Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world each day. Americans spend $80 billion dollars a year on coffee. Coffee in grown across 12.5 million largely smallholder farms in more than 50 countries. In other words, coffee is a big deal.
Like many things, coffee is subject to the effects of climate change. Many coffee-producing regions are experiencing changing climate conditions, which don’t only affect the yield and sustainability of the crop but have an impact on taste, aroma, and even dietary quality. Coffee drinkers care very much about these things.
New research at Tufts University and Montana State University looked at how coffee quality can be affected by shifts in environmental factors associated with climate change. The researchers looked at the effects of 10 prevalent environmental factors and management conditions associated with climate change and climate adaptation.
The most consistent trends were that farms at higher altitudes were associated with better coffee flavor and aroma, while too much light exposure was associated with a decrease in coffee quality. They also found that coffee quality is also susceptible to changes due to water stress and increases in temperature and carbon dioxide levels.
They evaluated current efforts to mitigate these effects, including shade management, selection of climate resistant coffee plants and pest management. The hope is that if we can understand the science of the changes to the environment, it will help farmers and other stakeholders to better manage coffee production in the face of increasing challenges. It will take a concerted effort to maintain coffee quality as the climate continues to change.
Photo, posted May 22, 2009, courtesy of Olle Svensson via Flickr.