Coffee is more than a drink. For many of us — OK, for me — it's woven into the fabric of every day.
It also connects us to far corners of the globe.
For instance, every Friday, a truck pulls up to the warehouse of Counter Culture Coffee, a small roaster and coffee distributor in Durham, N.C., and unloads a bunch of heavy burlap sacks.
On any random day, that truck could bring "10 bags from a farm in El Salvador; 20 bags from a cooperative in Burundi; two bags of a special coffee from Guatemala," says Kim Elena Ionescu, one of the coffee buyers for Counter Culture Coffee. She travels the world, visiting coffee farms and deciding which beans the company will buy.
The best coffee, she says, comes from high altitudes, but you cannot grow it in places that freeze, "so you need that mixture of high altitude and warm climate, which makes the tropics the place to grow it."
All across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, people grow coffee.
In many tropical countries, especially poor ones, it's a pillar of the economy; exports of green coffee beans, globally, are worth $15 billion a year.