April 29, 2020

Coffee Trends in Latin America: Analysing PDG Español Data

From Colombia’s thriving coffee farms to Uruguay’s micro-roasters, Latin America has a diverse and constantly evolving specialty coffee scene. Yet it is surprisingly hard to find quantifiable, concrete information that will give us real insights into the development of this region’s coffee production, roasting, and consumption industries.

Since its launch in 2016, PDG Español has established itself as an accessible source of coffee information for Spanish-speaking audiences. The data from PDG Español gives us insights into coffee trends across the continent, how this varies according to the country, and where the market is going. Let’s take a look.

Lee este artículo en español Café en Latinoamérica: Analizando Los Datos de PDG Español

Our Latin American Readership

Spanish-speaking readers are a significant part of PDG’s audience. Since PDG Español’s launch, the readership in the Hispanic world has grown from 173,005 sessions in 2016 to 1,060,694 in 2019. PDG Español’s reach extends mainly to Latin America, but also to Spain and Spanish-speaking audiences abroad, especially in the US.

Within Latin America, the readership of PDG Español expands across coffee-producing countries, with Mexico, Colombia, and Peru all in our site-wide top 10 readerships for 2019, making up over half of the Latin American readership. Not only that, but there is significant readership in non-producing Argentina (79,908 sessions). Across these countries, there is an interest in consumer-driven articles as well as producing. 

The data on our Latin American readership paints a picture of a diverse region, with readers interested in topics ranging from plant diseases (the topic of our most popular article published in 2019, with 18,655 views) to degassing in roasting (7,073 views) and alternative milk (8,293 views). Readers are particularly interested in articles about increasing quality throughout the coffee supply chain, suggesting a focus on specialty coffee and its benefits for both producers and consumers.

We have readers spanning all ages. The majority are aged 25–34 years old, followed by 35–44 years old and 18–24 years, regardless of whether it’s a producing or non-producing country. 

The number of readers over the age of 44, even though smaller, is no less significant. These might represent coffee producers, coffee shop owners, or business owners working in the coffee industry. For these reader groups, PDG can serve as a point of reference to learn about what coffee production may look like in other producing countries or market trends.

Our data doesn’t reflect the Portuguese-speaking, Latin American coffee giant, Brazil. As the largest coffee-producing and exporting country in the world, as well as the largest consumer of coffee, Brazil’s coffee industry is significantly different from that of its neighbours in South and Central America. We expect to be able to get a better picture of their coffee sector data and trends with the launch of our new partner website, PDG Brasil.

You may also like: Perfect Daily Grind to Launch PDG Brasil in 2020

Trending Coffee Topics in Latin America

Analysis of our PDG Español readership throws up certain trends, which provide an insight into changing behaviours across Latin America.

New Roasteries in The Market

In 2019, five of our top most-read PDG Español articles were about different technical aspects of roasting. This ranged from how to roast coffee for different brew methods to a guide on the packaging for roasted coffee.

Santiago Sota, a roaster at Drip Coffee in Mexico, tells me, “The articles have helped me to question myself, experiment, and try new things… with a theoretical-practical basis. They also keep me updated about things that are really important in the world coffee industry.” 

This growing interest in roasting extends across both producing and non-producing countries. For example, the popularity in the article about roasting for different brew methods showed a considerable readership in coffee-producing Colombia (28.6%), Mexico (15.8%), and Peru (10.3%), as well as good numbers from non-producing Argentina (3.5%). 

Although coffee has been enjoyed in Latin American culture for many years, a space for higher-quality specialty coffee is emerging in major cities in some countries, such as Peru, Colombia, and Mexico. There appears to be an evolving culture with a focus on coffee and coffee roasting at a local level.

Lima, Peru, for example, has a thriving coffee shop scene. You’ll find local organisations such as Le Cordon Bleu in Lima working with PromPeru (the government) to give specialty coffee shops awards that certify them as specialty. As these coffee shops are using Peruvian coffee, it helps promote domestic consumption of local coffee, too. And in terms of roasting, it highlights how specialty coffee roasting has made a significant impact on the capital city, with a more specialised and high-quality focus.

As well as representing the growth of specialty coffee roasteries, roasting articles also hold interest for producers. Educafés, a consultancy and coffee education company, has reported that coffee producers in Colombia are becoming more interested in using micro-roasteries to get involved in more steps in the coffee supply chain. Our PDG Español data shows that in the top two cities reading a basic guide to roasting from 2018 are Pereira, a city in a coffee-producing area on the edge of the Colombian Andes, and Pitalito, a town at the centre of the coffee-producing Bruselas district, Colombia. 

Our data maps out that roasting information is important and valuable to both roasting professionals in large cities and coffee producers who might want to gain more control within the supply chain. 

Specialty Coffee & Fine Cacao Farming

PDG Español was launched with the aim to deliver reliable and free access to information for coffee producers. We cover a variety of topics from coffee quality and accessing international markets to farm management and post-harvesting practices

Our last audience profiling poll from 2018 shows that around 18.7% of our readers are coffee producers. In 2019, 30–50% of our traffic from Latin America comes from regional capital cities such as Arequipa in Peru (3,343 users) and Guadalajara in Mexico (11,231 users), or cities that are most likely to be located close to rural areas such as Xalapa in Mexico (3,691 users) and Pereira in Colombia (4,242 users). 

Our most-read PDG Español article from 2019 was the producer-focussed translation of A Guide to Common Coffee Pests & Diseases. Within the top 15 readers of this article, we find Xalapa and Tapachula, cities at the centre of coffee production in Mexico, and Pitalito in Colombia. 

The reach of these articles goes beyond larger cities to some of the main targets of PDG Español: producers in Latin America. They can help provide necessary information that may not otherwise be accessible, such as what buyers are looking for and how to access new markets.

We have seen significant page visits for articles that offer practical advice about farming practices that are affordable and easy to implement. This suggests that PDG Español is being used as a knowledge source and that there is a demand for information for producers. 

For example, the translation of an article about wastewater from coffee processing has been popular in 2020, gaining 7,600 hits in less than two months. It was particularly popular in producing countries, mainly Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Guatemala. 

The increasing interest in processing and fermentation is also reflected in our data, as coffee producers look for ways to differentiate their coffee and attract specialty buyers. Multiple articles about fermentation have had more than 10,000 unique page views each, while one article on processing methods has 6,381 views and another on coffee varieties has had 15,523 views to date. Gabriela Franco, a producer from Finca Las Brisas in Guatemala, tells me they find these articles very useful, particularly articles about “innovation in micro lots, fermentation, and variations in drying methods.” 

We have also seen a growing interest in topics related to cocoa farming, which includes our most popular translation: A Step-by-Step Explanation of Cacao Harvesting & Processing. In these tough coffee-growing conditions, with farmers battling a low C price, intercropping for income diversification purposes can provide a way for producers to reduce risk and stay profitable.

Data from Observatorio del Cacao Fino y de Aroma Para América Latina shows that in 2017, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Panama exported only a small portion of their cacao production. This data suggests an increase in local consumption of chocolate, and a potential shift in consumer behaviour, similar to the growth of the specialty coffee industry. 

Non-producing countries in Latin America, such as Paraguay, Uruguay, and especially Argentina and Chile, show a growing interest in other aspects of production such as coffee varieties and diseases. It is less likely that this readership is coffee producers, but instead those working in specialty coffee and in need of in-depth information on coffee production. 

This goes hand in hand with the growing coffee industries across these non-producing Latin American countries. All four countries have seen increases in the import of green and roasted coffee since 2014. Argentina, in particular, has seen a dramatic rise in coffee imports, from US $78,504,000 2014 to US $113,242,000 in 2017. 

Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires, has also witnessed an increase in specialty coffee amongst its traditional scene, something that has become evident by the growth of specialty coffee at events such as the Festival de Café de Buenos Aires (FECA).

Emerging Coffee Shops & Barista Careers

As the growth of the coffee scene in Latin America creates career opportunities for workers, there has been an increased interest in barista education and coffee brewing. 

Latte art and milk-related articles were the second and seventh-most popular articles published in 2019. These articles were popular in larger cities across both producing countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Peru and non-producing countries such as Uruguay. 

This may be influenced by an increasingly large middle class in some Latin American countries. For example, a study from Wharton University of Pennsylvania reported that poverty levels in Colombia have dropped 12.5% between 2010 and 2015. The working class has shrunk and the middle class has increased to around 70% of the population. With more expendable incomes, consumers are willing to pay more for higher quality coffee which, as a result, contributed to the popularity of third-wave coffee. 

The Statistics Report from the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism registered a rise in the number of coffee shops in Nicaragua from 247 to 461 between 2010 and 2015. Most of these are located around the capital city Managua, and are independent coffee shops with only one establishment.

Marietha Sánchez is the co-owner of Tostado & Molido, a coffee shop in Managua. She said in an interview for the local newspaper La Prensa that “There are people with high purchasing power [in the area]. We conducted a market study… and it confirmed what we were thinking: that there were opportunities to start this business.”

The popularity of the barista-focused articles on PDG Español represents an increasingly high number of coffee shops and barista career opportunities in Latin America.

A Growing Specialty Coffee Industry

With the exception of Chile and Bolivia, coffee is the drink of choice across Latin America. This is predominantly instant coffee. However, there is a growing community of specialty coffee enthusiasts in Latin America. 

An audience profiling poll of our readership showed that 22.6% of them are coffee enthusiasts. In 2016, home coffee consumption grew to 42% in Latin America. Meanwhile, articles such as switching from instant to fresh coffee and how to use popular brewing methods have been extremely popular. 

We are also seeing an emergence of popular events across Latin America. This includes World Latte Art championships in countries including Peru, Colombia, and Guatemala, and  Bogota Coffee Fest , a specialty coffee fair in Colombia. 

Dulce Barrera, from Guatemala, came third in the World Taster’s Champion 2019 in Berlin, despite being the only representative from a producing country. This helped highlight the presence of specialised coffee interest in producing countries.

Articles that involve coffee cupping, sensory, and chemical profiles of coffee also perform well over time. These topics are popular with coffee professionals along the supply chain.

The growth in popularity over the years of events like the Producer & Roaster Forum, which seeks to build relationships between coffee roasters and producers, is also a reflection of this trend. In 2019, over 750 people attended the event which was held in Guatemala, which included producers, roasters, and coffee professionals from all over the world.

The specialty industry focuses on producing and serving higher-quality coffee which in turn aims to ensure coffee producers get paid more for it. The growth of consuming specialty coffee and specialist coffee events in Latin America represents a change in the industry and in consumer behaviour. These changes in behaviour, as well as increased local coffee consumption, can be beneficial in bringing more value to the local coffee supply chains.

From the farms in the Colombian Andes to the coffee shops in Lima, there are diverse communities across Latin America seeking information about coffee. As specialty coffee expands across the region, our readers are focused on quality, whether it’s relevant to production, roasting, or brewing coffee. 

Yet the creation of PDG Español has not only helped to provide accessible and free information. It has also provided a tool for extracting data, assessing trends, and developing an idea of the future of the coffee supply chain in Latin America. 

Enjoyed this? Check out This Is How Much It Costs to Produce Coffee Across Latin America

All quotes translated from Spanish. Photo credits: Ana Valencia, Cris Flores, Julio Guevara, Laura Fornero, Fernando Pocasangre and Neil Soque

Perfect Daily Grind

Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our newsletter!