What’s brewing in the Coffee business?
Coffee is one of the most popular commodities in the world. Coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherry fruits that grow in coffee plants (genus Coffea). There are two types of these plants: Arabica and Robusta. For quick access to the latest coffee import and export data, check out our free information here, and subscribe for more in-depth analysis.
Arabica is grown at higher altitudes (2,000 - 6,500 feet), and requires a lot of moisture, and shaded sun. Its beans are flatter, longer, and yield a more aromatic, mild, yet flavorful beverage. The plant is also more delicate and vulnerable to pests, hence is costlier to cultivate. It accounts for around 75% of global production.
Robusta, on the other hand, is grown at lower altitudes (sea level - 2,000 feet) and is a lot more hardy and robust. It yields a lot more caffeine, is less vulnerable, and is a lot more cost-effective. This variety is preferred for inexpensive commercial instant coffee brands. Accounts for about 25% of global trade.
Coffee cherries are processed to extract the seeds which are then dried. These dried seeds are called green beans and serve as raw materials for further processing like roasting, grinding, and packaging. Coffee has immense value to countless people over the world and has great historical and cultural significance.
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Coffee: A rich history
The Coffee plant can be traced back to Ethiopia, East Africa. According to an Ethiopian legend, a goat herder noticed his goats were unusually energetic after grazing from a certain bush. They were even unable to sleep at night. He told an abbot from the local monastery about the bush, who made a concoction out of it. The abbot discovered that the black drink kept him alert during long hours of worship. He shared his discovery with other monks. Thus, the knowledge of the rejuvenating berries spread, all the way to the Arabian peninsula.
The black beans were met with much controversy as Muslim countries sought to ban the beverage. While the authorities considered its effect intoxicating, the drink became a mainstay for the people. Coffee houses started opening up where people would converse enthusiastically in the evening over its stimulating effects. These coffee houses became social and cultural hubs and started to get dubbed as “Schools of the Wise”.
The drink spread throughout Europe in a similar fashion where it replaced beer and wine as a breakfast beverage. From there it traveled worldwide to become a common household ingredient all over the world.
Coffee: Export overview
All of the coffee grown on Earth is cultivated in an area around the equator called the Coffee Bean Belt. This area between the tropics of cancer and Capricorn has ideal conditions to grow coffee. It is no surprise then, that a large part of coffee export data points to sources in this area. Brazil has long been the leading producer of coffee ever since the 1840s and has a long history with the trade. A large part of the coastal area has been growing coffee since the first bush was famously planted in 1727. Brazilian coffee has since prospered after a surge of immigrants in the 19th century that came to grow it.
Vietnam’s coffee plantations have long been a major economic force in the country. After the war and during the reforms coffee was valued as second only to rice. Switzerland is home to Nestle and has some of the world’s biggest coffee processing plants. Despite never growing a single bean in the country, Swiss coffee beans sell for a premium price. Switzerland has managed this feat through great business practices and highly developed products. Colombia is famous for producing mild and well-balanced beans. Coffee beans are the number one export of Honduras which has ideal conditions for its cultivation.
Top exporting countries (2021)
- Brazil ($5.8 billion)
- Columbia ($3.1 billion)
- Switzerland ($2.6 billion)
- Vietnam ($2.3 billion)
- Honduras ($1.3 billion)
Coffee: Import overview
Global coffee import data has a long history just like the export leaders. The exporting countries have large industries and a long history with the black bean. Similarly, the countries that import it have a long cultural history with this commodity. Coffee is an inseparable part of people’s lives in all these countries and has been so for many years. In the US, The Boston Tea Party tied the beverage to patriotism. ‘Starbucks’ a premium coffee retailer and cafe house is also of American origin. Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany also have a tradition of coffee drinking ever since the plant first made its way to Europe.
Top importing countries (2021)
- United States ($6.9 billion)
- Germany ($4.1 billion)
- France ($3.1 billion)
- Italy ($1.7 billion)
- Belgium ($1.43 billion)
Coffee: What to expect
The growth of the coffee industry has been declining for the past few years and bean prices have been reducing. Arabica prices have now fallen to lower than Robusta which indicates the reducing demand. People are becoming more aware of traditional and artisanal ways of brewing. While demand for these specialized products might increase, things seem uncertain for now. Similarly, good quality coffee might get cheaper than ever, so instant coffee might see decreased demand. As the world faces a recession in the US, inflation in Europe, and the war in Ukraine, industry leaders are conservative in their short-term estimates. Some experts expect a rise from 1% to 2% in annual growth.