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Climate Change Is Making It Harder to Get a Good Cup of Specialty Coffee

Climate Change Is Making It Harder to Get a Good Cup of Specialty Coffee

Ethiopia may produce less specialty coffee and more rather bland tasting varieties in the future. This is the result of a new study by an international team of researchers that looked at the peculiar effects climate change has on Africa’s largest coffee producing nation. Their results are relevant both for the country’s millions of smallholder farmers, who earn more on specialty coffee than on ordinary coffee, as well as for baristas and coffee aficionados around the world.

“Climate change has conflicting impacts on coffee production in Ethiopia. The area that is suitable for average quality coffee might actually increase gradually until the 2090s, according to our computer simulations,” says lead author Abel Chemura from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “Yet more is not necessarily better. Because on the flipside, the suitable area for high-quality specialty coffee types which are valued for their floral, fruity and spicy notes, will likely shrink if climate change continues unchecked. This is an issue not just for coffee lovers, but for local agricultural value creation.”

The suitable areas for specialty coffee are shrinking

Under various scenarios the researchers looked at how a total of 19 climatic factors will affect the cultivation of five distinct specialty coffee types in the future, including mean temperature, annual rainfall levels, and seasonality. For example, if it gets warmer, the coffee cherry matures faster than the development of the bean, which in turn leads to coffee that is lower in quality. Increased rainfall, on the other hand, favors coffee production in general but may not necessarily be beneficial for individual specialty coffee types.

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