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The Uncertain Future of Good Coffee

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The Uncertain Future of Good Coffee

By Steve Savage, Green Options

The industry that has been providing us with high quality coffee may seem to be doing well today, but it actually faces a combination of issues that may well render our lattes and cappuccinos a very expensive indulgence in the future.  We will probably stop worrying about whether it is “Fair Trade” or “Organic” and worry about whether we can get it at all.

“Arabica” Coffee – the Good Stuff

Any coffee aficionado will tell you that ‘arabica‘ coffee (Caffea arabica) is far better than the lowly ‘robusta’ coffee (Caffea canephora) that made up the Folgers-style “cup of Joe” that I grew up drinking.  These are actually two different species of coffee and arabica only does well in a limited range of environments – mainly consisting of higher elevations in the tropics. At lower elevations the pests (insects and diseases that ‘robusta’ can tolerate), devastate the more delicate, arabica types.

Coffee Production Problem One

The places where arabica coffee can grow are shrinking. Even subtle temperature increases caused by climate change raise the elevation limit for successful arabica cultivation. Mountains get smaller as you go higher so you can imagine the issue. There is less and less land suitable for arabica production. If this was the only problem it might be fixable, but it isn’t coffee’s only challenge.

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114 comments

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5:53AM PDT on May 29, 2010

Whew!!!! Had me worried there for a moment!!! Well, I have a watch that's guaranteed not to lose more than a second in 25m yrs, so I suppose that it and coffee will be the only things around when I'm gone. Used to drink about 20 cups a day on board ship, but can't quite manage that anymore (4-5). Gotta have my coffee.

1:46AM PST on Feb 24, 2010

Personally, I cannot believe that the problem is serious enough to be tackled at the moment. We should support and encourage organic/fair trade production and that is what we actually do, don't we?

11:18AM PST on Feb 18, 2010

i dont drink coffee

10:14AM PST on Feb 18, 2010

I try and use beans. and they're arabica. Nothing like fresh ground coffee in the morning. I'm an avid coffee drinker, could you tell.

3:07PM PST on Feb 16, 2010

i don't drink coffee.

6:32AM PST on Feb 15, 2010

This is bad news for a coffee-drinker like me. Hopefully, by " decades", it would mean that coffee would still be around for me before I leave this planet.

12:21PM PST on Feb 14, 2010

i dont drink coffee ^.^

9:21PM PST on Feb 11, 2010

i know people who could nnot get through the day without coffee

9:05PM PST on Feb 11, 2010

Interesting. I just returned from Jamaica where I bought Blue
Mountain coffee for friends. I'm a social tea and coffee drinker,
they make it and we get together for afternoon chats.

9:20AM PST on Feb 10, 2010

great post

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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