The importance coffee has on the global economy, human rights, and the environmental quality and biodiversity of the tropics is not widely recognized, especially in developed countries where coffee consumption is so far removed from coffee production. In the United States it is common to incorrectly assume that something as seemingly inconsequential as a cup of coffee would have little effect on such important global issues.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity on the planet, the first being petroleum. Coffee production is a multibillion dollar industry, supporting roughly 25 million small farmers growing on over 11 million hectares. The importance of the income generated by coffee is further magnified by the tropical region in which coffee is grown, where the average GDP is significantly lower than countries in the Temperate Zones and where no developed countries exist. Coffee plays an integral role in the economic survival of both individual farmers as well as the developing countries in which they live.
Coffee also plays an important role in developed countries. The world’s largest coffee importer, the United States, spends roughly $4 billion on coffee imports annually and consumes approximately 400 million cups of coffee every day. In the United States, like in most places, coffee is used both as a social drink as well as a mild stimulant, and is known to contain a number of highly beneficial dietary nutrients, such as antioxidants, trigonelline, and quinines. The map below displays the annual coffee consumption per capita for countries with available data.
There are two main taxa of coffee; Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta. Coffea Arabica, which is characterized by its mild taste and distinct aroma, is grown in Central America and South America. Coffea Robusta is characterized by its strong, full-bodied taste, and is grown in Africa and Asia. The vast majority of coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn,...