COFFEE: Take That, el Exigente

In the upland city of Manizales, coffee capital of Colombia, new-car sales are booming, and supermarkets stock imported pâté de foie gras. In the Mexican highlands, dirt-poor Indian farmers eat meat with their rice and beans. In Guatemala, small planters who 18 months ago could barely afford bicycles splurge on motorcycles, TV sets and modern farm equipment. "I now own a Datsun truck, and my son is studying engineering," says one. "Enough of eating crud with the chickens."

While U.S. coffee drinkers are paying the highest prices ever for their morning caffeine—General Foods Corp., the largest U.S. coffee marketer, last...

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