September 3, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

You must have noticed the lines outside coffee shops during lockdown indicating that there’s plenty of business being done by the humble bean.

Now that the food side of the café business is restricted to simple takeaway items, there are lattes, cappuccinos, espressos and more being carried off by the tray-load by workers in the city and suburbs. Some cafes move more than 90kg a week, up about 20kg.

And vendors of espresso machines that cost anything from $500 to $5,000 or more are finding homebound workers putting high-end machines into their kitchens. Fresh bean machines as well as pods are in demand as evidenced by  a 7.7 percent revenue increase announced by Nestle, makers of Nespresso.

In Brighton, a popular bayside suburb of Melbourne, The Pantry is a long established café that has diversified over the decades to also caters for onsite and offsite events. Normally there’s a wait for a kerbside table, but takeaway only now means they’re working just as hard, selling more coffee but less food.  At the northern end of Brighton, at Superrandom, reputed for its barista-drawn coffees, people happily stand and wait. Their business is booming.

In the Dandenong Ranges outside the city, Tecoma is a suburb where residents banned McDonalds but their local BP service station has a team of baristas to keep up with demand for espresso drinks. They reportedly sell more coffee than most Melbourne petrol stations largely due to being declared an essential service during lockdowns.

Speaking to coffee suppliers who sell beans and machines into workplaces, who hire out machines for events large and small, there has been a 30 to 50 percent drop off in business during lockdowns, but coffee bean sales have continued to grow steadily.

And while major events with their pop-up espresso carts are on pause these days, some small businesses are buying or leasing machines to replace the instant java in the office kitchen. They say it helps build team morale in tough times.

But, remembering the corporate social responsibility mantra that is inherent in many business events, behind our comfortable first-world latte sipping there are about 25 million farmers growing 80 percent of the world’s beans, who rely on us keeping up our  daily coffee hit through the pandemic. However, with an industry predicted to grow at an annual rate of 25 percent between 2020 and 2025, it seems we might actually be addicted to the bean.