“Why is coffee so expensive?” is a question that plagues us all as we fork over $4.50 for a latte. To contextualize the answer and dig into the true economics of coffee, NPR followed the full journey of one type of bean, from crops in a Guatemalan field to the final product served at a cafe.
The story shown above focuses on farmer Miguelina Villatoro, who was able to establish a direct-trade relationship with Portland Roasting by maximizing the quality of her beans (which, in fact, actually come from inside of a small red fruit resembling a cherry). While the global commodity price for coffee hovers around $1.40 per pound, Villatoro is able to fetch $2.50 per pound for her beans by catering towards the specialty coffee market, which celebrates quality—both in product and farm labor conditions.
Despite all of the gourmet coffee shops popping up around the country, the U.S. is actually not the most expensive place for coffee. According to Buzzfeed, which recently broke down how much coffee five dollars will get you around the world, Italy is the worst place for coffee drinkers—you’ll only get .5 lbs. for your five bucks, whereas you can buy 1.5 pounds for the same price over in India. (Falling between the two is the U.S., where five dollars will get you .8 pounds).
Of course, there’s the entirely different question of how much good coffee you can get for $5.