☕️ BACK TO THE GRIND: THE FUTURE OF COFFEE. ☕️
COFFEE: making the intolerable tolerable for as long as 14 centuries and since 6am this morning, which coincidentally feels like 14 centuries ago. Hang fire though, because there’s a BUT coming and the structure of that ‘but’ follows an all too familiar narrative structure i.e. “Look at this beautiful life-giving natural resource on our planet, BUT it’s nearly decimated now because #humans.” The crux of the issue according to recently published research has determined that conservation measures are inadequate for wild coffees, including those considered “critical” for long-term coffee production. Simply put: the beans are no longer bountiful.
Safeguarding the species 🌱
Many coffee drinkers are unaware that only two species are used (Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta) across the thousands of different blends available. However, there are 122 species of coffee (in addition to the two commonly used) which naturally occur in the wild, and, while they are not considered to be palatable to drink, they may contain genes that can be harnessed to help coffee plants survive in the future; in the face of climate change, the spread of fungal pathogens, emergence of diseases/pests and social/economic factors.
Recent research, published in the journal ‘Science Advances’ has found that 75 coffee species are considered threatened with extinction. Put that in the context of how coffee plants compare to other plants in terms of extinction risks and the figure is extremely high: globally, approximately one in five plants are threatened with extinction, compared to 60% for coffee.
Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha (Kew) said, "We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritised for the sustainability of the coffee production sector, so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard the species."
Sustainability driven by demand?
As recent surveys suggest, although coffee is reported to be the second best seller among Generation Z (those born between 1995-2015) - bottled water being their first choice - they widely expect their food and beverages to be high quality and that crucially they will not cause harm to the world around them. So, will the influence of a new generation of sustainably-minded coffee drinkers play a pivotal role in ensuring the protection of wild coffee species?
As indicated in the 2018 Coffee Barometer report, the short-term pursuit of profit is currently prioritised over long-term sustainable practices as most consumers still lack the sensory skills to appreciate the difference between a bog standard jar of instant (albeit it in appealing packaging accompanied by overuse of the word ‘barista’) and a Colombian coffee with dark chocolate and plum notes fermented in barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, say. But perhaps the next generation’s core values of sustainability and equal representation will go some way in fostering change in the right direction; “You are what you settle for” but make it 2.0.