The severe frost of July, 1975 killed over half of Brazil’s coffee trees, drastically reducing the Brazilian coffee crop and raising worldwide coffee prices. The resulting shortage was acutely felt in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), where it gave rise to the “Coffee Crisis” of 1976-1979. According to the Wikipedia article on the Coffee Crisis:
Due to the strong German tradition of drinking coffee, coffee imports were one of the most important for consumers. A massive rise in coffee prices in 1976/77 led to a quadrupling of the annual costs of importing coffee compared to 1972-75. This caused severe financial problems for the GDR, which perennially lacked hard currency.
As a result, in the summer of 1977 the Politburo withdrew most cheaper brands of coffee from sale, limited use in restaurants, and effectively withdrew its provision in public offices and state enterprises. In addition, an infamous new type of coffee was introduced, Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), which was 51% coffee and 49% a range of filler including chicory, rye, and sugar beet.
Unsurprisingly, the new coffee was generally detested for its awful taste, and the whole episode is informally known as the “coffee crisis”. The crisis passed after 1978 as world coffee prices began to fall again, as well as increased supply through an agreement between the GDR and Vietnam – the latter becoming one of the world’s largest coffee producers in the 1990s. However, the episode vividly illustrated the structural economic and financial problems of the GDR.
Clearly, the Coffee Crisis was a major source of dissatisfaction for the East German populace which brought into relief the economic difficulties of the Communist regime. It is entertaining to speculate that it might have provided some of the fuel for the popular uprising a decade later that toppled the Communist regime and brought down the Berlin Wall.