If the beans in your morning beverage could talk, they would probably use a first-generation iPhone to call up all their pals and tell them they finally made it out of storage and into the Big Show. After years of being socked away as the coffee market weathered hard times, arabica beans — some as old as nine years — are now on super sale and could wind up in your cup of java.
The arabica coffee market bottomed out in 2013, but now that prices have come down, buyers who usually snap up lesser-grade beans like robusta are more inclined to buy those older beans, The Wall Street Journal reports.
How cheap is it? Super cheap: coffee that sits for 121 days after certification by the ICE Futures U.S. exchange in New York loses half a cent a pound in value, the WSJ explains. Three-year-old coffee gets cut by $.35 a pound, and nine-year-old beans are discounted by $1.55 a pound… making it basically free, as arabica coffee for July delivery on Tuesday closed at $1.35 a pound.
According to exchange data, 18% of exchange-certified beans were more than three years old at the end of May this year, compared with 11% in May 2013.
“There are some very old coffees that have been sitting around for years that are going out the door,” Edgar Cordero, senior adviser on global strategy for the Colombian Coffee Federation, an industry group, told the WSJ.
These beans aren’t destined for Starbucks, however — many coffee roasters said they wouldn’t purchase beans that were more than a year old because they lose their flavor.
Coffee buyers say the oldest arabica beans will go to bulk and instant-coffee roasters, and eventually to companies that supply most institutional coffees for places like hotels, schools, and vending machines. They may also combine older beans with newer ones, or roast them longer to mask the taste.