What will climate change mean for coffee?

Climate change is as visible as ever, and has been pushing both businesses and consumers to make more sustainable and thoughtful decisions. However, there remains the constant consumer demand for products that are sourced from the Earth in real-time. Strain on the avocado industry by millennials demanding their daily avo on toast sounding familiar? In our consumer-driven environment with huge businesses competing for every dollar, we’re used to having too many options and everything we want at hand. The thought that these products or services may one day be unavailable doesn’t really cross our minds. But could the time come when our daily latte is a luxury?

Global Warming Roasting our Coffee

Climate change is particularly concerning to the specialty coffee industry. Minuscule details affect how the coffee beans turn out. Like any growing species, coffee beans have adapted to the environment in which they are grown. A one degree temperature rise may not seem like much, but can then impact on the rest of the coffee-growing process. Changes to rainfall patterns have also been detrimental to coffee growers. Coffee buds need 2-4 months of consistent dry weather to form and are therefore highly sensitive to rainfall. This affects their growth and results in a lower yield, which is effecting the lives of many coffee growers. Between the years 2002 and 2011, coffee production in India declined by almost 30%.

The birthplace of Arabica coffee, Ethiopia is an origin heard often in specialty coffee. Grown naturally in the highlands, coffee contributed to 65% of the country’s export income. Due to a global decline in coffee prices, fast forward to 2010 and it only contributed 21%. Over 700,000 families in the country depend on working in the coffee industry, and are all increasingly effected by global warming. The rise in temperature, though under 1 degree, has accounted for quality loss in yield. The warmer temperatures have also resulted in widespread infestations of the coffee berry borer beetle, which lay their eggs in coffee berries which their hatched larvae in-turn feed on. This has caused an annual loss of $500 million.

The Future for Coffee Growing

The solution to global warming for coffee growers in Ethiopia may just lie in the highlands. A study published last year suggests that moving uphill could potentially increase the coffee-growing area in Ethiopia fourfold. Coffee is currently grown between altitudes of 1200 and 2200 metres, however coffee growers could find optimal temperatures further up the highlands. According to the study, up to 60% of the land coffee is currently growing on could be unsuitable by the year 2100. There is a fine interaction between temperature and rainfall when it comes to coffee growing conditions. The study suggests that higher temperatures could be tolerated if the amount of rainfall also increased.

There is plenty of research into this theory still to be done, but we know one thing for sure; a solution needs to be thought of to sustain the coffee-growing industry for centuries to come.

We often feature an Ethiopian origin in our mix – check out our latest single origins on offer.



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