International Coffee Day
Fiona Smart (Cafe Lab Hospitality Consultants)1 October 20200 Comments
Today is ‘International Coffee Day‘ and more than ever, its original purpose of raising awareness of the hard work that millions of coffee farmers put into growing coffee beans around the world, comes into even sharper focus. In the last decade there’s been a growing number of farmers, traders and roasters working to raise industry standards and improve the public’s understanding of what’s involved in bringing coffee from origin to cup. This year’s theme is Coffee’s Next Generation, highlighting the challenges that young people in the coffee industry face, whether that’s farmer or barista. Today we celebrate that innovation and hard work as we take a look at both the current factors at play and the opportunities that lie ahead.
There were already a number of pressures on coffee producers before the pandemic, including climate change, price volatility and plant diseases. In researching for this article, there were so many stories about the devastating reality for coffee producers with the pandemic sending an already volatile coffee market on a more intense roller coaster ride. About 125 million workers are reliant on bean collection to sustain their lives, and declining prices has made their livelihood increasingly difficult. Since 2016 international coffee prices have hit around 30% lower than a 10 year average, laying unstable ground for an industry that is currently still deeply reactive to local outbreaks of Covid-19 and the big changes to consumption patterns by coffee drinkers worldwide.
Humanity is grappling with the flow on effects of the pandemic and this is prevalent in the coffee industry as we see massive drops in sales at the consumer level of hotels, cafes and restaurants. Although coffee drinking patterns have shifted toward home consumption it is not expected that this shift will offset the losses in other markets as the result of restrictions. Importantly, producers face the continuing issue of market sustainability, profitability and their inability to invest in modernization to offset environmental challenges. On top of these foundational issues, at ground level many farmers simply feared that cherries would remain unpicked let alone the devastating situation that delays and postponement of orders by consumer countries has on entire local coffee-based economies.
There’s good news in amongst it all. The first ever Cup of Excellence in Ethiopia yielded excellent results and exceptionally high average prices and global coffee production is expected to be the best yield in 6 years, driven by a record Brazilian crop.
The way we consume coffee may have changed – more coffee being made at home, surging coffee subscriptions, the expert home barista and the growth of the suburban cafes market but It appears that even in a pandemic, coffee is still an affordable luxury for many.
Technology has been integral in communication and trading with the development of webinar culture and other digital services. This has meant information, collaboration and support has been more easily accessible through virtual meetings.
It will be interesting to see how these remote business practices continue to be adapted in the future (buffered by technology) to support efficiencies and build direct-relationships with more partners across the globe.
Farmers continue to display their resourcefulness and resilience as they work hard to overcome current obstacles by finding or creating new albeit smaller markets locally as well as adapting quickly and working with others in the industry to innovate collective solutions. At the other end of the chain, roasters, cafes and baristas have been overcoming their own set of challenges to be able to continue to keep their doors open.
The problems being experienced at plantation, mills, cupping labs and roasters are still unable to be fully understood and it’s likely the true impact of the current situation can not be known from this vantage point. If nothing else, would it be fair to say we are stronger in our local communities?
As the global community sits on standby, coffee growers, communities and families at origin that have been able to invest in improvements to practises, coffee quality and communicate their story effectively will hopefully re-emerge stronger than ever when the market stabilises and demand returns. At Bellissimo Coffee we select and roast only specialty grade coffee for all our blends and single origins. Our philosophy is to respect, appreciate and recognise the farmers’ incredible efforts by upholding our end of the quality process. This International Coffee Day we thank and celebrate the many hands that work together to bring us our daily cup of coffee.
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