Coffee supports the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in more than 52 countries, and generates billions of dollars in revenue. The threats that COVID-19 pose to the global coffee sector is daunting with profound implications for coffee production. The financial impacts will be long-lived and uneven, and smallholders will be among the hardest hit. The paper argues that the impacts are rooted in the systemic vulnerability of the coffee production system and the unequal ways the sector is organized: Large revenues from the sale of coffee in the Global North are made possible by mostly impoverished smallholders in the Global South. COVID-19 will accentuate the existing vulnerabilities and create new ones, forcing many smallholders into alternative livelihoods. This outcome, however, is not inevitable. COVID-19 presents an opportunity to rebalance the system that currently creates large profits on one end of the supply chain and great vulnerability on the other.