Coffee is one of the most popular beverages on the planet.
More than a billion people enjoy at least one cup of coffee every day.
Coffee, however, can be expensive.
It seems, in recent years, the cost of coffee in both grocery stores and coffee shops has been rising.
There are several important reasons that coffee is so expensive.
Why Is Coffee So Expensive? (Top 12 Reasons)
The United States is the largest importer of coffee in the world.
Many of us would find it difficult to make it through our day without at least a few cups of coffee.
In spite of the rising costs, coffee is still an extremely popular beverage.
The following are several important reasons coffee is so expensive.
1. Coffee Plants Take A Long Time To Grow
A coffee plant, which is really more like a tree, can live as long as a hundred years.
The average lifespan, however, is closer to twenty years.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take quite that long to yield the fruit that produces the coffee beans.
It will take approximately three to four years from the time it is planted until the tree can bear any fruit.
Some plants take up to five years before they bear any useable fruit.
Farmers need to take care of and nurture the plants to make sure each one produces as many coffee beans as possible.
This time-consuming process is one of the many reasons that coffee is so expensive.
2. Harvesting Coffee Can Be Difficult And Time-Consuming
The harvesting process involves several steps and can really affect how much a bag or a cup of coffee will ultimately cost the consumer.
Selective harvesting is when harvesting is done by hand.
When farmers are harvesting by hand, they are able to make sure to get the best fruit (which is ultimately the coffee beans).
This process produces better coffee, but it’s very time-consuming and ultimately more expensive.
Strip harvesting is when all the fruit is taken from the trees no matter how mature each individual piece may be.
Strip harvesting often produces a lower quality of coffee.
Price is also determined by how often a farmer is able to harvest each year.
Most coffee plants are only able to be harvested once a year. In some places, the climate will allow coffee plants to produce two harvests.
If the climate permits two harvests where the coffee is grown, prices will not be as expensive.
3. Processing And Roasting Coffee Are Detailed Processes
After the fruit that produces the coffee is picked, there is an extensive process that is called processing and drying.
Dry processing is simply leaving the fruit in the sun to dry.
Dry processing produces coffee with a fruitier flavor.
Wet processing is placing the fruit in a tank full of water.
This allows the riper fruit to sink to the bottom while the defective fruit will float to the top.
After wet processing, the coffee beans are then separated from the skin and pulp of the fruit.
This process is often completed with a pulping machine.
The beans are then left in the tank for 12 to 48 hours more.
The beans are washed thoroughly and then left to dry.
This leaves the coffee with a cleaner, less fruity flavor than just general drying.
Whatever type of processing is chosen, the next step is roasting.
This is where the beans will get most of their flavor.
For the best-tasting coffee, it is often recommended not to roast the coffee until it’s ready to be served.
Much of the coffee you purchase in the store is already roasted.
The roasting process is a science, and knowing when to start, stop, and quickly cool the beans will affect the quality and taste of the coffee in your cup.
The expertise required to complete the process will add to the costs.
4. Coffee Must Be Carefully Packaged
After the long and laborious process of growing, harvesting, drying, and then roasting the coffee beans, they must be carefully packaged before they can be shipped.
Coffee beans are susceptible to damage from moisture.
Rodents or insects might also damage the coffee if it isn’t packed and sealed properly.
The packaging used to ship coffee needs to allow the air to easily circulate.
Much of the coffee transported for overseas consumption is often packed in a material called jute.
A jute bag is similar in texture to burlap and is usually eco-friendly.
Jute is actually made from a plant, with the long strips dried and meshed together.
Packaging is critical to keeping the coffee fresh and free from any type of rotting or spoilage before it reaches its destination.
Most coffee travels by trains or ships over long distances and the jute must be of good quality to safeguard the coffee for the entire journey.
It should be noted that, in recent years, many coffee producers have been switching from the traditional jute bags to plastic sacks in an attempt to save money.
Whatever type of packaging is used, this careful packaging adds to the expense of coffee.
5. Most Coffee Is Grown In Central And South America
Approximately 40 percent of all the coffee in the world is produced in Brazil.
Much of the rest of it is produced in countries throughout Central and South America. Some coffee is grown and produced in Asia and Africa, with very little grown in the United States.
There are only a few areas in the United States where coffee can be grown.
These include California and Hawaii.
Because of shipping costs and all the regulations that go along with this, coffee is more expensive than many other types of food or beverage.
Exporting goods from another country can be quite costly for several reasons.
For starters, there’s a lot of poor infrastructure within many of the countries that grow coffee, including Brazil and many countries in Central America.
Imagine rambling trucks making their way through the Amazon.
This is often what coffee transportation looks like inside many countries.
The laws and regulations are different between countries.
If these regulations are not strictly followed, a coffee company may face penalties when coming through customs.
Companies may need to hire a team of legal experts to make sure the process of bringing coffee into the country goes smoothly.
6. The Coffee Business Can Be Volatile
Raising coffee anywhere is often a difficult and even a dangerous business to be in.
Consistently making a profit when there are so many factors involved isn’t easy.
Everything from the lengthy process of harvesting and drying to the extensive regulations can make it difficult.
Add to this difficulty and the volatility that is associated with many of the countries that primarily produce coffee, and it’s easy to see how costs can go up.
For example, Columbia and Brazil are two of the top coffee-producing nations in the world.
Both countries, however, struggle with high crime rates and violence from drug cartels.
This can affect the costs of making sure coffee is transported in a safe and efficient manner.
Another example of volatility during the last year is Covid-19.
Due to lockdowns, roadblocks, and curfews, the pandemic has affected the price of coffee.
7. Climate Can Affect Coffee Production
Even something as simple as the weather can affect the costs.
Drought, too much rain, and violent storms may damage crops or limit the yield in any given season.
Plant diseases, fungi, and a variety of pests are among the many things often associated with the climate which can cause prices to go higher than usual.
Climate change and dramatic shifts in the weather—which are increasingly occurring in many parts of the world—could have a dramatic effect on the price of coffee.
Both harvest yields and market trends can be very unpredictable.
The Arabica bean in particular is extremely sensitive to water availability and changes in temperature.
Between 75 and 80 percent of the world’s coffee production is from the Arabica bean.
8. Many People Are Often Involved In The Process
It’s estimated that more than thirty individuals will handle the coffee from the time it’s planted to the time it gets to either your grocery or restaurant.
From seed to cup, there are an enormous number of steps in the process.
Many of these individuals, unfortunately, are not always paid a fair wage, but there are still costs for wages for dozens of people growing and processing the coffee you drink.
After the coffee has reached stores, restaurants, and cafes, a lot of people have been involved in the process of bringing that steaming cup of coffee to your table.
Even in a small coffee shop, there are lots of people, from the manager of the store to the wait staff, who will need to be paid.
There is also overhead such as rent and utilities to pay for in both grocery stores and coffee shops.
9. Specialty Coffee Is More Popular Now
Back in your grandmother’s day, coffee was pretty much coffee.
They had decaf, regular, and maybe a darker, hearty roast selection.
That was pretty much it.
Today, like many other products, coffee has expanded to include dozens of types and varieties.
This is one of the reasons Starbucks has become so successful.
Coffee shops don’t just serve coffee anymore.
They serve lattes, cappuccinos, and frappuccinos.
With well-known coffee franchises, as well as mom-and-pop shops coming up with all sorts of specialty coffees with all kinds of extra ingredients, it’s obviously going to cost more for the consumer.
It also should be noted that most specialty coffee is often made with higher quality ingredients, including the best coffee beans.
10. Cold Brew Coffee Is More Expensive
With all the new types of coffee available, cold brew is one type in particular that has become extremely popular.
Cold brew coffee is not hot coffee that is later iced and then served cold.
It’s actually a process in which coffee sits for an entire day in cold, filtered water.
Hot brewed coffee, by contrast, can be brewed in only a few minutes by passing hot water over a filter full of ground coffee beans.
The longer the process is to make almost anything, the more expensive it will likely be.
Many people may not know it, but cold-brewed coffee also requires more beans.
Some coffee experts say that nearly three times as many beans are needed to make cold brew as compared to regularly brewed coffee.
This is obviously going to make this particular choice more expensive.
Between the time to brew it and the extra coffee beans, people will pay more for cold-brewed coffee.
11. Coffee Is Considered A Luxury Item
Calling coffee a luxury item may sound absurd considering how many people drink it.
Some people may even think of coffee as a necessity since many of us feel we need a certain amount of coffee to even function on a daily basis.
However, the truth is that coffee is not a necessity for daily life.
While coffee is not exactly in the same category as caviar or expensive champagne, it is technically non-essential and the prices often reflect this.
People are especially willing to pay higher prices for coffee if they’re sitting in a nice cafe.
While many people may grumble about high coffee prices when they’re in the grocery store purchasing a container of instant coffee, they’re probably less likely to do so when sitting in a cute cafe with friends sipping a latte.
Like most other types of items, the market will charge what people are willing to pay.
Some companies and business owners will charge more if they think the public is willing to pay the price.
Coffee just seems to currently be one of those items that many people are willing to pay more for.
12. Coffee Is Often Taxed
Depending on where you live and if you’re buying a bag of coffee in the grocery store or enjoying a cup at a high-end cafe, you may pay taxes on your coffee.
While most states don’t tax groceries, there are about half a dozen that do.
That means you’ll pay a little more each time you buy your favorite type of coffee at the store.
In some states, such as California, sales tax applies to items that are prepared hot, while items prepared cold are not taxed.
This may sound confusing, but the point is that when and how coffee is taxed changes from state to state as well as from grocery store to restaurant.
When both state and local taxes are calculated, it averages out to almost 9 percent tax throughout the United States that some people are paying for coffee.
This comes close to four million dollars just in sales tax for coffee.
Taxes are just one more reason you’re paying more for your coffee.
There are a few things you might want to know in order to purchase the best coffee at a reasonable price.
How Can I Save Money On Coffee?
If you’re buying at the store, you’ll want to buy in bulk.
If you drink coffee on a regular basis, you’ll want to buy five or even ten-pound bags of coffee to save money.
There are also certain kinds of coffee that are less expensive.
The cheapest is pre-ground and instant.
Coffee made from Arabica beans is generally more expensive than coffee made from Robusta beans.
Can I Freeze Coffee?
It’s also important to remember that coffee can be frozen if you find a particularly good deal and want to purchase more than you’ll likely use at the current time.
As a rule of thumb, you can keep coffee frozen for up to two years if it has been vacuum-sealed.
It will likely be good for up to six months if it hasn’t.
Even if it hasn’t been vacuum-sealed, make sure it is in an airtight container so the coffee won’t pick up any other flavors in the freezer.
If you’re keeping it stored in the cupboard, make sure your coffee is stored in a cool, dark place.