Coffee Contemplations

Edit: Thanks Scott, for checking our math and looking into this further!

You drink it everyday, but what do you really know about it? After spending time on the
farm in San Agustín, I wanted to take a second to write about coffee. Coffee comes
from a short tree, you might called it a bush. A mature plant is about as tall as me and
has green leaves and berries on the limbs. Once the berries are ripe they turn red and
are picked. These red berries are put through a machine that separates the red and
sweet outside from the seed in the middle. This seed in the middle is washed several
times then spread out to dry for 4 days in a greenhouse-like structure. After the coffee
is dried it is put into huge sacks and sold to the local coffee buying conglomerate. In Colombia, the buyer ships all the coffee to either Buenaventura on the Pacific coast, or to Cartagena on the Atlantic coast. From each of these seaports all the coffee then goes to the west and east coasts of the United States.

The most interesting thing we learned was how little the farmers actually make for the coffee they grow.  Lets say you go to Starbucks and get a $1.50 for an 8 oz coffee.  How about we say that for every pound of coffee beans Starbucks can make 30 cups .  That means Starbucks sells coffee for $45 per pound.  The Colombian coffee farmer sells his unroasted beans for about $40 for a 120 pound sack.  So with these numbers the farmer makes approximately 30 cents per pound, or less than 1% of the Starbucks price.

This doesn’t really make much sense to us.  We definitely want to investigate this issue further, and delve into how the fair trade certification process works, and how much more fair trade farmers make.  Anyone else have any knowledge on the subject of coffee?

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One thought on “Coffee Contemplations

  • Hey Zach, Your math is off! The farmer would be getting $ 0.30 per pound at $40/120lbs. Still a small amount compared to the final sales price. I did a little internet research for you, a Starbucks plain tall (8oz) coffee goes for about $1.50, and they make 32-8oz cups/1lb. So they’re taking in closer to $48/1lb. In that number they have to account for the overhead of distribution, costs of running their stores etc. That said, they’re still making a good profit.

    I also found this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_coffee

    I don’t really like to use wikipedia as a source but it’s a good start to get you to real source materials.

    Scott

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