Otautahi – Climate change could make it harder to find a good cup of coffee, new research shows.
A changing climate might shrink suitable areas for specialty coffee production without adaptation, making coffee taste blander and impacting coffee farmers’ livelihoods.
Published in Scientific Reports, the study focused on regions in Ethiopia, Africa’s largest coffee-producing nation. Although studies have previously documented the impact of climate change on coffee production, what’s less understood is how varying climates could change the flavours of specialty coffee, the researchers wrote.
The team aimed to fill this gap. Their results provide a glimpse into how future climate change could impact local regions and economies that rely on coffee cultivation, underscoring the value of local adaptation measures.
Researchers analysed how 19 different climate factors, such as mean temperatures and rainfall levels, would impact the cultivation of five distinct specialty coffee types in the future.
Although researchers found that areas suitable for growing average quality coffee may actually increase over time with climate change, regions where specialty coffee is grown will shrink — a pending problem in light of the global demand for high quality coffee.
Coffee profiles rely on specific climate patterns for their unique flavours, levels of acidity and fragrances. But in a warmer climate, the coffee cherry — the fruit picked from a coffee plant — matures faster than the bean inside, making for a lower quality cup of coffee.
If one or more coffee regions lose their specialty status due to climate change this has potentially grave ramifications for the smallholder farmers in the region, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said.
Climate change impacts on coffee production are not unique just to Ethiopia. In Columbia’s mountainous coffee-growing regions, temperatures are warming every decade, according to Yale Environment 360. Extreme levels of precipitation, which are becoming more common, also impact production, as they spread insect and fungal diseases.
But researchers say there are glimmers of hope, emphasising the importance of local adaptation measures that are designed for particular climates and communities.
For example, in regions where temperature is an important factor for specialty coffee cultivation, the researchers suggest improved agroforestry systems that could maintain canopy temperatures, a promising step toward sustaining great coffee.