Coffee is one of the few truly universally popular elements of human society. A love of coffee is shared across geographical and cultural boundaries and is prepared using primarily the same methods everywhere. Different cultures brew coffee in different ways, but the remarkable reality is the core features of coffee are eerily similar everywhere on Earth. Despite the widespread appeal and globally similar patterns in coffee consumption, one country must be the number one consumer of coffee.
Perhaps it is Italy, with its longstanding history of espresso and love of strong, bold coffee. Or maybe it’s the United States where you can hardly walk a block in any major city without passing at least a half dozen coffee shops. In this article, we’ll breakdown coffee consumption across the globe and find out who actually drinks the most coffee. So break out your flag and do your part by grabbing a coffee before settling in for the coffee world tour.
Before we start diving into the numbers, we need to set some things straight. First of all, what do we mean by “drinks the most coffee” anyway? If we tally up the total amount of coffee purchased in a year for every country, we’d be letting larger countries have an unfair advantage. Large countries like the United States, or China, would outstrip smaller countries like the Netherlands simply because of their overwhelming population.
A better way is to compare coffee consumption per person. That way, all countries are on even footing regardless of their populations. Coffee consumption per person – sometimes called per capita – is an estimate of the amount of coffee an average person from that country drinks. Sure, some people are coffee fiends that drink five or more cups per day, and other people don’t drink any. By averaging over the population, we get some sense of how the typical citizen’s coffee habit might look.
One final point to make is we’re going to compare coffee consumption in a given year. The implicit assumption we’re making is that year-to-year coffee consumption doesn’t change very much. We’re pretty confident in this assumption, but it is one to be aware of since some countries might increase or decrease the amount of coffee they drink depending on economic factors.
Who drinks the most coffee?
According to readily available statistics from the International Coffee Organization, Finland is the number one coffee drinking country with an average of just over 12 kg of coffee consumed per year, per person. Interestingly, Sweden – another Nordic country – comes in at number two with around 11 kg consumed per person. The pattern continues as Iceland, Norway, and Denmark round out the top five.
The striking pattern of cold-weather countries leading the way might be as simple to explain as realizing that people need something to warm them up on cold, Northern mornings and coffee is the obvious choice. Another explanation might be the price of coffee in those countries. Notably, a country we might expect to be near the top of the list, Italy, doesn’t even appear in the top ten but is third on the list of countries with the most expensive coffee price per pound.
Another country we naively expected to be higher on the list was the United Kingdom. The UK also doesn’t crack the top 10 and is also – not coincidentally – has the most expensive coffee in the world. This lends support to the idea that countries that have high import costs consume less coffee because of the increased price seen by the consumer.
Another related concept is coffee production. Brazil produces the most coffee in the world by almost a factor of two over runner up Vietnam. Colombia, Indonesia, and Honduras are numbers three through five, and Ethiopia was number six, barely missing out on the top five. We were surprised that Vietnam was so high given that we usually see coffee from Mexico, Peru, and Kenya at our local shop. We suspect that Vietnamese coffee supplies large sections of Asia with limited exporting to western countries.
Interestingly, countries with high coffee production aren’t also countries with high consumption. Europe dominates the coffee consumption top ten while Central and South America have the most countries in the top ten production list. This is easier to explain since coffee can only be grown in tropical climates, which precludes countries in Europe from producing their own coffee.
Coffee is a global indulgence that highlights humanity’s similarity across cultures and environments. We hope you enjoyed this brief breakdown of the world’s coffee habits and are as intrigued as we were by the pattern uncovered in the data.
European countries unanimously fill the top ten list of coffee-consuming nations, and even more tellingly, Nordic countries take the top spots. Maybe this isn’t so surprising since coffee is traditionally a hot beverage and warming up during the long, northern winter months is a lot easier with a nice cup of coffee in hand.
Also worth reading:
- All About Madagascar Coffee
- Coffee as a COVID Detector? Surprising Discoveries
- How to Make Algerian Lemon Coffee
Featured Image Credit: Perfect Snacks, Unsplash