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How Coronavirus Affected Coffee Culture

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The coronavirus pandemic hit many industries hard and negatively affected the world’s economy. But perhaps one of the businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 has been one that you would have never imagined: the coffee industry. Although many individuals consume three cups of coffee per day on average, coffee shops saw a drastic decrease in coffee consumption, which, as a result, affected the whole industry. Despite the surge in coffee bean purchases during the early stages of the pandemic, it couldn’t save the industry from a historic fall. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was the first time the coffee industry has seen a decrease in sales since 2011. While online sales for affordable coffee beans surged, the coronavirus had a significant effect on coffee lovers with an acquired taste for high-quality beans. And the impact was worldwide.

The Disappearance of Coffee Culture

We all have a routine during our commute to work; and for many, this includes getting a cup of coffee from our favorite coffee shop along the way. However, as companies have shifted to allowing their employees to work from home, many of these individuals have been forced to hone their own coffee-making skills. This meant that cafes and restaurants, which accounted for 25 percent of demand, have seen shutdowns, layoffs and even financial difficulties when making business deals with coffee bean growers. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has completely changed coffee culture and many have warned that it will take some time before things go back to the way they were before the virus struck. 

While the demand for basic coffee supplies has soared, many high-quality bean farmers fear that the industry’s recent downfall will have long-lasting consequences. High-quality coffee is typically sold in cafes and restaurants. But as many of them were shut or saw a significant decrease in demand, it severely affected the number of orders from farmers. Companies like Starbucks, which saw a 43 percent sales decrease in May 2020, were forced to adapt to the pandemic by prohibiting customers from sitting inside of shops. Instead, customers were forced to order their coffees to-go, thus eliminating the social aspect of drinkinf coffee. Coffee culture as a whole has officially been changed.

The Future of the Coffee Industry

During the summer of 2020, many coffee shops reopened, only to close again after failing to make a profit. This resulted in a surge of closures. For other stores, financial difficulties saw slow re-orders for new supplies and delayed payments to farmers. The International Coffee Organization and the International Cocoa Initiative both warned companies about succumbing to the dangers of child labor, as sustainable agriculture practices were facing challenging times. Farms around the world facing labor shortages, saw many profits being cut; and International Cocoa Initiative, in a report, stated that the number of minors employed in coffee harvesting, rose from 16 percent to almost 20 percent.

However, not all areas of the world faced a coffee consumption decrease. With the gradual ease of measures meant to contain coronavirus, Asia has reported an industry recovery, while the USDA predicted that 2021 will see a drastic industry rebound. Early 2020 saw the Dalgona coffee trend, which went viral on the Internet, with many consumers trying to make the fluffy beverage at home. The moment spiked a surge in robusta beans, which are typically used in instant coffee. It was a clear indication that coffee remained an integral part of consumers’ lives.

Although coffee shops remained cautious during the second half of 2020, everyone looked forward to the gradual reopening. While the coffee culture as we know it changed forever, the 2020 pandemic saw an opportunity for brand new business models that were able to adapt to the challenge. The comeback might be slow. However, people’s love for high-quality coffee will always remain.

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