Tiffin Project

Climate Change Challenging Specialty Coffee

by Mette-Marie Hansen on October 19, 2011

Post image for Climate Change Challenging Specialty Coffee

(Images by: Mette-Marie Hansen)

Our climate is changing. This might not be shocking news to you over your morning coffee, but as a coffee buyer, I get to meet farmers and producers who are facing the difficulties of a changing climate year round.

It is the small business’ job to rant about the big guys, but this week, I am praising Starbucks and an initiative they’re a part of – a business coalition that has been trying to push Congress and the Obama administration to act on climate change. The coalition, including companies like Starbucks and Gap, are launching a new campaign for awareness about climate changes next month, ahead of the release of a UN report addressing these issues.

This Friday, one of Starbucks directors of sustainability, Jim Hanna, is traveling to Washington to brief members of Congress on climate change threatening the world’s coffee supply. Coffee thrives only around the equatorial line, in a very specific range of temperatures. One of the most important changes in the climate is that it is getting warmer – warmer temperatures bringing heavier rainfalls, unpredictable seasons overall and extremes like hurricanes, mudslides and erosion. Just the increased average temperature and humidity is bringing problems like coffee rust, a fungus attacking the leaves of the coffee tree. As a plant getting it’s nutrition mainly through the leaves, this causes severe crop loss in many places – and for the small coffee farmer a loss in crop means severe poverty.

In addition, pests attacking coffee flowers or cherry is increasingly common, and too high temperatures and insufficient differences between seasons also commonly causes starflowers – sterile coffee flowers where pollination can not take place.

As carbon emissions are commonly linked to climate changes, we need to look at the long term perspective of lost crops – we already have coffee processing mills like Helsar in Costa Rica, who are zero emission certified. A good wake up call for all coffee drinkers to live a more eco-friendly life.

~ Mette-Marie Hansen

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