A new research review says that coffee quality is vulnerable to shifts in environmental factors associated with climate change.
The review, led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts and Montana State University, also finds that some current adaptation strategies to combat these effects provide hope for positive outcomes.
Economist and Bergstrom Foundation Professor in Global Nutrition Sean Cash says a subpar cup of coffee has economic implications as well as sensory.
“Factors that influence coffee production have great impacts on buyers’ interest, the price of coffee, and ultimately the livelihoods of the farmers who grow it,” he says.
Cash adds that climate change impacts on crops are already causing economic and political disruption in many parts of the world.
“If we can understand the science of these changes, we might help farmers and other stakeholders better manage coffee production in the face of this and future challenges,” he says.
The most consistent trends the team found in their analysis were that farms at higher altitudes were associated with better coffee flavour and aroma, while too much light exposure was associated with a decrease in coffee quality.
Some current efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, including shade management to control light exposure, selection and maintenance of climate-resilient wild coffee plants, and pest management show promise and feasibility, but innovative solutions to support bean growth at all elevations need to be devised, the team says.
“These strategies are giving some hope that coffee quality can be maintained or improved and will ultimately help farmers consider how to design evidence-based interventions to support their farms,” says ethnobotanist in the Food and Health Lab at Montana State University Selena Ahmed.
Coffee is grown on more than 27 million acres across 12.5 million largely smallholder farms in more than 50 countries.
Many coffee-producing regions are increasingly experiencing changing climate conditions, whose impact on coffee’s taste, aroma, and even dietary quality is as much a concern as yields and sustainability.
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