The news: If you feel like your morning cup of joe is getting more expensive by the day, you're absolutely right -- and it's only going to get worse from here.
Coffee prices have been steadily rising for months, spurred on by drought and a fungal outbreak that have devastated the supply. While the picture already looks pretty grim for the coffee industry, researchers say that these severe weather patterns and outbreaks are only going to increase from here on out, as the effects of climate change wreak havoc on contemporary agriculture.
"If things continue like this, maybe 50 years from now, we'll all be tea drinkers," Leo Lombardini, deputy director of World Coffee Research, told Fast Company in a recent interview. "I don't know if it'll happen that quickly. But it could be 100 years."
Why is coffee affected so much? To be fair, there are two types of coffee plants that we currently consume as beverages and one is less likely to fall victim to the effects of climate change. The Robusta bean, as its name suggests, happens to be a rather robust plant with more caffeine content and is even cheaper to grow as well.
But unfortunately, the Robusta bean simply doesn't taste as good as Arabica, a delicate plant which originated from the highlands of Ethiopia. The Arabica bean currently makes up 70% of the coffee that is consumed around the world and enjoys specialty status, while the Robusta is relegated to cheap, instant brews — though that may all change in coming years.
The trend has already started. For the past year, this is what coffee prices have looked like:
Although the price has stabilized in recent months, the world is still paying far more than it used to for the same cup of coffee. For some companies, that means absorbing the costs to ride out the rough patch; for others, they have had to raise prices to make up the difference. Still, those measures don't answer the deeper question: What happens if the prices continue to go up?
Unfortunately, as unpredictable and severe weather patterns become the new norm, your favorite food items might end up on the endangered list — maybe not now and not in the next couple of years, but in the foreseeable future. So enjoy that cup of coffee while it's still affordable.