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.

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