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When coffee gets hot

Coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world, second only to... water.

 Gueisha Coffee plantation

Needless to say that the second is a result of the first? Arabica and Robusta (coffee) trees, which amount to 99% of the world crops, depend greatly on weather conditions and precipitations. Clearly then, climate change represents quite a challenge for our favourite brew. There’s no escaping it. 

The development of Arabica

Arabica’s optimal growth conditions include a cool, semi-shaded environment found only in mountain regions (1,200 m to 2,000 m in altitude). The most coveted varieties come from Ethiopia and Kenya, notably, where vast territories benefit from a single dry season, during which temperatures range from 15 to 25 degrees. Beyond these temperatures, the crops are endangered. Moreover, to obtain an optimal yearly production, total annual rainfall must range between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm.

The development of Robustas

Robusta, on the other hand, grows mostly in Africa’s equatorial plains, on lower grounds ranging between seal level and 800 m (although this does not mean Robusta cannot grow elsewhere, as is the case with Arabica... one can incidentally think of Brazil or Colombia, both important coffeeproducing countries). However, Robusta trees need more rain, around 2,000 mm annually. Again, for an optimal annual harvest, temperatures should stay between 22 and 26 degrees.

Climate changes has consequences...

I have no intention of turning into a preacher and lecturing about the sad story of homeostasis, but as is the case with climate change, the future of coffee is in our hands. Irregularities in global climate are having repercussions on almost every aspect of coffee growing, including the genetics of the plant itself (biodiversity, hybridization, and reproduction), land conditions (most noticeable in a given territory’s level of precipitations), harvest practices and conditions, duration of maturation, and post-harvest treatment (pulping, fermentation, and drying process). When the monsoon season arrives late or ends too soon, when temperatures rise, when seasons change their regular patterns, when tsunamis swallow entire islands, when forest fires rage for days on end, harvests are ruined and only scrawny trees remain (islands in the periphery of Indonesia, among others, are routinely struck and weakened by natural disasters).

... and can even cause diseases

Coffee trees are sensitive plants; the blossoming and development of coffee beans are delicate stages of the plant’s life and require a stable environment. Parasites such as nematodes, the coffee leaf rust (CLR), the coffee berry borer, and the leaf miner, all figure on the coffee lover’s most hated list. A single visit from any of these nuisance can ruin complete harvests.

 Harvesting coffee

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. 

Let’s make sure that future generations have the chance to drink this planet’s best beverage..


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