Will climate change turn Starbucks into a juice bar?

With warming temperatures and shifting rainfall hurting coffee crops, Starbucks is reportedly looking to branch out into new territory

(Image credit: CC BY: Piutus)

Starbucks is warning that climate change is threatening the world's coffee supply. What's more, the company is contemplating how it can survive if the trend continues and the beans it needs to satisfy its latte-crazy customers grow scarce. Is the coffee crisis really that bad? Here's what you need to know:

Are coffee growers really hurting?

They are, according to Starbucks sustainability director Jim Hanna. The farmers — most of them in Central America — who provide the company's Arabica beans are seeing their crops reduced by severe hurricanes, shifting rainfall patterns, and increasing infestation by pests. The Union of Concerned Scientists says that coffee-bean shortages have pushed up prices by 25 percent over the last year. If this keeps up, says Lauri Apple at Gawker, it won't be entirely a joke to refer to coffee as "a delicacy affordable only to the One Percent."

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What is Starbucks doing about all this?

It's developing a Plan B. After checking out some of New York City's trendiest juice bars, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has hired Yohana Bencosme, the juice guru from a place called Liquiteria. Reportedly, Schultz is flying Bencosme out to the company's headquarters in Seattle to train baristas how to make cold-pressed juices. "He said he wants to start dividing coffee shops within weeks, [making] one half a pressed juice 'grab and go' bar," according to a source quoted by the New York Post.

Is this smart for a company created entirely around coffee?

That's a subject of debate. It's a little late for Starbucks to hop on the juice "train," says Jamie Feldmar at Gothamist. Even drug store chains are "already busting out orange-mango-banana smoothies." Actually, juice counters could make the ubiquitous Starbucks shops "even more lucrative for the company," says Susannah Chen at Yumsugar. Health-conscious people are shelling out as much as $11 for a bottle of green juice, says Kim Conte at The Stir. "When you consider that this is the same company that successfully sells (arguably) mediocre coffee at more than $2 a cup, expensive juice seems like a natural extension."

Sources: Gawker, Gothamist, Guardian, NY Post, The Stir, Wash. Post, Yumsugar

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