Coffee In Crisis

by Jon Fenech and Natalie Kornicks

Think one day without coffee is bad? Climate change patterns aren’t just affecting the farmers who grow coffee as a way of living.  It’s affecting the countries exporting tons of coffee beans daily.  It’s affecting the coffee-loving customer who is seeing higher prices at the register.  It’s also impacting small coffee shops and the way they run their business in DC and across the country.

Traditional coffee shops are now forced to adapt to Earth’s changing chemistry, introducing innovative business models to combat climate change.  Swings Coffee, founded in 1916 as MESCo by M.E. Swings and his son, Edward, is one of these shops.

When Natalie and I visited the Swings Roasterin Alexandria, Virginia, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans welcomed us as we walked through the door.  Even with climate change in full swing, Swings owner Mark Warmuth maintains a coffee product with high quality and delicious taste.  His adaptation efforts include a renewed business model characterized by a changing seasonal menu.  This kind of model lets Swings get beans under optimal weather conditions.  One week, customers may see beans from Guatemala, the next, a dark roast from Colombia.

Swings, like many other shops, must also tackle the economics behind this issue.  Although the increases are now minor, the price for a cup of coffee has gone up at many shops across the nation.  Starbucks had a public freak out in October and lifted the prices on its drinks.

Seeing how climate change affects the local coffee business brings climate change to the fore.  It’s not just causing glaciers to melt or summers to be warmer.  It’s affecting Americans right down to their cup of Joe.

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