It might not come as a shock that around 54% of Americans drink coffee every day, or that the average drinker consumes around 3 cups a day. What might be surprising is the sheer amount of money we spend on our caffeinated beans: around $40 billion a year, to be exact.

These numbers make it pretty clear how important coffee is to the American consumer who grinds it, brews it, and sips it – but the data neglects to paint the picture of how important coffee is to the people who grow it.

For the most part, coffee growers across the globe – from El Salvador to Kenya to Indonesia – rely on the successful harvest of coffee beans for their livelihood and the livelihood of their families. Coffee is typically grown either on large plantations or on small farms, and in the case of small farms, it is often the family members who carry out most of the work that allow the farm to succeed.

Beyond the Price of Coffee

There are over 25 million families globally who rely on their coffee farms to survive. For many of these growers, the coffee business is not just a career choice, but a family tradition – a heritage that is passed down through the generations.

For these families, there is a lot of hard work involved in getting quality beans into the hands of roasters. The coffee bean itself is actually the seed from a fruit (also called berries, or sometimes cherries), which grows in clusters on the coffee tree. These trees usually only produce one harvest a year, and when the berries ripen, they do so unevenly. It is for this reason that farmers must venture through the coffee fields on foot with baskets to pick the bright red, fully ripened berries by hand.   

In addition to this very selective collection process, the farmers then put the coffee through a procedure to remove the fruit and its pulp – and from there it must be dried and raked. Even with all of this very skillful and hands-on labor, the coffee harvests that are purchased by distributors are not always enough to bring in a sustainable profit. Sometimes things like climate and weather conditions affect crops and make livability difficult for the farmers and their families.

Regardless of their profits though, these farmers and their families across the globe remain dedicated to the craft of coffee farming. They continue to live amongst the hills and forests of lush coffee trees and pluck red berries each year, not only to deliver rich beans to their consumers across the sea, but also to feed their children and communities.

And that’s something worth drinking to….