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.