The worlds third most popular beverage is going through a little bit of a bumpy patch, and it has been for a while. Whilst new ways of brewing and serving this beautiful, energising drink are emerging there are things going on in the background that consumers are not entirely aware of, and probably won’t find out about until it’s getting too late. Before we put a dampener on your morning cup-o-joe, don’t worry! Coffee isn’t going to suddenly become a scarce commodity so you don’t have to begin hoarding it like a capitalist coveting money.
Here we’re going to bring to light a couple of things you probably didn’t know were troublesome to the world of coffee, and we’ll also lighten you up by seeing what exciting new trends may be coming our way in the world of coffee!
The harsh reality is that over the next 80 years experts predict that over 50% of the land used to grow coffee will no longer be fruitful enough to grow this coveted plant (some say by the year 2050, that cuts the time frame down to just 32 years!). This is all due to the changing world climate. shifting rainfall patterns and rising temperatures around the world. All of this will significantly alter the climate in the tropical regions in which all our coffee grows.
The locations which experts say are going to go first are Latin American, your beloved Colombian coffee and the worlds largest coffee producer, Brazil, are going to be affected here. Also on the endangered coffee growing locations list is Ethiopia, fifth largest producer of coffee in the world.
As the climate in these regions becomes harsher the growing range - the altitude at which coffee grows- will rise, and many areas in which coffee is grown are already very close to the peaks of mountains. Some of this land may still remain available for coffee cultivation however, coffee is a very finicky plant and these slight changes in temperature and growing conditions could significantly affect the flavours of the final product.
The erratic seasons also have an effect on the coffee plant itself. Milder winters and erratic rain patterns mean that the plants are getting “confused” and are no longer flowering and ripening in sync with each other. This results in the coffee farmers having to keep an even closer eye on their crops in order to catch newly ripened seeds outside of the traditional harvest season. This means that they have to keep their workers on for more time, paying them more, and often harvesting less coffee. This goes to show that Global Warming -or climate change, whichever title you want to give it- is not only a socio-political problem but one that will have lasting effects on the livelihoods of the poorest people of this world, and these are often the people we depend on for the small luxuries of life; such as coffee.
Disease is a natural part of life, it's what keeps ecosystems and organisms strong and helps to continue to push the planetary genetic race forward. However in the coffee world this is starting to become a bit of a problem.
You see, for hundreds of years, coffee farmers have been focusing the breeding of coffee on a select few qualities of coffee; the flavour, aroma and appearance of the beans, in order to increase the value of their crop. Combine this with the fact that most of the coffee around the world is descended from a few select ancestors from the Ethiopian Plateau, current day Yemen, and the gene pool around the world is even smaller. As a result, these plants are more susceptible to fall prey to the same diseases. More worrying is that this mainly affects arabica coffee plants, which produce the highest quality coffees in the world.
Diseases and pests that affect the coffee plant included: leaf rust, coffee berry disease, nematodes and leaf miners; just to name a few. Leaf rust has been the most prolific of these over the past couple of decades, and as recently as 2008 it wiped out large amounts of coffee cultivation in Central America.
There are a few select varieties of coffee plant that are resistant to some of these diseases, but these are few and far between. However, hope is on the horizon! Around the world, genetic laboratories are springing up in coffee growing regions to deal with these problems, and bringing modern science into the coffee world will significantly speed up the age-old process of crossbreeding different species in order to get what we want. We just have to hope they’ve gotten there quick enough.
Before you get down in the dumps, Don’t Panic! Both of these problems -Climate Change and Disease- are not being left to run riot alone. Work has been going for a while now to breed new plants, both in the field and the laboratory that are resistant to the diseases that threaten your morning brew and the changing climate that is also going to try to bring it down.
But all of this takes time. So whilst we wait for the educated brains in the laboratory and the seasoned minds in the fields to tinker with natures magic lets have a look toward a brighter part of the future. What new things will the world of coffee be offering us in 2018?
2018: Looking Forward
Through 2018 we’re going to see a continued focus on quality over quantity, and as a result, you’re going to see may small-batch coffee roasters, like us down here at Tumut River Roasters, popping up all over the place. People are predicting that we’re going to see a rise in unique blends and flavour profiles as producers and distributors alike try to make themselves stand out from the crowd.
There’s also going to be a rise in the use of coffee in craft beverages, such as coffee stouts and cocktails. We’ll also see coffee go very gourmet, not only in flavour but also in presentation.
It has already started trending through 2017 but is predicted to go further. What? you may ask. Cold brew and nitro brew coffee we say. These beautifully flavourful takes on coffee are becoming more and more popular everywhere so expect them to be advertised at your local coffee shop once this trend really catches on!
Image Credit: pixabay.com