The History of Millennial Coffee Culture in the Making

Coffee, Where It All Began


The doorbell rings as guests shuffle in, sometimes in groups of two or three, mostly in singular fashion. The smell of baked goods and roasted beans wafts through the air. A marvelously trendy music list plays in the background, the words of whichever hit indie song barely recognizable in the end. Men and women of all ages, mostly young, sit with a well cultivated caffeinated beverage to their right or left, typing, or talking under soft lighting, brick walls and local art. This is what the local coffee shop has come to look like.

Iced Coffee Closeup By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


For hundreds – maybe even thousands – of years, humankind has consumed and enjoyed the caffeinated beverage down as coffee.


Now, the reasons as to which any individual person would consume coffee varies. Individuals can drink coffee for the taste (reveling in smooth, fruity, or juicy notes), the boost of energy it inspires, or for one of the very many health issues the drink has been cited to aid in easing. Suffice it to say....

The Beauty of Coffee By: Paul Lanier

Coffee is legendary.


Commonly thought to have its origins in Ethiopia, coffee is the world's most well rounded and diverse traveler. Having intertwined its way into the hearts of almost every civilization around the globe. Millions, potentiality billions, of people drink at least one cup a day, if not more. What are the implications of this worldwide coffee trend? Coffee culture, and the flux that is constantly undergoes, and thus more currently, millennial coffee culture.


"Coffee is a beverage heavily associated with ritual and culture. As such, many millennial (and Generation Z) consumers are being initiated into coffee drinking by its cultural implications, which are being broadcast to them via social media. Ultimately, many young consumers want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and once a product becomes representative of a lifestyle, it can be extremely seductive," but current coffee culture is so much more than just pretty pictures, Jenny Anaya of Anaya Coffee notes, if only they would look up from their phones, and enjoy the moment they are in.


Young people today are enamored by all that is coffee – the traditions in different cultures it holds, the personal meaning and connection it has the potential to build, the beauty behind it all, and its Instagram connection value.


If the world is not careful though, the possibility of connection over coffee could be lost forever.


The Journey Of The Coffee Bean And The Coffee Process


In one way or another, coffee has become a cultural staple. It made its way through Ethiopia, to the Arabian Peninsula, to Europe in the 17th century, and the United States in the mid-1600s. Since then, the cultivation process, distribution, and enjoyment of coffee has spread, creating millions of coffee enthusiasts worldwide.


Today, most Americans take the presence of coffee in their everyday lives for granted.


There are those too who love coffee for everything it is and exemplifies.


Long time coffee enthusiast Paul Lanier, who lived in South America for a short time, and used said time to visit coffee shops and speak with local owners said, "It's a stimulant for the lethargic, it's the occasional treat for the sweet tooth, it definitely wouldn't be the worst glade car scent...if those aren't already on shelves....But I especially love the craft of how coffee is cultivated, harvested, roasted, brewed. I love to see the passion it welcomes for a community to come out, drink it, and perhaps discuss other things while they're at it."

Fresh French Pressed Coffee By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


Fellow coffee enthusiast and former barista Melody Sessoms said, "I think the best thing about working with coffee closely, would be seeing how much potential it has to brighten someone's day. The second-best thing, being able to be surrounded by coffee all day,"


The process of turning coffee beans into the iced drinks so many people enjoy, is a long and delicate procedure, that can take up to 4 years to even truly begin.


It all starts with the planting of course. But planting coffee seeds requires heavy attention to detail. Because although coffee trees require warm climates to grow, they can also easily dry out if exposed to too much sunlight, with not enough water, at the wrong time during their life.

Coffee Culture List On Twitter By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


"With each coffee harvest, there is produced a different type of green coffee bean, which in turn produces a different, unique type and taste of coffee. You never really get the exact same flavor twice, and that can be both an awesome aspect of coffee drinking, or a disappointment if you get your hopes up for one particular flavor," Jenny Anaya said.


This is how delicate the coffee plant it. It changes even based on the season. Yet, these changes also speak for the plant's strength.


The coffee tree itself closes resembles a shrub. It produces bright red berries, which harvested when ripe and then pushed through one of the processing systems. These processing methods are where the seeds are extracted from the "cherries", and then either soaked until the cherry flesh separates from the seed entirely, or partially, and dried. Once the cherries have been soaked and separated, the separated seeds are then sent out for testing and eventually roasting before moving forward to retail supply chains, and finally a consumer's cup.


Once it has been distributed, coffee is ready to enjoy whichever way consumers see fit – whether that be by enjoying the beans in the comfort of a cafe, or at home.

Coffee Production Steps By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


Coffee is the king of variety and functionality, possessing many ways in which it can be prepared to craft a distinct experience every time that almost anyone could enjoy.


Pre-med student, lover of knowledge, and former bagel shop employee Arthur Worrad said, "I don't really consume coffee products on average, so I think my last drink was at a Starbucks last semester at school. But, I do know that coffee is super temperamental and will only live and grow in very specific climates, and because of factors like climate change, and over production of land by humans, coffee is like to go extinct in the wild in our lifetimes".


Yet, even though coffee is the hero of its own story, it also suffers from a great ailment: the coffee crisis.


The Coffee Crisis Defined


The ongoing coffee crisis is a real time, tangible issue – although many Americans, and other recreational coffee drinkers rarely see the full-fledged effects of it.


Originally surfacing in the 1990s, the coffee crisis has been a problem with "on again, off again" characteristics and qualities. Initially, the crisis began as the result of supply scarcity, brought on by problematic climate conditions. According to co-authors Natalie J. Lambert and Jessica Eise, "Climate change [was and still] is impacting agricultural systems around the globe....Coffee, Colombia's largest agricultural export...is uniquely vulnerable to climate change," the two said in their article Farming in the Face of Uncertainty: How Colombian Coffee Farmers Conceptualize and Communicate Their Experiences With Climate ChangeWhich leaves the coffee bean, or coffee tree, very few areas in the world to grow and flourish.

French Press Coffee By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


Yet, the world still wanted more coffee.


And at first, big name coffee companies like Maxwell House and Starbucks were willing to pay the difference to keep their business alive, simply charging customers more to ensure their own profit margins remained steady. The average price of coffee per pound was $0.9082 in the year 1990, falling from its average closing price of $1.0574 in 1989.


The price drop was not terrible to begin with, but by the year 2001 coffee's average price was $0.5569, and it did not rise substantially again until 2005.


Despite these changes in coffee's overall value, the efforts of companies like Maxwell House and Starbucks managed to balance out the coffee market for a short amount of time – raising the overall price of coffee to around $1.0811 from 2005 to 2010, and then spiking to $2.5338 in 2011.


This prosperous boost in the market value price for coffee prompted a spike in coffee bean farming. More and more African and South American families began to enter into the "lucrative" business of coffee trade, thus boosting bean production and altering the market system yet again, when the price for a pound of coffee plummeted to $1.4940 in 2013. As the amount of bean suppliers increased, so did the overall production of beans, and thus the amount of beans available to purchase on the coffee market. By the time the market value of coffee plummeted again in 2013, there were over 151.26 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee beans available for retail purchase.


They had done their jobs too well.


As of 2020, coffee production continues to climb, despite the declining price of coffee, totaling in at 170.94 million 60-kilogram bag of coffee beans, selling at around $1.1133 per pound. Production continues to grow, but prices cannot keep up, leaving more and more coffee farmers in danger of losing their livelihoods, as they continue to battle the weather to maintain their crops, and each other, as they compete for big company buyer's attention for business.

The Coffee Crisis Through Time By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


Consequentially, what began as a bean crisis became a global pricing issue. Today, coffee bean production is at an all time high, and prices are decreasing, but the market is set to cut production by about 5.3 million bags, as the season changes, in an effort to balance the system yet again, and keep coffee and coffee farmers in business.


According to dedicated coffee enthusiast Paul Lanier, the coffee crisis is in part, "From my understanding more than half of the coffee species as we know it could be eradicated over the course of a decade or two due to deforestation, and other initiatives brought on by human engagement...."


Yet, even through all of these difficulties, long suffered changes, and price fluctuations, many Americans do not even realize the coffee crisis even exists.


The closest many individuals ever come to realizing there even is a problem in the coffee market, is while they exchange passing comments, wondering about the mounting price of their beloved lattes.


It is no one's fault. The world is used to having coffee around, often forgetting that it too can become extinct.


The Coffee Market History


Both the physical and monetary factors of the coffee crisis fluctuate dramatically, changing the face of the coffee market frequently. Yet, despite the flux in its pricing, market value, and availability, coffee has remained a favored beverage in America throughout its dips and turns.


Despite the caffeinated beverages high favor amongst Americans, the market is not the only aspect of coffee that has changed over the years. The methods of coffee consumption, as well as coffee culture, have also changed.


Millennial coffee culture is drastically different from that of coffee culture in the Baby Boomer, and Silent generations (adults ages 56 to 95).


Mike Anaya, co-owner and roaster of Anaya Coffee, said “You kinda have to have an eye-catching brand these days, to really grab the attention of younger customers…or else they can brush right over you.”

Coffee is about so much more than taste in the Millennial generation. Coffee must be pretty too.


According to John C. Maxwell, in his Specialty Coffee Brews Gains As Total Sales Fall article, before 1993 when coffee prices were still estimated to be rather high due to the shortage of coffee beans, companies like Starbucks began to suffer, as their grocery supplying counterparts remained steady. Yet, as the overall price of coffee began to decline, large coffee retail companies like Folgers, Maxwell House, and Nestle began to see disconcerting decline in their own consumer reports. This decline in consumer purchases of ground coffee from grocery stores, was a direct result of more and more coffee lovers reverting to picking up a cup of coffee on their way to work, rather than investing the extra time in making coffee at home themselves.


Starbucks' popularity began to grow, as the company (and other like it) pivoted to meet the growing need for grab-and-go coffee shops, while older made-from-home reliant brands suffered.

Coffee Ground Covered Spoon By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


By the year 2000, iced coffee began to make headway, ending up on shelves in the grocery stores, while also tempting coffee consumers further to indulge in grab-and-go services, coffee shops and services, where the actual purchase of iced caffeinated beverages still remained more popular, according to Kate MacArthur in her periodical Iced Coffee Market Gains Ground published in the same year. Companies like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and other chain coffee shops were dominating the caffeine market.


By 2007, the American coffee market had shifted so greatly, grocery store suppliers ended up on the "back-burner" according to Emily Byrson York in her article Why The Coffee Kings Are Losing Their Power. In the same article York cited this change in consumer purchasing patterns as the result of a complete shift in consumer thinking and needs.


The world was on the go, and coffee needed to be too.


Yet, there were more factors involved with this shift in coffee consumerism, the ease of grab-and-go coffee purchases being a headlining factor. But also the overall cut of coffee cost, which reinforced this consumer shift in mentality, making coffee not only easy to access without the hassle of having to make it at home, but also making it cheap, and affordable for nearly everyone who wanted a cup.


These changes led to Starbucks mounting the coffee market thrown, as the company adjusted its focus to real in men and women on the go, thus leading the company to account for $6.6 billion out of nearly $14 billion in coffee economic revenue at the time, Emily Bryson York said in her article Starbucks Paved Way, And Now It Must Pay.


Yet, nothing lasts forever.

Fresh Coffee Beans In A Cup By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


As the price of coffee began to waver again, pitting lows (where consumers bought more) and then highs (where consumers bought less), another shift in consumers thinking began.


Emily Bryson York observed in her article Consumers Skip Starbucks For Plain Ol’ Joe published in 2009, "Americans appear to be cutting back on their Starbucks" intake.


After having realized this fact to be true, York conducted a survey to determine the reasoning behind this matter in the same year. The results, published in Consumers Skip Starbucks For Plain Ol'joe, showed that 60% of Americans had cut back on their “takeout” coffee habits that year. Breaking down further into age groups as, 45 to 54-year-olds comprised 50.4% of people who cut back, 35 to 44-year-olds totaled in at 37.5%, and 25 to 34-year-olds ended with 33.3%.

The reason? Coffee just cost too much.


Even though nearly 92% of polled individuals did not cite income, or the price of coffee, as contributing factors to their self-imposed grab-and-go cutbacks. People were just tired of "overpaying" for Starbucks coffee, as the company tried to maintain that their product quality was certainly worth the price paid.


Men and women alike, no matter how busy they were, could no longer justify buying a cup of coffee every morning, as coffee companies raised their own menu prices to cover the market value of coffee beans, and turn a profit.


Men and woman across the nation were making time to make coffee at home again.


How Current Coffee Culture Came To Be


2012 would yet again derail the "made at home" dynamic, as coffee shifted its role once more, and the media age began to really settle in. Co-authors Donna Lee Brien and Jill Adams said in their article Coffee: A Cultural and Media Focused Approach, "For many in the West today...coffee is not about the facts of its production; coffee is all about consumption and is now interwoven into our contemporary cultural and social habits". The co-authors also pointed out that somewhere along the way, Americans began associating coffee with scholarship and reflection, birthing the modern coffee house, or coffee shops, and their artfully inclined nature.


Coffee had made a new name for itself.

But, as this new identity began to instill itself in the cultural ideals of Americans, coffee farmers were still suffering.


Increase in small business and the desire to consume coffee had brought about some revival to the market, but not enough to avoid crisis. The small revival had also brought about its own set of farming problems, as the demand for American grade pesticides and organic beans became a topic of interest amongst coffee consumers, Jenny Anaya of Anaya Coffee said.

French Press By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


The year 2018 still saw dramatically low net prices for coffee, as each pound sold for around $1 or less initially, with big time coffee companies buying from farmers in bulk. And 2019 only saw the continuation of the same problems.


Bigger companies like Starbucks, looking to turn a profit, refused to pay value price for "easily attainable" coffee. Thus, coffee farmers, looking to maintain their livelihoods and homes, sold their products at frightening low rates. More and more coffee farmers are forced to leave the trade every day as a result, looking towards uncertain futures for them, their families and even coffee beans themselves.


With this uncertainty in mind, coffee enthusiasts, small cafe owners, and others have begun to educate themselves about the situation in crisis, and about the people who are currently most affected by it, and the very real possibility that coffee may cease to as farmers move on from farming, and the environment continues to change.


The coffee world has begun to shift again.

Empty Coffee Mugs In Tray By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


As this shift commences, more locally owned cafes are opening, with a strict adherence to ethically sourcing their own coffee, roasting their own beans, and opening their front doors for anyone who loves coffee, and maybe wants to chat.


And with this shift comes a whole new breed of business owner – a business owner with a mind for coffee, culture, and community.


Business owners like Jenny and Mike Anaya of Anaya Coffee, and Alex Flores of Bold Cup Coffee, who in 2020 are working tirelessly to keep their business doors open, and the coffee market alive.


What's Next For Coffee In 2020?


Coffee in its last 30 years has seen an unprecedented amount of change and growth, as well as a great deal of losses.


Pop culture has birthed a whole new species of coffee fanatics in the United States, and they aren't slowing down anytime soon.

Pop Culture Has Birthed A New Coffee Culture By: Mariah P. K. Ardrey


The cultivating of true millennial coffee culture and community has only just begun, as local coffee shop owners, like Alex Flores and Jenny and Mike Anaya, dare customers to be "open-minded and try something different", and not let coffee be just the iced caramel latte they tried once at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and cannot seem to shake – although they are also supportive of all coffee drinkers anywhere enjoying the caffeinated beverage whichever way they like best.


Coffee is constantly on the move, and as consumers and providers work to save coffee, while also remaining true to themselves and standing out from the crowd, who knows exactly what form coffee culture will take on in the coming year.


Coffee has moved from one country to the next, it has taken over whole aisles in every grocery store, is the main focus of entire buildings, dominates a huge, suffering economic market, and continues to inspire and surprise people every day with its range of flavors. Coffee is a culture, it is a community, and it is worth trying to save.


Coffee is worth the price paid.


Saving coffee means not only being willing to try something different, or paying more for the harvesting of the crop, it is also being willing to work in an effort to change humankind's own carbon footprint moving forward, in an attempt to save as many coffee species as possible.


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