Single-origin coffee is pricey, but really good for everyone involved
It's thought that the practice of drinking coffee originated on the African continent—specifically in Ethiopia. But according to an article from Bloomberg, African coffee production today is way down from what it once was. The continent's output is 75% what it was forty years ago. While global coffee shipments have risen about 37% since the early 2000s, African export numbers have stayed fairly flat.
This lack of growth is mostly due to changes in the way land previously used for coffee is being used: Coffee bean crops are being replaced by urban developments—as coffee growers find it to be more lucrative to sell their land than grow coffee— and subsistence crops to support a rapidly growing population. Young people are choosing careers different from their parents, and as a result, the average age of coffee growers has risen to 60 years old.
However, a growing interest in single origin coffee, or coffee made from beans from one particular place, may be what could keep the African coffee industry afloat. Demand for African coffee beans to use in blends—like what's used in the coffee you grab at the deli—has been relatively steady, but the third wave coffeeshop obsession with often extremely expensive single-origin beans may be rising, and people are willing and eager to empty their wallets for it.
This is extremely good news for already-popular Ethiopian and Ugandan beans, but also for beans that haven't necessarily been in the spotlight before, like those from Burundi, Uganda, and the Congo.
For the common consumer, it sounds crazy to shell out more than twice the cash for the same amount of beans, but coffee snobs swear by it—and so do people concerned with the health of the planet and the health of the people harvesting coffee.
Single origin coffee is often (but, it's important to note, not always) synonymous with direct trade, which means there's more transparency in business practices and the quality of the coffee. That means that not only is the coffee grown in away that is good for the planet—often organically, and with an eye towards sustainability—but it's grown with the wellbeing of farmers, harvesters, and roasters in mind. So, it's absolutely delicious for the consumer, and good for the whole world.