Coffee and Climate Change

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting research professor Dr. Lini Wollenberg from the University of Vermont. She is involved with a number of different environmental research organizations, including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), a research center that produces climate and coffee findings. She shared a number of different research papers, which were more academic and detailed than a single small-farm owner can digest and translate into actions. Still, the papers were interesting.

CIAT has a blog, which you can search for coffee-related posts: I think the posts are pretty interesting & all tie into climate change — governmental policy, fair trade coffee, changing crops altogether (e.g., coffee to chocolate), etc.; these aren’t about coffee/cafe culture — brewing, roasting, equipment, etc.

This article, This is what the future of coffee might taste like, was the most interesting one to me & had to do with the impact of climate change on coffee flavor. It studied Nicaraguan Arabica, in particular, and there were a few dire statements like:

The result is the first glimpse of what the future of arabica might taste like if climate change continues as expected. And unfortunately, it’s miserable news for farmers, buyers and consumers alike: many of Nicaragua’s best coffees are going to taste worse.

Specifically, they found that as suitability falls, acidity will also decrease. Other key characteristics like fragrance, aroma, aftertaste, body and sweetness will take a hit too.

“The cuppers were unanimous that as environmental suitability changes, Nicaragua’s arabica will lose many of its distinctive, delicate flavours,” said Peter Laderach, a CCAFS and CIAT climate change expert, who led the research.

Hmmm. It doesn’t mean this WILL happen, or that it will happen in Hawaii. It doesn’t keep me up at night, but it is something to be aware of and consider. Living on the Big Island you think more of current volcanic change than eventual climate change. These are a few excerpts from a March 27 West Hawaii Today article about the volcano:

“The past nearly eight months without active lava at the surface of the volcano marks the longest time interval without eruption since the 17-month period between November 1979 and April 1982,” HVO said.

The volcano erupted almost continuously since the Puu Oo-Kupaianaha eruption began in 1983. That eruption ended last year when magma migrated down rift and erupted in Leilani, starting the largest lower East Rift Zone eruption in more than 200 years.

Based on past observations, the geologists think the next likely eruption will be in the caldera within a few years. The next rift zone eruption could be in a decade or longer. “This prognosis assumes a return to Kilauea’s general style of behavior for the past 200 years,” HVO said.

There is nothing permanent except change.


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