Coffee Catastrophe

We humans seem to really love this coffee stuff. We better enjoy it while we can.

Coffee extinction

  • about two billion cups of coffee are brewed and consumed on a daily basis
  • over 25 million families make a living in the coffee business worldwide
  • we’ve become fairly dependent on this bean
  • but what if it goes away?
  • first bananas and now coffee too?
  • what a cruel world we live in
  • let’s explore the problem
Arabica leaves whither in the blistering heat.
  • two main species of coffee are grown commercially
  • Robusta makes up about 30% of the world’s coffee supply and is commonly used for instant coffee
  • Arabica is the good stuff
  • originally grown in Ethiopia, Arabica has much richer, much more complex flavors than the Robusta
  • the trouble with Arabica is that it is extremely sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and moisture
  • thanks to some computer modeling done in 2012 by the UK’s Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, we’re predicted to have an 85–99.7% reduction in viable coffee habitat by 2080
  • this habitat degradation (changes in temperature and rainfall) is largely due to climate change
  • the researchers at Kew also did some research on the ground, talking to Ethiopian farmers to see if their predictions matched reality
  • and, sadly, the answer was yes
  • they are now working with the Ethiopian government to develop a sustainable solution to this problem
  • part of that solution may include moving coffee fields to cooler, higher altitude areas that may eventually become conducive to coffee growth as climate change progresses
  • another issue with Arabica is it’s lack of genetic diversity in cultivation
  • it’s an inbred plant
  • Arabica is a cross between two different species of coffee that occurred about 15,000 years ago
  • so its genetic base was small to begin with
  • Arabica is primarily grown in developing countries that do not have the funds to invest in agronomy research
  • and the wealthier countries that roast and brew the beans still never invested in the research aspect either
  • the coffee industry has just now realized that something must be done to make the plants more resilient
  • but that’s hard to do with such little genetic diversity

With climate change and potential disease working against Arabica, is there any hope? Or will our mornings eventually be devoid of that dark, steamy brew? Only time will tell. Here’s to hoping for the best and fearing caffeine withdrawal.