Climate Change in the Coffee Belt

Even the most nominal of consumers are familiar with some of the most famous coffee producing nations in the world: Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia.  The reason the coffee from these countries are so well-known is due to the growing conditions where they are situated.  Centered on the equator, the climate and geographic conditions make these locations ideal for coffee trees.

Extending to the north and south of the equator, bound by the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, this region has been aptly nicknamed the Coffee Belt. The intricately designed combination of heat, humidity, rainfall, elevation, and soil quality are found in the right combination in this region which circles the globe.

In recent years, climate change has been affecting the coffee in the central region and expanding the borders of the Bean Belt to both the north and the south.  Intense heat has been shrinking the arable land in these zones and providing a better habitat for plant-killing diseases (i.e. coffee rust).  While this is horrible for the aforementioned coffee producers, it is expanding the optimal conditions for growing coffee to regions that were traditionally too far north/south.  Yunnan, China is one of the benefactors of this phenomenon.  At the same time climate conditions are pushing change so are the habits of worldwide consumers.  The desire to receive coffee from micro-lots and unique places is thrusting China’s coffee into the world market.

Aside from merely expanding the coffee growing borders there might be another answer to thwart the coffeepocalypse – Robusta!  Traditionally, only Arabica was sought out by consumers on the specialty market but Vietnam, India, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico have produced some incredible Robusta lots over the past decade.  This is driving the global economy to direct resources toward researching, processing, and training Robusta farmers.  It is a more disease-and-weather-resistant variety so it is less affected by climate change.  It can be grown at lower elevations and has a higher plant yield.

Aside from merely expanding the coffee growing borders there might be another answer to thwart the coffeepocalypse – Robusta!  Traditionally, only Arabica was sought out by consumers on the specialty market but Vietnam, India, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico have produced some incredible Robusta lots over the past decade.  This is driving the global economy to direct resources toward researching, processing, and training Robusta farmers.  It is a more disease-and-weather-resistant variety so it is less affected by climate change.  It can be grown at lower elevations and has a higher plant yield.

While Arabica has the better reputation among consumers worldwide, the advantages for farming Robusta are going to be bringing more of the bean into local cafes.  It is a great time to begin learning some of the changes that can bring to your cup.

Photo cred:  Above photos without tags are from UTZ Certified

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