Demand for Coffee Is at Record Levels, Thanks to Millennials' Thirst for Caffeine

The increase in demand comes just as droughts tighten supplies and increase prices.

Photo Credit: baranq /Shutterstock

We blame (or praise, depending on the day) millennials for almost every conceivable trend, from Snapchat to a tendency to move back in with their parents after college. Now a new article in Bloomberg reports that coffee is their next victim. Yup, that caffeine addiction is driving worldwide consumption to record highs, even in countries like China where tea has traditionally reigned supreme.

Globally, according to Bloomberg, "world consumption outpaced production for a second straight season, according to the London-based International Coffee Organization."

In the U.S., 44 percent of the entire coffee demand comes from drinkers aged 18-34, according to Chicago-based researcher Datassential. Additional data from the National Coffee Association suggests that from 2008 to 2016, consumption by 18- to  24-year-olds jumped to 48 percent from 34 percent, and to 60 percent, up from 51 percent for those aged 25-39.

Not only are millennials drinking more coffee, but they're starting younger, too—especially those born after 1995, who reach for their first cup at an average of 14.7 years old, according to National Coffee Association data. A New York City student quoted in the Bloomberg article said, "drinking coffee is also like a fashion symbol and an opportunity to socialize.” This, despite the fact that plenty of New York cafes charge upward of $3 for the fanciest brewed cups, let alone lattes. One Brooklyn cafe charges up to $10 for its licorice latte, though there's no indication it's the shop's bestseller. 

Unfortunately, this record demand comes on the heels of record droughts, which are tightening the supply of beans in Brazil, where the majority of the world's coffee beans are grown and exported. Asia is still experiencing the effects of its own severe droughts, which, coupled with the increasing demand, means that prices for arabica beans reached their highest levels since February 2015 last week, $1.655 a pound on ICE Futures. 

Experts believe there's still hope for Brazilian arabica beans to recover from the drought, with rains hitting key areas, and additional crops coming in from Honduras and Peru. In the meantime, perhaps we should teach millennials to brew their own.

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Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.