Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Coffee Market Update

I find it interesting to keep an eye on the market cycles where coffee is concerned. If for some other reason than mere interest, tracking the coffee market also helps me time coffee purchases to make my few dollars go further. So, figuring what is helpful to one is helpful to more, here's a quick summary of a few varietals new market situations.

Brazil is the world's leading coffee producer, somewhere between 60-80% by volume depending on which website you use for statistics. Brazil's market effects everyone's business, including the roasters you buy from every month (week or even day, preferably). Most espresso blends (including my own: Espresso Vein Blend) contain around 10-20% Brazilian as their foundation (or in lower quality cases, as filler- Mississippi Mud). So, if you're an espresso fanatic, especially if you pull your own shots, you should keep an eye on the price of Brazilian beans. Right now, Brazil is facing it's inclement weather season. Even though this period is expected to have little impact on the coffee-growing regions of the country, it will cause some price increase due to speculation of the possibility of lost crops. Brazil's production is up 19% from last year, mostly due to increased demand from the specialty coffee industry- this will mean that if crops are hurt, demand will shove prices higher than any time previous. If you're worried, grab a pound of espresso or a Brazilian varietal before August to avoid an extra couple dollars expense if crops are hit harder by than expected.

African coffees are a consistent favorite by the coffee elites. Its more aggressive taste and exciting profiles make it desired by those caffeine fanatics who just cannot get enough. Kenya and Ethiopia are consistent contenders for the African coffee crown in specialty markets, but an reemerging producer in the center of the continent is Uganda ( Burundi and Rwanda are almost brand-new to the specialty coffee game). Developing surprisingly quickly as a specialty coffee haven, Uganda's market is a great barometer for coffee producing countries who are just getting into the game. Infrastructure and demand for the product are huge- and both are being developed quickly. After Uganda's bout with coffee wilt disease in '96-'97, the country has rebuilt its industry around improved farming techniques and increased focus on Arabica plants (rather than its traditionally dominant Robusta). Recently though, a drought caused the market in Ugandan beans to contract, fairly significantly, by a negative 7.5%, down around 30,000 bags from this time last year. What does this mean for the emerging specialty coffee market? Those brand new Ugandan varietals offered by so many of our favorite roasters will be pulled in favor of more cost efficient alternatives like Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi (which are similar in make-up, too). My suggestion is to buy quickly if you can find any Ugandan around, or look for Rwanda or Burundi as replacements.

My last market summary covers an often overlooked and newly emerging specialty coffee origin: India. The website I obtained this information from did an excellent job of condensing the need-to-know stuff, so I won't try to improve it too much. Here is the most relevant stuff with the link to the entire article:
Mumbai, July 7 - India coffee exports jumped about 43 percent to 200,830 tonnes between Oct. 1, 2009 and July 5, 2010, the state-run Coffee Board said on its website on Wednesday.
Okay, wow. 43% is huge. India is gaining ground in the coffee producing market, and quickly. Along its coasts, especially the east coast of the subcontinent, coffee is turning into a new crop of choice. Only 4.5% of the world's coffee is produced in India, but at this growth rate, Indian coffee may become more commonplace in the US and Great Britain. Start doing some research on Indian coffees. Find out what varieties you'd be most interested in, that way when Indian coffee inevitably shows up at your roaster, you won't have to take a leap of faith.

Soon, I'll be roasting a batch of the following coffees to map their unique development through the process: Brazil, Rwanda, and Sumatra. Perhaps one at a time, maybe all at once, I'm not sure. Check back soon to watch the magic!

Lord, thank you for such a diverse world with such varied opportunity. You are a God with an imagination, for sure. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.

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