Coffee in Congo

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“Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee!” Anyone else feel the need to order coffee the way Lorelai Gilmore orders her coffee?  The desire is so great and overwhelming that coffee is the only thought occupying your mind.  We may not all live off of coffee the way the Gilmore Girls do, but if you have watched the show I am sure many of us find their coffee love somewhat relatable (even if you can totally tell that their coffee cups/mugs are usually very empty.)

If you find the concept of only being able to function after a morning cup of coffee (or two) completely foreign, you might feel like you are in the minority and maybe you actually are (or are at least close).  Let me share some coffee facts with you from E-Imports.  In 2016, statistics show that among coffee drinkers in the United States the average consumption is 3.1 cups per day.  Around the world the average consumption is 1.6 cups per day.  Specialty coffee sales are increasing by 20% a year.  America imports over $4 billion worth of coffee per year (ummm… that is a TON of coffee).  According to Harvard’s coffee studies 54% of Americans (18 and older)  drink coffee everyday (which does put non-coffee drinkers in the minority) and the U.S. spends $40 billion on coffee every year (with those statistics we really could end world hunger/poverty).

One of the many questions that could result from reading through those numbers is, where do we get our coffee from?  The United States only grows coffee commercially in Hawaii, which means we have to be getting coffee from somewhere; we do spend $4 billion to acquire it.  Coffee grows best along the Equator and the National Coffee Association calls it “The Bean Belt.”  Arabica beans grow best at high altitudes in rich soil (what plant doesn’t thrive in rich soil, besides a cactus? But what do I know about growing things…).  Robusta prefers higher temperatures and can thrive on lower grounds. There are more than 50 countries that grow coffee, among the top producers are Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Ivory Coast (for Robusta coffee); and Vietnam has recently made its way onto the list.  The United States in 2016 imported most of its coffee from Colombia and Brazil (of the $4 billion worth of imported coffee over $2 billion was spent on coffee from these two countries).

Also in 2016, Starbucks was the leading coffee chain in the United States.  And conveniently enough, that is exactly the coffee company that I want to talk about because in 2014 Starbucks partnered with Eastern Congo Initiative in order to help rebuild the coffee industry in eastern Congo.  Congolese farmers have been grown Arabica coffee trees along Lake Kivu since the 1940s, but the lack of infrastructure plus instability and violence ravaging the country has devastated the coffee industry.  Eastern Congo Initiative hopes to change the narrative that has plagued the people of Congo for too long.  They hope to get Congolese coffee back on the map and Starbucks is interested.  Starbucks purchased its first crop in 2014 and has continued to buy coffee beans from eastern Congo.  From this purchase the farmers’ incomes more than tripled, families have been able to send their children to school, and access healthcare.  The growing coffee industry has given hope to many families and as the industry grows coffee will change even more lives for the people of Congo and change the trajectory of life for future generations.

Beyond just buying coffee, helping Congo produce a reliable source of high quality Arabica coffee, and link Congo to the international marketplace, Starbucks also works with ECI to support college scholarships for young women studying agriculture and has invested in local organizations that create jobs for disadvantaged young adults and former soldiers in Congo’s coffee-growing communities.

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