Global Warming Is Threatening Coffee Culture

Global Warming

Coffee production, due to increased consumption, has become a stable and rewarding career for many growers and importers all over the world; however, within the last few years coffee production has taken a turn for the worse. The world’s demand for coffee has been met with a slow in production due to climate issues within the growing regions. Citizens of the world have adopted coffee as a favorite morning or all day staple for energy and social interaction. Global warming has something to say about consumers’ love for coffee: it is now in control and growing regions must adapt to the changes or coffee culture will be much less prominent, threatening the frequency of consumers’ daily cup(s) of coffee.

Detrimental climate changes have been most destructive in areas that are crucial to the world’s coffee bean supply. Beans produced in Brazil represent over 50 percent of the world’s Arabica bean supply – the highest quality bean available. Growing regions like Brazil are experiencing extreme weather conditions during seasons that were once calm and stable, causing extreme crop issues such as an increase in pests and frost due to unusual climate patterns.

The ripening stage is crucial to the quality of coffee berries. The length, climate stability, and altitude of coffee bean production caters to finicky beans often flawlessly; if we add in the current climate trends of growing regions we realize that global warming has a hold on production and, in turn, is threatening the culture of coffee as it is currently known. The higher temperatures caused by a warming climate in turn cause coffee berries to ripen more quickly which hurts the quality of the bean. Growing altitudes that were once tried and true for perfected growing specifics are now severely compromised by pests, temperature and rainfall changes. Pests that were once foreign to the area are a growing problem because their defeat is a mystery with a climate working for the pests and against the growers.

Coffee plant disease and pests are proving to be the most challenging problems facing growers. Hemileia vastatrix, or the coffee rust disease, is an example of how seriously global warming is devastating coffee production. Coffee rust has successfully spread to all coffee growing regions of the world and greatly affects Arabica bean production. Coffee rust specifically effects the coffee leaves and is recognized by small, yellow dots on the top of coffee plant leaves. The disease is extremely contagious; after an initial leaf is infected others in the area are highly susceptible due to wind movement and unintentional transportation of spores by humans. The infection proves too much for the plants; as the disease works its way from the bottom of the tree to the top, the tree is left with leafless branches and an array of dead leaves at its base.

Coffee rust is not a new disease; it was first discovered in the year 1861 and was largely controlled by quarantine, knowledge of climate and pesticides for over a century. However, the disease is resistant to many attempts to stifle it and with unstable rainfall, temperatures etc., coffee rust is becoming increasingly hard to control. Coffee rust is a serious epidemic; coffee buyers and growers are uncertain about the future of coffee production.

Growers and buyers have been working tirelessly in order to combat global warming’s hold on coffee production. While global warming currently dictates how much coffee is available for people to drink, this is not to say that this will be a change echoing into the future. Growers are attempting to grow in regions that were once unsuitable, due to changing climates, in hopes that new regions will be just as suitable as the old for production. Coffee rust is becoming better understood, though controlling it will continue to be a challenge. Global warming is threatening how much coffee can be currently grown to appease the current coffee culture; however, it does not limit the amazing and innovative abilities of humans.

By Courtney Heitter

CoffeeTalk Magazine
International Coffee Organization

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