Harvest (© National Geographic)

Marc-Andreas Muendler

Coffee — the traded good

  • beverage consumed by about one third of the people in the world, 1.5 billion cups a day
  • there are approximately 20 million farmers and coffee workers in over 50 countries
  • third-most traded agricultural commodity after wheat and corn in 2008
  • but sells 50 times less than the global economy's most addictive liquid, crude oil
  • used to be second-most traded commodity after crude oil for most of post-WWII period
  • brewed from the roasted seeds of the tropical evergreen coffea plant
  • invigorating effect from caffeine, an alkaloid

there is no opec for coffee farmers

  • Coffee crisis, cry many growers, with prices at historic lows thanks to competition from newcomers
  • At first, old-guard exporters were calling for a stronger ACPC, the want-to-be coffee OPEC. ACPC in turn called for a retention plan. In 2001, ACPC dissolved for lack of agreement
  • Clever advisors ponder a boost to demand with quality coffee, to hold back low-quality supplies, and to keep waiting
  • Meanwhile, the Coffee Quality Institute is helping growers on the ground to raise quality and compete globally
  • Fair traders have worked out how to differ from the mean bean, and promise to kick some extra earnings back to the growers
  • Steve Suranovic: What's fair trade anyway?
    (But don't expect a look into a fair trader's income statement)
  • Craig McIntosh: How far goes fair.
  • Crisis? Prices are bouncing back since 2007

where coffee is going and where it comes from

  • National Geographic: A coffeehouse story of coffee
  • An encyclopedic history of the coffee house itself
    (where Voltaire and comrades arguably conceived the Encyclopédie)
  • Now what you really need to know
  • Check the latest jitters in coffee futures at nybot

should we drink coffee anyway?

  • Consumers' fears and select facts (if you trust the salesman)
  • If you want to know what is in your cup, perhaps have a GC (gas chromatography)

+++ two coffee plants supply almost all of the world's consumption — coffea arabica and coffea canephora.

+++ connaisseurs claim that the arabica plant yields the more flavorful and aromatic beverage than robusta, the main variety of coffea canephora. there are brazilians and milds among the arabica sorts.

+++ some coffee gourmets tend to disagree as the french and italians found a way to over-roast the robusta bean and to partly rid it of its natural harshness. today, robusta often makes its way into our cups through instant powder.

+++ better keep away from disputing tastes and stay with the facts. arabicas are grown in central and south america, the caribbean, and indonesia, while robustas are grown mainly in africa and vietnam.

+++ recently, the unprecedent supply of robusta coffee, mainly from the big newcomer in coffee growing vietnam, has contributed to the steep fall in coffee prices.

Bear territory back home