Coffee is one of the most popular plants in the world, It takes about 3–4 years to grow before producing berries that are picked, washed, pulped, dried, and roasted to make coffee. The world consumes about 500 billion cups of it every year (ik too much) But there’s a crisis on the horizon.
To grow coffee temperature should be between 18–21°C but due to climate change the area is shrinking very fast, Colombia is the major coffee producer of the world and the impact of climate change can be felt.
There are over a hundred species of the coffee plant. The vast majority occur in the wild while a few are cultivated on a farm. Two of which are by far the most common. Robusta coffee has a bitter taste and is used to make espresso and most instant-coffee. Arabica coffee is good stuff. It has a smooth and mild taste and is used for high-quality coffee. Both species require specific conditions to grow, but arabica is particularly sensitive.
It also needs a specific amount of rain, preferably with a 3-month dry season to flower and crucially, it needs warm days and cool nights. So it grows best at a certain elevation. Altogether, that means Arabica grows best between these latitudes. And if you were to create a perfect place for it, it would look a lot like Colombia. Specifically, the Zona Cafetera, Colombia’s coffee region.
The coffee farmers grow and process it all by hand here which is why Colombian coffee has been considered the best in the world for over a century. But the zona cafeteria is also where climate change is already taking a toll. Greenhouse gas emissions have warmed the region by 1.2 degrees since 1980. That’s enough to push the optimal elevation for coffee higher up the mountain leaving the plants down here to overheat and produce lower-quality beans. That’s what’s happened here on the Villa Gloria farm, which sits at a low elevation.
The warmer climate is also ideal for pests and fungi. Up the slope, some coffee plants at the Santa Fe farm are afflicted with a fungus called coffee rust. And here, at the El Oasis farm, changing weather patterns have made it hard to predict the lifecycle of the coffee plant. Since 2013, the amount of land used to grow coffee in Colombia has fallen by more than 7%. And scientists expect things to get worse. The zona cafeteria is projected to warm by .3 degrees per decade and see more extreme weather. In fact, coffee-growing regions everywhere are going to be affected.
A recent study estimates that by 2050 the amount of land that can sustain coffee cultivation will be reduced by 50%. And it’s not just cultivated coffee. Another study estimates that 60% of wild coffee species could be at the risk of extinction because of climate change. Some of these are used to breed more resistant varieties of Arabica which makes them critical to sustaining coffee production.
That’s not only bad news for the plant, but also for those who have relied on the coffee industry for generations. It’s forced many farmers in the Zona Cafetera to replace coffee with other crops. And it’s not just a problem in Colombia.
80% of the world’s coffee is grown by 25 million smallholder farmers. Many are living in poverty. From Central America to Africa, to Asia, climate change is making it harder for them to grow coffee. Unless the price of coffee rises again and farmers have the financial means to cope with climate change, small farms everywhere will continue to be at risk of losing their livelihoods.
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