A two-week motorbike jaunt through southern Vietnam would leave anyone impressed by its coffee culture. For a relatively small, skinny country, it’s hard to image they’ve become the 2nd largest coffee exporter in the world next to Brazil. They zoomed from less than a percent to over 20% of global production market share in just a few decades.
Native only to a few African and Arabian countries, coffee cultivation has taken up roots around the globe between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. What’s impressive is how we humans have embraced the drink so that coffee has become, in relatively short order, the most popular beverage worldwide. It’s one of the most important and valuable traded commodities. The annual global population growth rate has slowed to just over 1%, yet coffee exports are up over 5% last year and demand up 8.3% for 1st Q 2017 crop season over the same period last year.
We only started drinking coffee in mass a few hundred years ago, but the beverage turned truly global in the last 100. About the time the British were finding the values of tea from their conquest of India, Americans took up coffee as a civic duty. Along with countries surrounding the Mediterranean, Central and South America, coffee is firmly embedded in our culture.
China has only begun to embrace coffee. Once this consuming behemoth starts gulping, world demand will take another jolt.
When my job took me weekly to NYC in my early 20’s, coffee was drunk everywhere, but good brew was nearly impossible to find. “Regular” coffee came with milk and sugar to mask the bitter taste. It’s now rare to locate a city anywhere without coffee shops and cafes making artisan coffee drinks from a global lexicon of specialty roasted beans. For most of us, that’s a good thing. There is nothing like the taste or feeling of a “coffee break.”
The jury is still out on the health benefits, but we generally think coffee is not unhealthy. There are too many variables to measure, from the quality of coffee and caffeine (grade and class of beans, roasting process, water quality, storage, grinding and brewing methods) to how our systems handle the stuff. A healthy liver breaks down caffeine by a particular enzyme process, and our resulting metabolism depends on how that function is carried out. Added to that, there’s a lot more to coffee than caffeine.
Bottom line, coffee consumption is on the rise. While the coffee charm may seem rosy, there is good question whether slashing forests (including rain forests) for the sake of coffee plantations is helpful to the environment. But that’s a topic for another time. For now, with the quantity of coffee I pound down, I’m crossing my fingers that my liver is not over-caffeinated. As long as it’s not, I’ll continue to value coffee time, whenever and wherever that might be.