘Hidden Worlds’ Revealed in These Amazing Microscopy Images

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Nestle has released a series of science-psychedelia images showing coffee and a number of its common additives and condiments on a particle scale. The electron-scanning and florescence microscopy images were captured by Nestle’s own in-house food scientists, and as Nestle describes, they “reveal hidden worlds in everyday products.”…

“I Degassed About Three Minutes Ago:” Conan O’Brien Visits Intelligentsia L.A.

Last night’s episode of Conan included a field trip to Intelligentsia’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles. As would be expected, Conan O’Brien provided most of the yucks, while the show’s associate producer Jordan Schlansky and Intelligentsia’s Sam Sabori and Eden-Marie Abramowicz played it mostly straight…

Miguel Cardona’s Must-See Coffee Cup Art

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When you doodle this well, something is going to come of it. The original freestyle coffee cup drawings of design professor and professional graphic illustrator Miguel Cardona — which began as he was passing time working in a Bay Area coffee shop — have grown into a small charity operation…

Could Google’s April Fools Joke Be a Creepy Look Into Coffee’s Future?

April Fools jokes were aplenty in the coffee world yesterday. Some of the highlights included Caribou Coffee’s Clear Coffee promo, this guy making homemade kopi luwak with his cat Lolita Roberts-Johnson, and Gwenyth Paltrow’s $450-per-bag Goop Coffee line. The Table in the Corner of the Cafe even ran an anti-joke, taking the opportunity to disparage the single-serve pod segment…

Louisiana Woman Served Satanic Symbols in Ooey Gooey Caramel

You would think this would go without saying in any kind of barista training, but don’t leave the mark of the devil in customers’ drinks. Starbucks is now apologizing to a Louisiana woman who was served what appears to be two Starbucks whipped cream-topped Frappuccinos with Satanic symbols written in ooey gooey delicious caramel…

Canadian Coffee Shop Owners Detained In China on Suspicion of International Espionage

Two Canadians who until last week were running a coffee shop on the China/North Korea border are being detained by the Chinese government for suspected theft of military intelligence and threats to national security, according to China’s Foreign Ministry…

South Korea’s Cafe Dreamy May Be the Strangest and Coolest Cafe in the World

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Let’s see what we have here: a two-story cafe resembling a vintage German Rolleiflex film camera next to a small residence on a South Korean countryside. This has to be Photoshop, right? Perhaps an April Fools joke? It is neither. It is Cafe Dreamy…

Sniffing Cow Dung for Quality: A Semi-Ironic Milk Origin Trip Video

A short “filmette” that came out of this year’s SCAA Symposium, “This is Milk” completely flips the worlds of coffee and milk, toeing the line between ironic hilarity and serious issues related to drink quality and sustainable production…

What Happens when a Hungarian Roaster Geeks Out on a Moka Pot for Months

Great brewed coffee. That’s what Gábor Laczkó of small hungarian roastery Kávékalmár says was finally achieved after months of trial and error with a classic Bialetti Brikka moka pot and all kinds of related brewing gear…

Hands-Free Aeropress? You Need to See this Gas-Powered Custom Machine

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The founders of the mobile Brewbar in The Midlands of England have created a custom contraption for Aeropress brewing that is one part pure functionality and one part Willy Wonka theatrics. This is the second version of the custom machine designed by Bart Kerswell and Ben Collier…

Product Buzz: Cannabis Coffee is Coming

Adam Stiles of Longview is currently in the application process for a marijuana producer and processors license, according to My Northwest, with hopes to have his THC-infused cold brew called Legal in stores later this year. The state legalized marijuana in 2012…

These Transparent Portafilter Videos Are Extractly What You Need Right Now

Is there any way we can have transparent portafilters in commercial applications? Traditional thinking says no, since the necessary adhesives and plastics would not withstand heavy use at high temperatures. But that’s not stopping certain brewing- and gear-obsessed engineers and tinkerers from trying, and in the process giving us unprecedented views of puck behavior during the espresso extraction process…

Get Half Naked, Grab Some Friends and Drink Coffee Wine (It’s a Real Thing)

There are reasons some flavor combinations have never been brought to market. Nonetheless, Miami-based Friends Fun Wine — the makers of the 6% ABV “Fun Wine in a Can,” with products like Stawberry Moscato and Red Sangria — is introducing the world to coffee wine…

Owner of Aptly Named Criminal Coffee Sentenced for Conspiracy and Fraud

Cory Eglash, the former owner of a San Juan Island, Wash., coffee shop called Criminal Coffee, has been sentenced to prison after after collecting more than $42,000 from fraudulent disability claims to help save his dying business…

This Coffee Shop Has No Employees and Customers are Overpaying

Could this work in Hillsboro? Jamestown? Even Fargo? Is this totally sixth wave? David and Kimberly Brekke opened The Vault Coffee Shop & Bakery in Valley City, North Dakota, in October with an extremely unorthodox model: no staff…

You Have to See this World-Traveling Photographer’s Coffee Cup Collection

A New York-based photographer and former New Zealander and flat-white-drinker, Henry Hargreaves has compiled a serious collection of used to-go cups from some of the best coffee purveyors throughout the world, with a heavy emphasis on Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Portland, London, Sydney and Melbourne…

Expand Your Mind with These Psychomimetic Coffee Prints

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Inspired by their office espresso machine named Alexia and by favorite local coffee shop, The Village Coffee & Music, a Dutch creative agency has released a series of arresting art pieces surrounding the concepts of coffee obsession and addiction…

Village Voice Employees Walk Out, Demand Better Coffee

Unionized employees of the 60-year-old alternative weekly The Village Voice staged a walkout Monday seeking better pay and benefits — including the most essential benefit of all, behind maybe health care: better coffee…

A Tale of Water Disasters, Michael Cera and the Randomness of Barista Life

You’re having a rough few days on the job. Nothing is working as it should, forces beyond your control are conspiring against you, you’re tired, covered in coffee waste and you can’t even shower. The next morning you wake up and everything returns to normal. You see a lanky figure out of the corner of your eye, look up, and who gives you an endearingly awkward wink as he sips a cappuccino? It’s film star Michael Cera…

Alanis Morissette is Singing About Coffee For All the Right Reasons

Grammy winner Alanis Morissette has lent her voice to an anthem to support “A Small Section of the World,” an hourlong documentary premiering in New York this weekend that highlights an influential group of female coffee producers in Costa Rica…

Espresso Voyeurism: Naked Extraction in a Bottomless Portafilter

Gábor Laczkó is an obsessive tinkerer of existing coffee coffee equipment. We first encountered Laczkó, who runs the Hungarian roastery Kávékalmár, when he sent us this video of a moka pot rigged with all manner of cables, sensors, a scale and a a YCT 474UD Thermometer/datalogger…

John Oliver Breaks From Politics to Trash Pumpkin Spice Lattes

A decade ago, when Starbucks first introduced a pumpkin spice latte as a limited seasonal offering, no one could have predicted that the combination of espresso, steamed milk and flavored syrup would become a divisive cultural icon…

These Humanoid Robot Baristas Want to Be Your ‘Partner’

Remember in the 1980s when humanoid robots were going to take all our jobs, and perhaps even stage a full-scale cybernetic revolt? The future of the 80s is now, and it turns out robotics development has been slower to develop than anticipated, sparing all our jobs and delaying the inevitable machine rule over humans…

Swiss Company Feels Real Bad for Putting Hitler on Its Coffee Creamers

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Migros, Switzerland’s largest grocery and cafe retail chain, is apologizing after consumers discovered images of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini on their coffee creamer packages. The story broke when a reader sent the German-language newspaper 20 Minuten a picture of the Hitler creamer…

California Woman Arrested After Allegedly Bogus Hot Coffee Lawsuit

A California woman has been arrested and faces 21 felony counts after she allegedly submitted counterfeit photos of someone else’s burned hand and counterfeit documentation to support a hot coffee lawsuit against McDonalds…

Curious Developments in Japan: A KFC Cafe and Coffee Chips that ‘Taste Like Chaos’

KFC Japan is planning a new cafe concept — including woodgrain tables and individually brewed French press coffees — to debut later this month in Kobe…

Exploring the Amazing Live Coffee Art of Fernando Mosca

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Coffee can inspire in many ways. In the case of visual artist Fernando Mosca, whose primary medium is paint, the inspiration comes from the new wave of coffee shops in his home base Sydney, Australia — visually striking interior spaces that are veritable living canvases on which the beautiful mechanisms of coffee exist…

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