While considered a young industry, specialty coffee has whipped international trade for centuries. Ethiopia, origin of the coffee plant, is currently “next-up” to be a fully modernized nation, not least because of superior coffee quality and availability. At trade events, exporters typically sell coffee by the bag (60kg), Ethiopian exporters more often pitch sales by metric tons.
America is the first world power established with coffee in hand-so coffee has been a key player in every war fought since. The World Wars normalized and extrapolated instant coffee, which is exactly why your grandparents prefer Folgers. The 20th century saw specialty roasting developed by Starbucks, Apffels, Diedrichs, Dunkin Donuts all the way to McDonalds. Simultaneously, trade unions, certifications, seminars and forums came about in the form of the Specialty Coffee Association of Name a Country. Just recently that of America and Europe merged as simply, the Specialty Coffee Association (one of the more notable to use a .coffee domain).
It is more common than ever to see the quality and variety of coffee at a hotel, restaurant, conference and even airport as a blatant signifier of their level of prestige. Beverage quality is not new in this regard, but thanks to the likes of the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) and others, it is now a lucrative means of marketing, and it has come full circle.
Start ups (unique business ventures) of every industry are filtered out by time and success; the survivors are either bought out or live to compete in their niche. If they stand the test of time, they buy out other start ups. Similarly to Corona currently buying out Ballast Point for $1 Billion, a San Diego craft brewery, Peets bought out Stumptown and Intelligentsia, two notable specialty coffee roasters.
International hedge funds invest in longterm growth companies which identify trends and buyout budding businesses. Coffee is no exception. Take McDonald’s for example. Your local barista with a hard part and tattoos is actively partaking in the commodity industry that still shapes international markets.
This is why you see “old fashioned” trading companies like Resource Development International popping up. Given an industry which has come full circle, it’s only reasonable to attack from all sides, whether a modern coffee bar or an online trading floor.
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