What does future hold for coffee ?

March 11, 2020

There is nothing better than to start your day with a fresh cup of coffee. No matter where you are and how you prepare it or who prepares it for you or who you are with. The chances are that it will trigger all your senses before you take the first sip and further your connection with it.

Coffee is the greatest connecting element to be discovered yet. It connects people, nature, cultures and your inner self. The smell, the sound, the taste either will bring back memories or create new ones that bring comfort and satisfaction.

Working directly with coffee producers and communities and permanently living in coffee origin countries has taught us a great deal of valuable lessons. It enabled us to connect to this unique beverage on a whole different level.

The coffee future is uncertain.

What does future hold for coffee? What impact will it create for the producing communities if we continue to keep coffee market prices low ($1,13/lb) and at the same time expect higher quality?

There is a lot of discrepancies and gaps between the production side and consumption side. There is a certain amount of miscommunication and misperception of how coffee is produced -time and cost wisely. For the purpose of this article I will focus mainly on higher quality coffee as recently there has been a continuous higher demand in regards to quality.

Coffee is an agricultural product yet the consumer expects a stable and consistent product on everyday basis. Coffee is not made in a factory and it’s dependent on many variable factors that will affect the end product and its flavour profile. It will change day to day and year to year.

“I can’t imagine a day without coffee. I can’t imagine! ”

— Howard Schultz

Climate and people are the two main variables that will always change. In case of the climate it will never be predictable or fully controllable. We can control some aspects of it but coffee is mostly produced in developing or third world countries, rural areas where technology, in some cases electricity is hard to combine. Often infrastructure, topography, water, people and education are a great challenge. All these obstacles limit coffee production both in producing a more consistent product as well as higher and consistent yields year to year.

Changing consumer demands.

It takes three years for a high quality coffee plant to produce its first reap and that’s with three years of good weather conditions and looking after it with applying fertilisers and nutrients. On average this adds 3 years of extra cost with no income for producers.

In recent years more and more coffee buyers have been traveling to coffee producing countries to learn more about coffee and its production. They travel with a desire to trace back the product they purchase and also to support coffee producers and their communities. This created a bit more awareness in regards to the reality of coffee production. Yet, the coffee industry somehow is still missing a connecting element and communication on a consumer level.

Every year buyers’ expectations will change followed by consumer demands leaving producers confused and often unable to deliver. The demands are made based on the western culture standards without the consideration for coffee producers, the communities dependent on that production, economical and/or political state of the particular country or simply the cultural difference.

The coffee community fails to bring ethical and social value awareness and education to the end consumer.

Low market coffee prices often don’t cover production cost which brings a question to mind, how are coffee producers will be able to continue coffee production and sustain it for future generations?

What does future hold for coffee

Consumers’ expectations are to receive higher quality and sustain low price per cup of coffee. It seems unreasonable to continue down this path as it will not be in any way economically viable for coffee producing countries, coffee producers, communities and the families that fully depend on that production.

Let’s clarify a good cup of coffee in a cafe keeps in the range of $3 to $4. I will exclude high volume, low quality and low price places or coffee shops where you buy more milk and artificial flavours than coffee itself. In fact, this causes some challenges and confusion as far as standards set by consumers. Why wouldn’t it?

Ethical responsibility.

You easily can find places where coffee will cost you a buck or less. It is no wonder that consumers are not willing to pay more because why would they? The value of the product is not clearly differentiated and communicated. There is no emotional empathy created or explanations delivered on why they ought to pay more. They feel entitled to receive the product at certain cost without holding any social or any other responsibility. No one is asking them to do so. Should we?

Well, maybe we should. Maybe it will bring us all closer together. Maybe we will care more not only about coffee producing communities but communities that we live in. Maybe it will create mutual understanding and respect for people, price and planet. Perhaps creating and taking responsibility for this extra link of better communication will provide new opportunities and ideas. It will foster possibility to create a respectful and equal chain of coffee production and its consumption.

Maybe next time you will consume a cup of coffee you will think about the impact a single cup has a power to create. Consumers are the last link to the whole chain and they play a big part in it.

Feel grateful and enjoy this small yet big and impactful beverage that connects so many hands across the globe.

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