Zak Stone has a fascinating essay in GOOD Magazine today charting the rise and fall of the cheap cup of coffee.Just as “customer education” and “customer experiences” have become catchphrases among baristas at trendy shops like Stumptown in Portland, the notion of coffee as “morning fuel for the masses,” as one expert Stone spoke to put it, is quickly evaporating.
It all goes back to supply and demand. Low-tier strains of coffee like Arabica are fickle and hard to grow while luxury beans only found in the high peaks of the tropics in regions like Central and South America are battling climate changes that are driving up prices abroad. Stone writes:
“The price of a cup of coffee—whether it be a $6 pour-over, a $2.50 dark roast at Starbucks, or a $1.50 mug of diner swill—is being driven up by a complex combination of weather events, pest and fungus outbreaks, speculation on commodities exchanges, an unstable labour market in the developing world, and an unprecedented thirst for good coffee among a growing global middle class.”
Though the changes won’t be felt for a few decades, Americans “will have to get used to drinking a bit less coffee,” said Peter Baker, who is helping farmers deal with the offbeat weather patterns.
And as supply continues to dwindle, so too will the quality of cheap-o brands that “run a volume game,” says Stone. Your instant coffee and diner swill is going to taste a lot more like dirt.
Thankfully, the big guns (ahem, Starbucks) are working with local producers to deal with the world coffee shortage, reports UPI.
“If we sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that (they are) … impacting our supply chain then that puts us at a greater risk,” Jim Hanna the company’s sustainability director told the Guardian. “From a business perspective we really need to address this now.”
You don’t have to skimp on quality coffee. See when to buy generic versus brand-name goods at the store >
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