Enjoy that delicious, autumnally appropriate coffee drink while you still can. In what could very well be the worst news in the history of the universe, there may be a global coffee shortage on its way. The combination of an increase in consumption with a decrease in the quality of environmental conditions has proven lethal for the coffee industry, so all you coffee drinkers out there? You might want to brace for impact.
According to Illycafe SpA CEO Andrea Illy, who recently spoke with Bloomberg Business, coffee producers will need to add 40 to 50 million bags to their production within the next 10 years in order to fulfill the exorbitant rise in demand. To put that number in perspective, Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, had an output of just under 35 million bags this year, as reported by Bloomberg. The problem at hand is all too clear — but what's the solution? Is there a solution? What's to be done?
Unfortunately, the solution isn't as simple as telling farmers to plant more coffee to meet the demand. According to The Guardian, farmers are hesitant to expand due to changing climate conditions. In South America, shifting climates have spurred disease that are literally wiping out plants. Coffee grows best in cool, high-altitude conditions, but top growing locations in South America have been confronted with increasing temperatures. Farmers are subsequently scrambling to figure out how to adapt.
A popular solution looks to China and other Asian territories as potential farmland due to their mountainous, coffee-friendly landscapes. Vietnam is already the biggest producer of Robusta coffee beans, but whether or not Asian-grown beans will be viable in the long run remains to be seen.
Though we won't be rationing our brew today or tomorrow, a serious change is imminent. Illy told reporters, "Sooner or later, in months or years, we’ll have to make a bold decision about what to do."
Until then, you can do your part to aid the industry, encourage farmers, and help the environment. Just ask yourself: WWLGD (What Would Lorelai Gilmore Do)?
1. Consider The Planet
Many types of coffee come with a Rainforest Alliance Certification. This ensures that the coffee was grown in a way that is not harmful to the environment. Until recently, coffee was grown in shady, forested areas; only in the last 20 years has the industry shifted to growing coffee in soil and forest-depleting open fields. Check for the RAC's tiny green frog logo on your next coffee purchase.
2. Know Your Roaster
"Fair Trade" isn't just a marketing term — it really does make a difference. Because coffee is such a widespread industry, growers will compete with each other to sell at the lowest price, and it's likely they will be taken advantage of. Buying from a Fair Trade-certified grower will ensure you are contributing to fair and sustainable labor practices, which means more coffee for years to come.
3. Support Your Local Coffee Shop
Supporting a local coffee shop means you are more likely supporting fair labor practices for everyone involved in getting that delicious coffee bean into your cup.