Coffee shops have started lining their shelves with tiny, eight-ounce bags of coffee instead of the traditional 16 ounces. Quality coffee is more and more often being sold in smaller quantities at higher prices. This trend is attributed to more than just one factor. It has actually been in the making for years.
“We were talking to some farmers when we were in Guatemala about literally watching ripe cherries falling off the trees…literally money falling off trees,” said Jackson O’Brien, Head Barista for Bongo Java Belmont.
Coffee producing countries have been having poor harvest years. Farmers combat tropical storms and coffee rust to keep their families from losing money. While coffee plants take up to three years to fully produce the precious time wasted on nature only heightens the effect of greater supply and demand.
Not only does the rest of the world want more coffee at a time when production is down, for the first time the producing countries want it as well. As economies improve in these countries more people want to drink higher quality coffee in replacement of the low-grade leftovers they’ve been used to.
As farmers realize they can have the better coffee they also have noticed they can ask for more money. In the past corporations have strong-armed small farmers to sell their coffee below standard prices. But now that demand is up and cooperatives and fair trade exist farmers don’t have to rely on big business to feed their families.
Our cafes only see part of this story though. Consumers only notice smaller amounts of coffee for higher prices. As baristas O’Brien says it’s our job to make consumers understand the size to price ratio is worth it. He says by focusing on quality in smaller amounts we can make people see that coffee is still, “a very affordable luxury.”
“You don’t buy really nice wine in a box or in magnums. You buy it in the 750 classic bottle. Same token, you don’t get really good coffee in the 24 ounce big gulp,” says O’Brien.
The move from large to small has been in the making for years. It has just now culminated to a point where we can see it. Demand is up, production is down and price has finally caught up with quality . Coffee shops choosing to sell in smaller quantities is the educated response to all of these factors.