Indicators of development.
(Image via dlajholt/Flickr)
Coffee has experienced something of a revival of interest in the last decade or so, with a growing trend in actually enjoying coffee. For many, the caffeine injection is delivered via their Keurig or Nespresso, and caffeine-to-go is a big enough industry that even something as simple as the design of disposable coffee lids is endlessly patented and improved upon, and Starbucks generates enough discarded paper cups for it to be an environmental liability. But increasingly coffee drinkers are looking for something better.
That starts with good beans. Coffee is an fussy plant and very few regions on Earth have the right conditions to grow the best coffee berries: it requires tropical climates at high altitudes, with the right amount of rain and dry spells to flourish. Microlots across East Africa, South America and Southeast Asia grow batches of coffee to precise specifications, and they make up the bulk of the “high end” in coffee.
Peet’s probably set the trend for gourmet coffee, but they’ve long since jumped the shark, leaving a gap for coffee shops like Stumptown in Portland and Blue Bottle in San Francisco to crop up, embodying a philosophy of good coffee in their bean sourcing and preparation methods. Running a coffee shop in a world with Starbucks is still a risky proposition, but many are carving out a niche among the growing segment of customers that want good coffee.
The demand is such that it’s driving the price of coffee up. In 2002, coffee was cheaper than it had been for over a century, with supply outstripping demand, but as retail sales went up, the amount the farmers saw went down, pushing many into poverty and the coffee supply to an all time low. On New York’s futures exchange, the price per pound of coffee hit a three-decade high and roasters and coffee shops across the country hiked their prices. Coffee is more stable now, but many gourmet roasters that pride themselves on sustainability take measures to ensure the farmers’ good treatment and pay, and that drives the cost up too. Combined with recent weather trends reducing coffee yields to their lowest for years, good coffee has become an expensive preference.
- Coffee’s Mysterious Origins — Coffee’s origin story goes all the way back to 850 AD and a goat shepherd named Kaldi
- The phonetic taste of coffee — The etymology of “coffee”
- My Kushy New Job — GQ sends Wells Tower to Amsterdam to see what it’s like to work in a marijuana coffee shop
- Pot of Gold — Joseph Brodsky’s journey to Ethiopia in search of the mysterious Geisha coffee
- Todd Carmichael, American — Can you save Haiti with coffee?
UPDATE - Language Map of Europe for Twitter users…According to this map, it looks as the users of Twitter tend to be located around major transportation infrastructures.
“Western Europe glows bright in the Twitterverse as the most linguistically diverse section of the world. Switzerland is a mix of blue (Italian), red (German), and purple (French), with some light blue (Dutch) shadings. Lime green (Catalan) emerges in northeast Spain. Twitter use seems to peter out in Europe somewhere east of the Czech Republic, but the service looks to be pretty popular in Moscow as it is lit up in teal (Russian).”
This update has the language legend on the left.
“I really liked these maps both for their cartography but also for their demonstration that linguistic and national borders can be seen online as well. There has also been a tendency for fine scale mapping of Twitter data so it is nice to get a global perspective.”
“Particularly relevant to Spain is the dominance of yellow Catalan over pink Castilian in Catalonia, a fact which clearly illustrates Spain’s multilingual nature, and the centrality of language to Catalan identity.
The closeness of the modern world presents a clear motive for language-learning. When we have the means of global communication, why allow language to remain a barrier? As far as this concerns me, I find Fischer’s map genuinely inspirational: comparing the overlapping linguistic boundaries of continental Europe with the linguistically homogenous, grey UK makes me more determined than ever to dedicate myself to learning languages, in order to embrace the modern international identity.”
Daily chart: Christmas gifts. Today’s chart shows a general correlation between Christmas spending and wealth. The Dutch spend surprisingly little on their gifts; lightly-taxed Luxemborgers, by contrast, are exceedingly generous outliers.