Drinking Coffee and Breast Feeding

Drinking Coffee and Breast Feeding

The sum total of evidence tells us that coffee has lots of health benefits. These include a reduction of risk of getting type II diabetes, less likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, and even a reduced risk of getting several types of cancer. But how about the effects of coffee on babies? We are not talking about bottle feeding coffee to your newborn but rather a mother drinking coffee and breast feeding. Is this safe? Are there limits to how much coffee a nursing mother should drink?

Effects of Coffee on Babies

When adults drink coffee it wakes them up, makes them more alert. Although too much coffee can cause problems adults process coffee rather efficiently and it generally takes a lot of coffee to cause problems. Newborn babies who are nursing do not process caffeine as efficiently as adults do. Thus, relatively lesser amounts can have relatively greater effects. The other part of this is that while you may feel energizes and alert your baby may simply be anxious, jittery or irritable. They may exhibit symptoms of colic. As with adults, side effects of coffee in babies are worse with higher levels of coffee in the body.

Drinking Coffee and Breast Feeding

How Long Does Caffeine Stay in Your Body?

Accumulation of caffeine in babies can be a significant issue because of their relatively immature kidneys and liver. The half-life of caffeine in an adult is between three and seven hours. In other words you drink coffee and there is level caffeine in your system. Half of that is gone between three and seven hours later and half of what remains in another three to seven hours. Thus, the amount of caffeine that remains from one morning cup of coffee is about an eighth to as little as 1/7x7x7 a day later.

How Much Longer Does Caffeine Stay in a Baby’s Body?

The half-life of caffeine in a newborn baby ranges between sixty-five and one hundred thirty hours. So, while an adult will get rid of half of their caffeine in three hours a newborn baby can require as long as five days and ten hours to reduce their caffeine level to half. The point is that if your baby is colicky because they got too much caffeine from breast milk that colic for one dose of caffeine may last for days!

Caffeine in Breast Milk

Because only a small amount of caffeine gets into breast milk, moms can consume as much as 200mg to 300 mg of caffeine (one or two eight ounce cups of coffee a day) and generally not see any adverse effects with their nursing babies. Anyone who drinks coffee in the six to ten cup a day range is likely to see side effects on caffeine in their nursing babies. (Maternal Diet and Breast Feeding – CDC) In the case of a premature baby moms may choose to cut back a bit more on their caffeine until baby is a month old or more. Something important to remember is that coffee is not the only source of caffeine. There are some “energy” drinks that have greater caffeine content that coffee. These can pose a much greater problem to you nursing newborn if they are your drinks of choice while nursing.


What Will Climate Change Do to Gourmet Coffee?

What Will Climate Change Do to Gourmet Coffee?

In our recent article about what constitutes a gourmet coffee we noted that extra attention and care is used at every step from picking to roasting. Gourmet coffee beans are individually selected at the peak of ripeness which often requires that coffee pickers pass through a coffee farm several times to achieve this result. As a practical matter, not all coffee beans qualify for gourmet quality and not all that might qualify are picked at just the right time. Thus, the amount of coffee available for gourmet treatment is substantially less than the total coffee crop on any given farm. It is our opinion that this situation will worsen as climate changes lead to worse coffee at higher prices across the board.

How Climate Changes Will Affect Coffee Quality

The best coffee aroma and flavor comes from arabica coffee. The other common variety, robusta, has a higher caffeine content, is more bitter, and lacks the fine aroma of a good arabica. The down side for arabica is that the plants are susceptible to a wide variety of coffee plant diseases and pests while robusta coffee plants are much hardier. Robusta gives a greater yield per plant and per acre or hectare planted as well and robusta plants come to maturity and produce coffee sooner than arabica plants do. Greater heat, humidity, rainfall variations are likely to make much land unsuitable for arabica production before the same land becomes unsuitable for robusta production. The bottom line is that as these changes progress we will be seeing a proportionally greater production of robusta compared to arabica. Thus, we may see progressively more mixes of robusta and arabica and coffee that is increasingly bitter.

What Will Climate Change Do to Gourmet Coffee?

Climate Change and Gourmet Coffee

There will be two ways that gourmet coffee producers will be able to deal with the changes in store for the world of coffee production. One will be to reduce the expectations of consumers in regard to what constitutes gourmet coffee. The other will simply be to jack the price up for increasingly smaller supplies of what today qualifies as gourmet coffee. Smaller packages at the same price (like candy bars during periods of inflation) may become common as well. To the extent that these two routes for gourmet coffee are followed, we can expect to see a wide range of prices for gourmet coffee. The high quality gourmet coffee will become out of reach for the average consumer who will end up accepting lesser quality in their “gourmet coffee” and forgetting about what great coffee used to taste like. As coffee supplies diminish over the years we expect to see prices of all levels of coffee quality increase significantly.

Will Colombia Still Produce Gourmet Coffee in the Future?

Not all coffee producing areas will see the same degree of changes in their micro climates. For example, southern Mexico, which is the biggest organic coffee producer, will see more loss of cultivatable land than the western Andes in Colombia where the largest concentration of arabica coffee is grown. Because the highest quality arabica is grown at the highest altitudes, coffee grown in the Colombian Cafetero in the departments of Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda will see relatively less of a problem. We noted in a previous article that one can get excellent gourmet coffee in local grocery stores in this region for about $8 a pound as opposed to as much as $100 a pound for selected online gourmet coffee offerings on Amazon.com. However, if one wants to keep getting gourmet coffee at the current level of quality over the years and not pay exorbitant prices, contact us at admin@buyorganiccoffee.org for access.

Will Organic Coffee Survive Climate Change?

Will Organic Coffee Survive Climate Change?

We wrote recently about how climate changes will likely reduce coffee production and result in worse coffee at higher prices. We noted that arabica coffee plants will be more susceptible to ill effects from higher temperatures and that will be the reason for the likely lowering of coffee quality. Because organic coffee is generally arabica, that alone is a reason expect that climate change will probably result in less organic coffee. The bottom line question is this. Will organic coffee survive climate change?

How Climate Change Will Change Coffee Agricultural Systems

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the impacts of climate change on coffee growing systems will be sufficient to reduce yields in coming years. They note that environmental risks to coffee production include soil health deterioration, loss of biodiversity of coffee and related flora, fauna, and shade trees as well as pollution, extreme variability of rainfall and greatly increased stress from traditional and new coffee pests and diseases.

The amount of land suitable for growing traditional arabica and thus organic coffee plants will shrink as temperatures increase and local climates flip back and forth between excessive rainfall and draughts. The organic coffee farmer works continuously to preserve the ecosystem where he or she grows coffee and other crops and shade plants. A practical consideration that must be considered is that an organic coffee farm needs to be financially viable to survive. More work to maintain a sustainable organic coffee farm will cost more. If the market will not bear the extra cost, organic farmers may well convert to less expensive means of growing coffee including growing the hardier robusta variety by non-organic means.

Will Organic Coffee Survive Climate Change?

How Much Will Organic Coffee Production Suffer in the Coming Years?

A fair assumption is that as much of half of current coffee producing land may become uncultivatable for coffee by the middle of the mid to late 21st century. Extended periods of temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius will adversely affect flowering of the coffee plant. The same higher temperatures, when combined with higher humidity, will greatly increase risks from coffee plant diseases like leaf rust and pests like the coffee borer beetle. The use of fungicides and pesticides to fight these on non-organic land will adversely affect pollinators like the honey bee. Berries that do ripen will do so faster which generally leads to a lower coffee quality and yield.

Where Will the Effects of Temperature on Organic Coffee Be the Worst?

Climate scientists expect to see above 30 degree Celsius days increase from a low of 18 a year to a high of 56 a year with an average of 36 days within the coming years. Affected coffee growing areas will include the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America including Ecuador, Bolivia, the North of Peru, and the Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná states of Brazil. In Africa Southwest Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Guinea can expect such higher temperatures. In the South Asia and East Indies region India, Sri Lanka, and two of the top four coffee growers, Indonesia and Vietnam will be affected.

Who Grows the Most Organic Coffee?

Latin America is responsible for three fourths of all organic coffee production. Three fourths of that production comes from Mexico. Thus, Mexico produces slightly more than half of all organic coffee. This may be a problem. Mexico is one of the countries most likely to see extreme temperatures in its coffee growing regions, an increase in pests and plant diseases, and a drastic reduction in land suitable for coffee cultivation. The primary coffee growing regions in Mexico are the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas in the south and Coatepec on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Chiapas and Oaxaca in the southern part of the country and Coatepec on the Gulf Coast. As an example, the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range runs parallel to the Pacific coast of Mexico and into Guatemala, and El Salvado. Its highest elevations run to 1,400 meters or 4,600 feet. This is the altitude at which Colombian coffee farmers are forced to plan leaf rust resistant strains while they plant the original arabica plants in the 6,000 to 8,000 foot range. The point is that the prime organic coffee growing regions in the biggest organic coffee producing country will be more prone to loss of ability to grow coffee than a country like Colombia where much coffee is grown at higher altitudes.

Coffee Roasting for Beginners

Coffee Roasting for Beginners

If you love coffee you want the best coffee. That means buying quality whole bean arabica coffee from Colombia and grinding enough for making coffee each day. Better yet you may wish to buy green arabica coffee beans from Colombia and roast your own coffee. Roasting your own coffee every day is a great way to get the freshest coffee for less than coffee shop prices. By roasting your own coffee you get to try out lots of different coffee varieties. And roasting your own coffee can turn into a simple and enjoyable hobby. So, here is a bit of useful information about coffee roasting for beginners.

You Do Not Need a Fancy Roasting Machine to Roast Coffee

You local coffee shop roasts its coffee beans every day. They use a commercial coffee roaster. The same folks who make commercial roasters also make smaller ones for home use. A small home coffee roaster can easily set you back $800. If you just want to try out roasting your own coffee you can use a home popcorn popper, a convection oven, or even a frying pan! The point is to heat the beans sufficiently to bring about the roasting process to the desired degree, light, medium, or dark roast.

Coffee Roasting for Beginners
Roasting Coffee with a Skillet

Roasting Coffee With Your Popcorn Popper

A good way to roast coffee for beginners is to use a hot air popcorn popper which you can purchase, if you do not have one already, for $25 to $30. All you need is the popper, a cup of high quality green arabica coffee beans, a tray for cooling the beans and your ears. Listen for cracking sounds and watch the clock after the first “crack.” For a light roast turn off the popper 5 seconds later. For a medium roast wait 25 seconds. Wait 45 seconds for a medium-dark roast. A dark roast will take 65 seconds after the first crack and a French roast will take 95 seconds. As a practical matter, beginners should start with light to medium roasts and adjust the time to their taste. Because this is a relatively simple and cheap process, you can simply start over if you mess up.

Because you will get chaff from the skin of the coffee bean, put a cloth or paper towel under the spout of the air popper. When you have used the correct amount of coffee beans, they will move with the airflow of the popper just like when you pop popcorn. If they are not moving you need to use fewer beans.

The cooling part is important because the heated beans continue to roast until they cool down. Simply putting the roasted beans on a cookie sheet, spreading them out with a spatula, and waiting five minutes is sufficient. Then grind your beans, make your coffee, and enjoy!

Roasting Coffee Beans in Your Oven

If you are going to use this approach, use a baking tray and line it with baking paper. Then add your green coffee beans and put them in the hot oven. With this process you should open the oven and turn the beans with a spatula every few minutes. Like with the popcorn popper method listen for the first crack and remove the beans from the oven 5 minutes later and longer for darker roasts. As you become accustomed to this method you can simply keep track of time after the first crack or listen for the second crack as well. Like with the popcorn popper method, remove the roasted beans and transfer to a cookie sheet to cool for five minutes.

Using a Frying Pan to Roast Coffee Beans

Most Colombians in the coffee growing regions buy roasted coffee at the supermarket. However, there are those who have the good fortune to have easy access to green coffee beans. Going back to the days of the “bisabuelas” or great grandmothers, the quickest and easiest way to roast coffee at home has been to put a single layer of green coffee beans in a dry skillet and heat over a medium to high flame on the stove. Although you can use a spatula to turn the beans, simply moving the skillet back and forth does the job. Like with the other processes, listen for the first crack and remove from the flame a few minutes later for a light roast and progressively longer for a darker roast. If the beans are still over the flame by the second crack it is time to remove them. Transfer to a cool surface for five minutes and you have excellent roasted coffee ready to grind and make your coffee.

What Is the Best Way to Roast Coffee?

All of the cheap and easy ways to roast coffee for beginners require a “hands on” approach. The rationale for using a machine that roasts coffee lets you roast larger quantities and allows you to automate the process. You can get excellent roasted coffee by any of the means we have described. But once you have found the right setting with your home coffee roaster you can generally get the same quality roasted coffee every time with less effort.

Will Climate Change Lead to Worse Coffee at Higher Prices?

Will Climate Change Lead to Worse Coffee at Higher Prices?

Slowly but surely the world is getting warmer. This is also causing both increased and decreased rainfall in many areas of the world. Over the coming decades we can expect to see climate change lead to worse coffee at higher prices. This is because the effects of a more severe climate will likely be greater for arabica coffee and somewhat less for the hardier but more bitter robusta variety. The effects of climate on the three greatest coffee producing regions of the world will vary a bit based on the types of coffee produced, the specific regional topography, and the ability of local coffee growers to adapt to climate changes.

Climate Change and Coffee in Vietnam

Bloomberg published an article about how climate change is making your coffee more bitter and expensive. They focused on Vietnam and Robusta coffee production. One of the basic assumptions about climate change and coffee is that robusta, being a hardier variety than arabica, will be affected less by higher temperatures and resulting issues like more coffee leaf rust and other plant diseases. Thus, the rationale is that we will be drinking more of the bitter, caffeine rich robusta and less of the milder arabica. And, with both types of coffee suffering from climate change, prices of each will go up.

Vietnam has produced coffee since the mid-19th century when French planters brought the crop to what was then French Indochina. It was only after Vietnamese independence in the1970s that, with the help of the World Bank, Vietnam became a major coffee producer, rivaling Brazil for the lead in total coffee production. Virtually all of Vietnam’s crop is robusta.

The Bloomberg article looks in depth at coffee production in Vietnam and shows us that robusta is not immune from the effects of higher temperatures and dramatic variations in rainfall from droughts to torrential rains. When there is a drought coffee farmers need to drill deeper for water for irrigation and when there are torrential rains coffee production is reduced as well. Farmers are having to reduce their reliance on coffee as a cash crop. While planting a mixture of crops helps Vietnamese farmers financially, it is reducing production of robusta coffee by the world’s biggest producer of this variety.

Climate Change and Coffee in Brazil

Brazil has long been the dominant producer of coffee in the whole world. It produces a mixture of arabica and robusta coffee and today usually out produces Vietnam for total coffee production and commonly loses out to Colombia in just arabica production. The same issues that Vietnam faces apply to Brazil’s robusta crop. These climate risks apply with greater force to Brazil’s production of arabica coffee. Specific issues include not only temperature and variable rainfall but higher incidence of coffee leaf rust, coffee berry borer, and leaf miner infestations. As much as 60% of cropland suitable for coffee in the southeast of Brazil will likely be lost in the coming decades. In Brazil we can expect a reduction in both arabica and robusta production and, thus, higher prices. To the extent that arabica experiences greater production losses, we can expect to see more bitterness in our cups of Java.

Climate Change and Coffee in Colombia

Colombia is the third leading producer of coffee in the world and commonly the biggest producer of arabica with Brazil as its chief rival. The bulk of Colombian arabica coffee production takes place in the western region of the Andes at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to higher than 8,000 feet. Because of its susceptibility to leaf rust, the older arabica variety is only grown at the highest altitudes. As temperatures increase one can expect to see this coffee grown at higher altitudes and on diminished crop land. Lower altitudes are planted with leaf rust resistant strains developed by Cenicafe, the research arm of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia).

The same issues that affect Brazil and its arabica crop apply to Colombia as well. Colombia has the advantage of extremely high altitudes for growing coffee but the higher one goes the less room there is to grow coffee. A decided advantage that Colombia has is its ability to develop leaf rust resistant strains of coffee that retain the original arabica flavor and aroma but mimic some of robusta’s hardiness. Nevertheless, we can expect Colombia to experience some of the same falloff in arabica production over the coming decades which will lead to all of us drinking coffee that is more expensive and all too commonly mixed with robusta and more bitter.

Wine From Coffee Country in Colombia

Wine From Coffee Country in Colombia

We were pleased recently to run across a new wine produced in the heart of Colombia’s coffee growing region. Reserva del Cielo is a medium dry red wine from Isbella grapes in the department of Caldas, one of the three departments making up the Colombian coffee growing axis. Coffee lovers will be pleased to know that among their offerings Reserva del Cielo has a wine that includes the flavor of coffee!

Growing Wine in Colombia

Although Colombians are largely coffee, beer, and rum drinkers, there is a wine market as well for local and imported wines, primarily from South America. Varieties grown here are generally those suited to the tropics like the Isabella grape which is a vinifera variety like Chardonay or Cabernet Sauvignon but adapted to the climate. These are generally grown at cooler and dryer altitudes like in the department of Caldas. Because Colombia does not have the sort of seasons seen in more temperate climates there is no natural dormant season. Thus it is common to pluck leaves from vines manually to allow plants to shut down and recuperate after each harvest of which there can be more than one a year! Commercial Colombian wine production only became viable when Colombia put high tariffs on all wines from outside of South America. The majority of Colombian wine production goes toward fortified wines like brandy but there remain some excellent ones like Reserva del Cielo for traditional wine consumption.

What Are Isabella Grapes?

The Reserva del Cielo wine is made from Isabella grapes. This variety comes from a rare French variety, the Meslier petit white grape. This variety came to the Americas hundreds of years ago and adapted to the climate via cross pollination with local wild species of grapes. Although the original variety is rare in Europe it has favored in the Americas because of its tolerance to tropical and semi-tropical climates. Thus, the Isabela grape is idea for growing in Colombia in the tropics. It should be noted that in the mountains of the Western Andes it is not especially humid nor hot at elevations of four thousand feet and higher where the Reserva del Cielo vineyards are.

Wine From Grapes Grown in Volcanic Soil

The rich volcanic soil in the Colombian coffee growing axis is ideal for growing not only coffee but other crops as well. Although volcanic soils do not retain water well this can result in plant roots having to go deeper. This can lead to the production of superior wines. The plentiful rainfall in the premier coffee growing region in the world tends to counterbalance any water retention issues with volcanic soil.

Reserva Del Cielo of Manizales, Colombia

Reserva Del Cielo is a one year old company headquartered in the heart of the Colombian Cafetero in Manizales. It was started by Sebastian and Laura, two local students studying international business who are also wine lovers. They currently offer two wines. One is a medium dry, medium sweet red and the other is a red wine infused with roasted coffee. They are planning to also provide a rose in the near future. All of their wines feature the Isabella grape. If you would like to try a bottle or two of Colombian wine from the heart of Colombian coffee country, contact us at admin@buyorganiccoffee.org.

Wine From Coffee Country in Colombia Two Wines
Wine From Coffee Country in Colombia

Coffee and Health Facts Versus Fantasy

Coffee has a lot of health benefits. However, it is not a miracle drug or drink. In this regard it is useful to sort out coffee and health facts versus fantasy. The main sources of coffee health benefits are the antioxidants in coffee and the fact that we drink so much coffee. The caffeine in coffee offers both benefits and problems. Antioxidants are responsible for fighting the free radicals in the human body that lead to cell damage, inflammation, chronic diseases. What are the health benefits of drinking coffee?

Coffee Health Benefits

Johns Hopkins University details why coffee is good for you. The first and foremost reason is that people who regularly drink coffee are better at processing sugar and less likely to develop type II diabetes, a disease that affects nearly half a billion people worldwide or more than six percent of earth’s population. In addition, regular coffee consumption is related to less heart failure, a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease, less likelihood of colon cancer or liver disease, fewer strokes, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The sum total of these effects is based on a reduced incidence of DNA (genetic) damage and leads to a measurably longer life!

Coffee and Health Facts Versus Fantasy
Caldas, Colombia Where the Best Coffee Comes From

Ways That Coffee Causes Problems

Not everyone can drink a lot of coffee without having problems. It appears that the ability to drink coffee regularly without side effects has a genetic basis. Folks who have problems tolerating coffee become anxious, have trouble sleeping, have higher blood pressure, and get an increase of their heart rate. All of these effects are “dose related.” The more coffee some folks drink the worse their symptoms are. Many of these folks can drink decaffeinated coffee, however. Decaf provides most of the benefits of regular coffee because it still has the antioxidants but lacking the caffeine it does not provide the morning wakeup effect or help one through a long afternoon.

The Sugar Trap of Specialty Coffees

A cup of good black Arabica coffee has no calories and all of the health benefits noted above. However, lots of folks who drink coffee like it with a bit (or a lot) of sugar, milk or cream, or other additives for flavor. While adding a bit of milk or sugar to taste or to balance acidity is generally not an issue, too much can become a health issue all by itself. While your coffee is working to protect you from diabetes you are adding so much sugar that, in theory, you may be countering the good effects of your coffee!

Coffee Is Not a Cure All

There are lots of good reasons to drink coffee in addition to the fact that you like it. However, coffee is not a cure all. As the old saying goes, only death and taxes are certain in life. By drinking coffee, you will not live forever. The health benefits of coffee get getter the more coffee that you drink up to about six cups a day and then they level out. All of the health benefits of coffee function in moderation. Coffee reduces the risk of type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s but does not cure to totally prevent any of these conditions. Any assertion to that effect is pure fantasy. The point is that coffee is rarely bad for you unless your genetic disposition is such that you get heartburn and high blood pressure with just a cup or so. So, drink you good Colombian Arabica coffee. Enjoy it. Revel in the fact that what you enjoy is also generally good for your health.

What Constitutes Gourmet Coffee?

What Constitutes Gourmet Coffee?

Many coffee lovers are willing to pay the extra price for gourmet coffee. Their expectation is that gourmet coffee will have better taste and aroma. But what constitutes gourmet coffee? And how much more do you have to pay to get a coffee that you enjoy a little bit more than your regular brand? A lot of so-called gourmet coffee is marketed by individual growers and the prices of these coffee brands is substantially higher than what one would pay for one of the top brands at a local grocery store or even bags of coffee sold at your favorite coffee shop.

What Does Gourmet Coffee Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, gourmet means the following:

of, relating to, or being high quality, expensive, or specialty food

typically requiring elaborate and expert preparation

In regard to coffee, gourmet or specialty generally means meticulous care from the harvest through all processing steps to an ideally roasted coffee. Coffee beans are selectively picked at peak ripeness and roasting is done in small batches. Coffee producers and roasters who offer gourmet products are trying to present their best efforts and typically expect to charge a premium price. To a large degree getting a gourmet quality coffee has to do with selective picking of coffee cherries at their maximum ripeness. This approach is more labor intensive and expensive than simply going out during the harvest and picking all of the cherries from a coffee plant. Also, it is more expensive, per coffee bean, to roast in small, controlled batches which also adds a bit to the cost. In addition, in order to get a price that rewards the extra work and expense a grower needs to market their product separately which adds one more cost. Nevertheless, the markup for gourmet coffee commonly goes beyond these factors.

Truly Gourmet Coffee Comes From Better Coffee Beans

Nobody, at least that we are aware of is trying to market Robusta coffee as gourmet. Robusta has more caffeine, the plants produce a greater yield, and Robusta has much greater resistance to coffee diseases like coffee leaf rust. But it has decidedly less flavor and aroma than Arabica coffee and certainly much less than a good Arabica from a region like the coffee growing axis of Colombia or Kona coffee from the Hawaiian Islands. In general, honestly promoted gourmet coffee generally comes from better coffee beans. An issue for us is that far too many “gourmet” brands are priced in the stratosphere instead of just having a markup to cover extra cost and provide a reasonable reward for the extra effort.

What Constitutes Gourmet Coffee?

How Much Does Gourmet Coffee Cost?

If you simply do a Google Search for gourmet coffee and take the top listing you will find yourself on Amazon.com with roasted whole bean coffees going for $1.70 an ounce. However, there are specialty gourmet coffees that sell for tens or even hundreds of dollars a pound. Panama Geisha, Hawaiian Kona Peaberry, and Jamaica Blue Mountain all come to mind. While these are all excellent coffees they command extremely high prices because their quantities are relatively small. Panama produces about 50,000 sacks (60 kg) every year. By comparison the Colombian Cafetero produces about 13,000,000 bags (60 kg) of uniformly high-quality Arabica coffee a year. We might argue that if Colombian coffee were as rare as some of the rarer high-quality coffees in the world it might similarly sell for hundreds of dollars a pound instead of $7.71 (29.500 COP) for a one-pound bag of whole bean roasted gourmet coffee at a local grocery store in Manizales, Colombia or $15 at an outlet in the USA.

Get Your Gourmet Coffee For a Reasonable Price From the Colombian Cafetero

The point we are getting to is that you do not need to pay extravagant prices for the highest quality gourmet coffee. Contact us at admin@buyorganiccoffee.org for help with your gourmet coffee needs at affordable prices.

The Problem of Organic Coffee Low Yields

The Problem of Organic Coffee Low Yields

We have written time and time again about the benefits of organic coffee both to the consumer and to the environment. However, the vast majority of coffee farmers do not bother with organic coffee. The reasons are that it is a lot more work to grow organically, the costs are greater, yields are less, and the prices that organic growers receive for their coffee do not justify organic coffee farming on strictly a financial basis. One can argue that sustainable agriculture has its own rewards, but that does not keep a coffee farmer from going broke during a couple of bad years! A major issue is the problem of organic coffee low yields.

Lip Service From the Organic Coffee Consumer

Here at BuyOrganicCoffee.org we frequently get requests for coffee from Colombia, both regular Arabica and organic. The coffee that we can provide is extremely high quality but consumers are generally not interested in paying the markup for shipping, for Colombian coffee, and for organic coffee. Because Colombian coffee farmers are not interested in giving away their high quality coffee for less than market value, folks are not getting their coffee. Thus, Colombian coffee farmers go back to farming sustainably but without organic certification. The point is that many folks give lip service to organic coffee but are unwilling to pay a price that would make organic coffee production financially viable for someone growing coffee in the Cafetero Colombiano.

The Problem of Organic Coffee Low Yields

The Problem of Low Organic Coffee Yields and Low Prices

Less than 7% of land used to cultivate coffee is dedicated to organic coffee. However, organic coffee production is much less than 7% of the total. Comparison studies have been carried out in several countries. Organic coffee yields lag by as little as a few percent to as much as 44%. Our own experience at Buyorganiccoffee.org is that many coffee growers that we have known have tried organic coffee and given it up. First reason commonly given is that they have to pay for certification and are not getting any more money for their coffee. This comes from folks who have been essentially organic but without official certification for years. The point is that not only does the price not make farmers go organic but they have to fight the yield issue. Thus the coffee farmer needs to make up for lower yield, more production costs, and an inadequate price which any business person is generally not willing to do.

Why Is Organic Coffee Yield Low?

A lot of organic coffee is shade grown. This generally results in a finer coffee. It also reduces the yield. However, the main reason that yields for organic are lower than regular is fertilizer. Commercial fertilizers are an efficient way to provide nutrients to the soil. When the organic coffee farmer goes with organic fertilizers they often find it difficult to get enough. Commercial fertilizer provides 40 kilograms of nitrogen to a hectare of land with between 90 and 270 kg. It requires more like 2000 kg of organic fertilizer to provide the same 40 kg of nitrogen per hectare.

Cost Versus Availability of Organic Fertilizer

Hog farmers in Iowa commonly use hog manure to fertilize their corn or soybeans. This sort of self-contained farming is very efficient. Coffee farmers in the mountains of western Colombia do not have large hog operations side by side. Thus they need to make do with compost and other lesser sources of nutrients and thus lower coffee yields. Alternatively the coffee farmer can pay to have huge amounts of organic fertilizer shipped to them and pay the extra cost which will not be recouped by a higher price for their coffee.

Will There Be a Shortfall in Colombian Coffee Production Due to El Niño?

The El Niño weather event that began in mid-2023 is weakening as of May of 2024.according to the World Meteorological Organization. Nevertheless, it continues to affect the climate at it origin along the west coast of South America and across the world. This El Niño event has been the fifth strongest on record. As such it has had various effects on coffee production in Colombia from positive to negative depending on the local micro-climate. Across the country as a whole and especially in the higher producing region of the Eje Cafetero, there could be a shortfall in Colombian coffee production in 2024.

Why Does El Niño Affect Coffee Production?

An El Niño weather event affects amounts of rainfall, humidity, temperature, cloud cover, and consequently plant diseases and plant growth. In contrast to the immediately preceding La Niña weather event which increased rainfall and cloud cover, humidity, and plant diseases, El Niño has provided more sunshine, less rain, higher temperatures, and periods of rain deficit during which time there is better flowering and fruit filling, provided that the rain deficit is not excessive. Thus coffee production is expected to recover from the deficit during the La Niña years. An additional benefit to coffee production has been lower fertilizer prices which has led to improved coffee crop nutrition.

Coffee Grown in Colombia’s Three Coffee Growing Regions

Colombia produces coffee year round but not all from the same growing region. The southern zone harvest coffee during the first half of the year. The central zone harvest during the second and third semesters, and the northern zone harvest takes place during the second half of the year. Weather forecasters are predicting that El Niño will continue to weaken and transition back into La Niña by the end of 2024.

Tail End of La Niña and Coffee Borer Beetles

A big factor that will have dragged down Colombian coffee production in 2024 will the increase in coffee borer beetles due to rainfall excess at the end of 2023. The problem was lower grain filling due to the beetle. To compensate for this, the drying weather in the middle of the year will likely increase the 2024 harvest. Toward the end of the year when the major harvests are taking place a big factor will be the availability of labor for picking and processing the coffee.

On the other hand, the flowerings responsible for the harvest are concentrated in the second half of the year, together with adequate rainfall, which could lead to an important harvest by the end of the year, where the availability of labor and the processing capacity will be decisive.

Will There Be a Shortfall in Colombian Coffee Production Due to El Niño?

El Niño Versus La Niña and Coffee Leaf Rust

Whether it is a normal year, an El Niño year, or a La Niña year, it tends to rain a lot in Colombia and there tends to be a lot of cloud cover. This is generally good for coffee plants in rich volcanic soil and adequate drainage. However, excess moisture also favors fungal infestations. The primary culprit in Colombia is coffee leaf rust, AKA Hemileia vastratrix. Colombia has risen to the challenge of this plant infestation in several ways. First of all, staring back in the 1980s when leaf rust first appeared in Colombia started creating resistant varieties. These include the Colombia variety and then Castillo and Cenicafe 1.

Other fungal infestations include Llaga Macana or Ceratocystis fimbriata and various Rhizoctonia species. There are no specifically resistant strains for these plant diseases so the coffee farmer is tasked with chores like clearing debris (fungal food) from around the coffee plants.

The bottom line is that Colombia coffee production will likely come in at a high level by the end of 2024.