Have you seen the our nifty coffee counter yet? It’s a pretty wild tool, counting in real time the number of coffee drinks sold at any given moment in Australia. As I write this, I have it up in a window right next to me and at the moment 3,644 cups of coffee have been sold since I started typing. Of course that number is no longer true, because it keeps counting up and up. Australians drink a lot of coffee. Now it’s 7,882 cups since I started typing—I went back and reworded an earlier sentence—which is roughly $30,000 in revenue for the restaurants, coffee shops, kiosks, and other purveyors of specialty coffee. That’s a fact that likely surprises no Aussies, because they love their coffee and can get pretty vocal about it. Surprisingly, though, Australia ranks only 42nd in the world in coffee consumption per capita.
It might surprise you to hear that the United States isn’t number one on that list. The consumption of anything is a sport in the U.S., and if you think I’m kidding then I urge you to check out the schedule of upcoming events over at the Major League Eating website. While the U.S. is the world’s biggest importer of coffee beans, it ranks only 25th in terms of individual consumption. Maybe it will also surprise you to find out that Italy is only number 12. It is the birthplace of all those Italian sounding drinks people order—espresso, capuccino, macchiato. Even Brazil, which is the world’s largest grower of coffee beans, is down at the number 14 spot on this list. No, the number one spot on the list goes to Finland, now that Honore de Balzac is dead. A Finnish coffee drinker consumes about 12 kilograms, or 26.5 pounds, of the stuff every year. That could perhaps be due to its low cost in the country: a home brewed cup costs people around 5.75 cents. It could be that winters are long, cold, and dark, and a piping hot caffeinated beverage is the perfect antidote. Just be aware that if you’re thinking Finland, with its zealous love for the world’s most popular drink, would be a great place to open a coffee shop, think again. Karri Kauppila, the marketing manager for the Finnish coffee producer Paulig’s, put it simply, “In terms of volume we have already maxed out,” he said, then paused to take a sip of coffee. Kauppila continued, “There’s no way consumption can grow any larger” before adding, “Sweet lord in heaven, this coffee is amazing. Someone get me another cup!”
With 12 billion pounds consumed worldwide every year, the loss of Finland as a potential market should be easy to get over. In fact, the numbers that the industry as a whole generates are mind boggling. Our coffee counter is telling me that over half a million cups of have been sold since I started writing this post, which is one millionth of one percent of the 500 billion that are consumed each year worldwide.
As a whole, coffee is a $100 billion dollar industry, with over 25 million people in developing nations who rely on coffee farms to make their living. The beans themselves are the second most traded item on commodities markets—second behind oil, a commodity whose chief importance is that it fuels the delivery of coffee beans all over the globe. And besides all this, coffee statistics like these make up 47% of all interesting facts quoted on the internet. Also, 100% of the authors of this post made up that last sentence.
Still, it’s worth noting that with all the turmoil and unrest in the world, the statistics about coffee prove there’s something that binds us all together. I cannot think of any other thing the world agrees on more as a matter of taste. The agreement ends at the point where the bean’s been roasted and ground, though, with countries all over the world putting their various spins on the brew. Italians like their espresso with a slice of lemon on the side—the citrus is supposed to bring out the coffee’s sweeter side when you rub the lemon on the edge of the glass before drinking. Australians and New Zealanders love their Flat Whites. The Vietnamese whip up an egg yolk with condensed milk and honey before pouring their coffee right over the mixture. In Spain, the Cafe Bombon is popular, with equal parts strong coffee and sweetened condensed milk. The Turks use a copper pot called a cezve, and the brewing process is a complicated multi-step procedure. In Greece, for some reason, the preferred coffee drink is the Frappe—an instant coffee drink created by an an employee of Nestle. The French like to steep and then press their coffee. In the US, they like it Bulletproof, possibly because everything in the US should be bulletproof at this point. Regardless of how it’s enjoyed, though, there’s a reason coffee, in all its forms, is so popular. It’s just so damn tasty to drink. Also, caffeine is addictive.