Coffee addicts beware: A drought in Brazil has caused speculative stock market prices to change the wholesale cost of coffee. Something similar happened in 2010 and was, at that time, expected to last until 2012. Prior to that, there was a bad crop in 2007. Each time, prices increased as the stock market speculated on the harvest results.
The current market prices for Arabica coffee beans are climbing. The price-per-pound of coffee has gone up over 50% already this year. Folgers and other instant-coffee brands, so called “smaller roasters”, have had to raise prices to keep up with the rising costs. The larger markets, like Starbucks, are refusing to change their prices. Starbucks and Keurig have set their rates for this year while smaller companies don’t have that advantage.
The drought effects will not be fully known for another 2 or 3 months as crops have not yet been harvested, though this year’s crop yield is expected to drop 11% compared to the average. The country is rationing water in many cities so far. The overall impact of the water-loss will not only hit the coffee market, as they are seeing shortages in crops such as sugar cane as well. Adding to the cost jump is the increased number of coffee drinkers world-wide, which only drives the demand higher as buyers and coffee-drinkers alike fear an international coffee shortage.
Coffee is a necessary evil. (And, horrifyingly enough, it is subject to the whims of the climate just like every other food supply.) Sure, there’s always tea, but it’s just not the same. Coffee and writing go hand in hand for me, no matter the time of day. Coffee is the most important thing in a writer’s arsenal.
First, coffee is a multi-sensory experience. You walk into a coffee shop – or within a block of a good one – and you can already smell it. Just walk by the coffee aisle of a grocery store. It draws you in, it makes you take a deep breath and just exist there for a moment. Tea is nowhere near that strong an aroma. Only coffee can follow you around. Then you get a nice warm mug in your hand, you can feel the heat on the pads of your fingers, soaking into your palm, and it just radiates pleasantly up your wrist. The first taste of the brew is sometimes lost to the heat if you’re not careful. But then, there it is. Light or dark, caff or decaff, a hint of chocolate, maybe some creamer, whatever your flavor, it has a taste just as strong as the aroma. The senses are engaged. The senses play with the mind, they play with your memories. You’re going to remember that later. As a writer, that’s obviously important.
Second, coffee has caffeine. It is a stimulant. It’s good go-juice. So far, it’s even still legal. A good pot of coffee will get you through those long hours at the computer keyboard or hunched over the notebook. It will not read over your shoulder, it will not ask you to critique a new idea, and it will not derail your train of thought with small-talk. It will just sit there, patiently waiting to push you through.
The third reason coffee is a writer’s best friend is that it can be enjoyed hot or cold. If you let it sit there patiently long enough, it will fade to room temperature and then nose dive into a cold drink. Add some ice, shake it up a little, and you have an afternoon boost. A soda gets flat. Tea snobbishly demands to be microwaved or watered down with a new round of hot water. Coffee can be tossed in a blender and enjoyed as a chilled alternative.
Fourth, when you spill coffee, you can see exactly where every sticky drop ran off to. And you know you’re going to spill it. At the most inopportune time, in the worst possible place, there will be a coffee ring on important papers. There will be a flood licking the edge of the notebook and a cascading coffee-fall onto the keyboard. Swear at it, calm down, grab a paper towel and soak it up. It adds character to those papers, leaves a scent-stamp when it dries. Tea or soda just gets things wet, and half the time it’s clear liquid and you’ll be finding the trail until it evaporates. Coffee stays classy and always leaves it mark.
And, last but not least, coffee is habit-forming. It encourages routine, which all good writers recommend. Currently, coffee is a cheaper and healthier writing-habit to form than something like alcohol. Yes, the bottle will always be there to listen, I say sarcastically, but in all seriousness, the long term damage just isn’t worth it. Ask Hemingway, among others. And as a bonus plot twist, coffee may actually be good for you!
So next time you head for Starbucks or the corner cafe, smile and know you’re on the right track.