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Letters for the Week of September 4

Readers sound off on single-cup coffee, climate change, and Richmond's city council.


"Waste: The Dark Side of the New Coffee Craze," Feature, 8/21

A Convenience-Oriented Society

We're a convenience-oriented society:  fast food, fast coffee, and there are even apps now for coordinating sex within the hour. When Peet's first opened on Solano twenty years or so ago, I remember people would bring their own cup or use a ceramic cup there.  Now everyone just takes the paper cup, top, and protective sleeve without thinking much about it.  

It was the push of bottled water at Peet's stores starting several years ago that soured my opinion of them.

Chris Gilbert, Berkeley

Strikes Against Single-Cup Brewing

Thanks for this important article. One small correction: Coffee has not been a beverage for many thousands of years, only since about the year 600. But that small error does not detract from the importance of this piece.

I have already written to Peet's, excoriating the company for this terrible move. Either it is specialty coffee, or it is not. Even terrible coffee (Dunkin Donuts) costs what Kona should cost when packaged [in pods]. Higher-end coffee will be costing $70 per pound or more. For that kind of money, a civet should be processing these beans.

So strike one is the ridiculous cost.

Strike two is the inevitable staleness. Grinding coffee multiplies the surface area available for staling by many thousands. No amount of nitrogen flushing will keep these vulnerable grounds free of the oxidation that occurs as the barriers seep oxygen, no matter how gradually.

Strike three, though by far the most serious in moral terms, is the greatly magnified waste.

Strike four: The convenience advantage is illusory. In an office setting, the lack of cleanup is a slight time saver perhaps. At home, a pour-over is just as easy for a single cup, and a high-watt brewer is just as easy for multiple cups.

Strike five is weak coffee, for two reasons: One, the coffee is not brewed at the right temperature, and if it were, it would probably be too bitter; and two, the only way to get a proper dose is to select a small cup size.

Strike six: After so much progress on connecting coffee drinkers to the growers and getting people to care about good coffee, these machines serve to dumb down coffee drinkers. People might pay a premium for Peet's for a while, but once it is clear that it is not worth the money the question of paying legitimate premiums for good, ethical coffee will be muddled. In other words, Peet's is making the market safer for bad coffee competitors.

James Hayes-Bohanan, Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Make the Effort to Go Green

Nespresso's single-cup pods are much more green if you make the effort. Take the used pods to their store in San Francisco's Union Square and they are separated into recyclable aluminum and compostable coffee. With encouragement and expanded sales, they might add more facilities or inspire other makers to create more recyclable products.

Ted Russell, Oakland

Simple Solution

Not one mention of the fact that K-Cup brewers come with a reusable pod for those of us who like the convenience and still grind our own beans.  A simple solution is at hand—use the reusable pod that came with your machine!  If grinding beans is too daunting for you, have it done where you buy the coffee. Cleanup is easy and you'll save money and won't have to read these "be afraid of everything"-style articles that only offer gloom and doom and no solution.

Tim Nelsen, Oakland

"Berkeley Moves Forward With UC Student District," News, 8/21

Student District Will Lessen Influence

Putting as many students as possible in the same district will lessen their influence citywide. Instead of being a strong force in two or three districts, their influence will be limited to one. This process has the same effect as when Republican state legislatures pack Democrats into as few districts as possible.

Jack Sawyer, Berkeley

"We Need a Comprehensive Plan on Climate Change," Seven Days, 8/21

Hacks Run the Show

Your otherwise excellent article summarizing the global warming problem unfortunately ends on an absurd note.

You tell us that the chronic gridlock in Washington is caused by Congressional Republicans.  You go on to reassure us that since the Democrats are in charge in Sacramento, California has no excuse for not getting global warming right. Are you kidding?! Did you insert those sentiments to gauge the gullibility of your readers? Or did you just fall off the back of the cabbage truck?

In case you hadn't noticed, the hacks run the show, both in Washington and in Sacramento. Democrats are just as bought and paid for as Republicans are. Big oil, big coal, the financial companies, agribusiness, the pharmaceuticals, the public employee unions, etc. call the shots regardless of which party is in power. In fact, when it comes to the environment there is more to be hoped for from the occasional courageous Republican than from the perpetually cynical Democrat. 

We've all heard how journalism schools crank out cookie-cutter lefties, but in 2013 can anyone still seriously believe that getting lots of Democrats in power will save the environment or otherwise serve the public interest in any meaningful way? No wonder the fish wraps are going down.

Stephen Pfang, Oakland

We're Going to Cook Ourselves

There seems to be a massive amount of delusion among those of us who actually care about the consequences of global climate change, specifically the idea that we actually can slow and reverse global warming.

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