So will people buy it?
Whether this type of operation can scale to a level that's reasonable for the average farmer, roaster, and consumer is yet to be seen, but market viability be damned, the American coffee industry is here. Mark cites 16 established farms, with a dozen more launching in the coming months. Still, everyone we talked to expressed skepticism that the market could become truly viable.
“There's a great sense of joy and excitement. There's a lot of splash and story and romance, but the question is if its realistic,” says Shawn.
The bottom line is still the major problem. It takes a very special type of coffee nerd to pay $50 for a bag of American coffee that isn't as good as a $20 bag from Ethiopia. That said, some farms are already making the numbers work.
“We are at a stage where California coffee growers are able to cover our production costs with a margin. Granted, not a huge margin, but such is farming in general,” says Lindsey McManus of Good Land Organics.
Fighting the odds doesn't make sense unless the American coffee farming industry can be about more than just what makes it into the cup, but the opportunity is there. Climate change is threatening farms internationally, so sowing the seeds for an American outpost is actually pragmatic. Following in the footsteps of the California wine industry, margins could be leveled with coffee tourism dollars and a willingness for customers to pay more once they see the supply chain up close. But for now, it will still take a true patriot -- and a wealthy one -- to drink American.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. He would love to try some American-grown coffee beans. He would also love a raise. Follow him to more money, more problems at @Dannosphere.