Brown’s Coffee Scholarship

Winning Essay of April 2017

Writer: Matthew J. from Chicago, IL

Will There Be a Shortage of Coffee?

Coffee is prized all over the world. People rely on it for its rich flavor, its stimulant properties and its versatility. Styles of coffee vary, from bold and strong Italian espresso to North American “double doubles” to Brazilian coffee (which contains dissolved sugar) and beyond. In the digital age, people experiment with recipes for coffee or find new ways to enjoy it at local coffeehouses.

So, what would we all do without it? Will there be a shortage of coffee which makes it difficult to enjoy our morning cups… and our usual allotments of coffee throughout the day and night? Will we need to pay even more money to get our coffee fix in the future?

Today, we’re going to share facts which help to answer this important question.

Robusta Coffee Bean Crops are Faltering

According to a story published in London’s Financial Times (online version), one of the world’s most commonly-used coffee beans, the robusta bean, which is known for its affordability, is currently in rather short supply! This is the third year running that supplies of this particular type of coffee bean have dwindled, due to faltering crops.

At present, robusta coffee beans are being produced in the same quantities that they were in 2012 and this statistic shows a big slump in production. According to the International Coffee Organization, a shortage of sixty kilogram bags of coffee is anticipated, beginning in October, based on slackening product levels.

While production of arabica beans remains strong, arabica beans cost more and not everyone can afford them. Since crops for robusta are not thriving as they used to, there may well be a shortage of coffee in the foreseeable future, at least for those who rely on reasonably-priced, robusta-based ground coffees (or whole robusta beans).

Naturally, when one type of coffee bean isn’t available, people will turn to other types of coffee beans. This will boost demand for alternative types of coffee beans and may trigger shortages of those coffee beans, also.

Is Climate Change Affecting Coffee Crops?

The Union of Concerned Scientists reported that climate change is definitely making it harder for coffee crops to thrive in all major coffee-producing regions. Climate change is driving up temperatures and droughts are lasting for longer periods of time nowadays. As well, rainfall is more intense, pests are more likely to survive and damaged crops and plant diseases are prevalent.

All of these factors are linked with the devastating impact of climate change.

Even small temperature increases put coffee crops at jeopardy. For instance, a temperature spike of just one half degree may be enough to hurt production. This is one reason why coffee production due to climate change has declined over the past fifteen years.

If you’ve noticed famous ground coffee products, including blends from Folgers and Maxwell House, rising in price over the years, it’s not just due to inflation. It’s actually strongly linked with the impact of climate change on coffee bean crops.

Is Demand for Coffee Rising?

Global demand for coffee beans is definitely going up. In fact, consumption in 2017 is anticipated to be 1.2 percent greater than it was last year. In America and other parts of the world, such as India, China and Japan, coffee demand is going through the roof. People can’t get enough of coffee beans, and this rising demand, coupled with less supply, may lead to even higher prices for coffee beans in the future.

When demand dramatically outstrips supply, prices inevitably go up.

How Will People Cope?

Droughts in coffee-producing nations, such as Brazil, are taking their toll on coffee production. As well, demand is rising because millenials are discovering coffee and committing to it! Many different variables may drive up the price of coffee in the future. So, how will people cope?

Basically, those who are used to cheaper coffee beans may need to accept paying “Starbucks” prices for costly beans which are in greater supply. Paying more isn’t something that anyone is going to enjoy, but it’s not the end of the world, either. Robusta beans cost less because they have a bitter edge in terms of taste, versus arabica beans, which are prized for their smoothness.

It’s possible that people will enjoy better coffee if they have to turn to costlier arabica beans due to the impending coffee shortage. They’ll elevate their palates perhaps, but their budgets will take a hit.

People have gone through worse things. However, the prospective coffee shortage isn’t good news. It’s going to affect a lot of people, and not just those who love to drink coffee. It will also affect local coffeehouses, whose owners will likely need to charge more for the coffee drinks that they offer. It will also hurt brands that produce coffee and coffee-related products. Everyone will feel the burn. Hopefully, initiatives which are designed to reverse climate change, such as the UNESCO Climate Change Initiative, will help to turn things around, environmentally-speaking, so that coffee crops thrive more in the future.

Now that you know the answer to the question, “Will there be a shortage of coffee?”, you’ll be ready to stock up now if you want to. Coffee beans may indeed be frozen, although some purists believe that they shouldn’t be. They also stay quite fresh for extended periods when stored, unfrozen, in airtight containers. Whether you freeze the beans or not, they should always be stored in containers which don’t let in light, air and moisture.