It's synonymous with work, dating, socializing, commuting, networking, studying or just taking a break from whatever it is you were doing before. And it's profitable to the tune of more than 500 million American cups consumed each day in kitchens, shops, break rooms and drive-thrus.
Yet, the conditions necessary for cultivating the world's growing coffee habit can't just be transplanted or recreated in a plot behind your house or at a 21st century-mechanized farm in the midwestern United States.
“These are places that for the most part, none of us would go unless we had a real reason to,” says Kickapoo Coffee co-owner Caleb Nicholes.
From the United States, it takes a daylong international flight, a four-hour drive to the last city on paved roads, another to the last city on dirt roads, and then another leg to get to farflung farms in Peru.
Then there's Bolivia, to Peru's southeast, with its seven-hour passage from the capital La Paz down to coffee country on a path affectionately dubbed “Death Road.” That's where Nicholes became very sick on his first visit to the country's coffee farms after co-founding his company in 2005.
“[It's] switchbacks and blind corners, and if the car makes a wrong turn, you're going off a cliff,” Nicholes recalls.
Coffee grows in a specific belt on the globe between the tropics. It all depends on an uncommon combination of altitude and temperature to flourish, long before it's roasted and lands in a grocery aisle or barista's stock. On a near constant basis, company buyers journey to these equatorial pockets of the world to advise and make deals with farmers, importers, millers, shippers and more.
Buyers travel to places that are principally remote, likely in Latin America, Central Africa and Southeast Asia. While coffee-growing is massively industrialized in places like Brazil and Vietnam (which produce half the world's annual 19 billion pounds of coffee), the land on which coffee can be grown purely, responsibly, and certainly organically, is geographically finite.