The man in the above photo is a model. It’s staged. To get that photo, I put “coffee” and “sad” into Getty Images, and voila: Sad Coffee Guy. Yet at this moment, who among us is not a Sad Coffee Guy? Forbes reports (by way of The Wall Street Journal and its paywall, apologies) that steadily climbing demand, along with climate change and other factors, have contributed to a nearly 25% jump in coffee prices in recent weeks. The factors that caused the spike are more important and troubling than the spike itself, but all the same, we have our tiny espresso cup out and our colorful pocket square ready to serve as a handkerchief in the event that we start crying into our large beard and tiny candle.
Trade prices for coffee have fluctuated over the last several years, but droughts in Honduras have significantly reduced the production of coffee (as well as other crops). That issue is exacerbated by “coffee rust” (called “la roya” in Latin America), a fungal plant disease that threatens the remaining coffee crop. “When the orange-hued spores appear on a tree,” wrote CNN Business’ Talib Visram in 2018, “that tree sheds its leaves and stops producing coffee cherries. Just like that, the disease can devastate a country’s coffee industry.”
That’s a problem, because like Sad Coffee Guy, we—as in, humanity—really like our coffee. Forbes includes this staggering yet not at all surprising statistic in its piece: Every day, the people of earth consume two billion cups of the stuff. (I contribute at least five.) The export of coffee is a $20 billion business, affecting the fates of farms, businesses, and nations, not to mention, in all likelihood, you specifically, if you depend on it to get you going in the morning.