BY MARY TABION
Coffee beans cultivated in Latin America are prized the world over for their quality and rich flavor. Home to two of the world’s largest coffee producing countries, Brazil and Colombia, coffee historically has played a role in the region’s economic development as many countries have some level of domestic cultivation. Latin American coffee producers, however, have long focused on the export market, and local consumption habits tend to be rooted in traditional preparations. Latin America’s coffee is funneled primarily to European markets, such as Finland, which led the world with per capita retail coffee sales of 8.4 kg per person in 2007. The growing presence of coffee shop chains, however, is starting to change Latin Americans’ ideas about coffee, transforming a simple preparation into an indulgent status item. European-style coffees and cold coffee drinks are making inroads, especially among younger consumers.
BRAZIL LEADS SALES
Brazil leads the region in retail coffee sales at 3.6 kg per person in 2007. Colombia ranks second at 1.3 kg and Mexico trails behind a paltry 0.5 kg. Coffee culture is strongest in Brazil, where a cafezinho is regarded as an expression of hospitality and may be served at any time of the day. In other Latin American countries, coffee consumption tends to be limited to mealtimes - a cup at breakfast or after a meal, or possibly with an afternoon merienda. In some countries, such as Chile, instant coffee is the dominant format, further driving down volume sales.
While traditional cafés have a long legacy across Latin America, the emergence of the coffee shop concept has been pivotal in getting consumers to rethink their coffee habits. The standardized drink menu in most coffee...
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