Climate change and coffee. What you need to know.

At Science of Coffee, we understand that cultivating top quality coffee is a science and an art – a mastery of environmental factors and processes that result in that rich, dark liquid we all love to savour. Today, we’re talking about the effect of climate change on coffee.

So, what’s brewing with climate change? The truth is that climate change is threatening coffee crops around the world. Climate change results in a change of environment that disrupts the health and growth of coffee shrubs and lowers coffee production on a global scale. If you can’t function without your daily cup (or two or three), it’s time to sit up and take notice.

How does climate change affect coffee production?

1. Global warming dangers

Coffee shrubs grow best in a specific set of conditions (hot, sunny days and cool nights) and increases in temperature (even by a few degrees) can alter the environment and affect plant health and growth, and ultimately the quality and taste of the coffee bean and brew. For example, increased temperatures allow for the growth of coffee leaf rust (which is unable to grow substantially in cold weather). Research shows that, if temperatures increase, by 2050, 80 percent of current growing areas will no longer be usable due to environmental changes.

2. Increased rain fall threat

While a steady rainfall is important for a healthy coffee crop, intense or unseasonal rain storms can  damage coffee plants, contributing to lower crop yields. Varying rain patterns can also have an effect on the ripening of the coffee ‘cherries’, making harvesting practices difficult.

3. Pest problems

Climate change can lead to more resilient pests, such as expanding the habitat and, therefore, range of the coffee berry borer, which grazes on coffee plants, putting pressure on developing crops. 

4. Increased pressure on farmers

Changes to the way coffee shrubs grow, produce, and are harvested as a result of climate change have put increased pressure on farmers who must try different production methods at different times to attempt greater yields. May farmers also report having to hire extra hands for longer periods while harvesting less coffee. More workers, less coffee, many more trips to the local co-operative... all these factors require money that the majority of rural coffee farmers do not have.

Climate change can have far-reaching consequences across the full coffee cycle. Think about it – a poor yield leads to fewer sales and a lower capital to reinvest in the coffee farm which leads to more exposure (and fewer solutions)  to environmental problems, which then leads back  to smaller yields, and so on and so on.

There is no single or conclusive solution to the effects of climate change but there are a number of technologies and farming approaches (such as irrigation and shade management) that can help to protect and nurture coffee crops and these are worth exploring and supporting.

Want to know more about coffee? Read more about coffee facts and culture on our blog and buy one of our ethically sourced single origin coffees, blends or quality brewing products online (you can shop wholesale as well). 

Want to learn more about the coffee in your cup? Just ask!