By Kelechi Deca
Recently, I attended an event and was a guest at the Kenyan Stand, and we talked “Coffenomics” and Climate Change. In the last two years, Coffee growers, exporters, processors have been having sleepless nights over the changes being observed in the lives of the crops.
Something drastic is happening to the crops and it could change everything about the world’s most loved beverage, second most consumed after water, and the second most traded commodity after petroleum.
Coffee takes between two to three years for most coffee trees to mature enough to produce a first crop. Most of the coffee in the world is grown in the “Coffee Belt”, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
But the problem facing Coffee is that the most popular specie, Arabica Coffee, which controls about 60% of the global consumption is threatened. The Arabica is a very delicious coffee, well loved by many consumers and also has huge market share.
The other specie is Robusta coffee, sharing the remaining 40% of global consumption. Robusta mostly goes instant coffees like the ubiquitous Nescafé and espresso mixes.
And this problem is beyond Coffee because the cultivation of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans accounts for millions of livelihoods across Africa, South America and Asia.
While Arabica is a cool tropical plant; that doesn’t like high temperatures,Robusta on the other hand is a plant that likes even moist conditions and high rainfall. But with the shift in climatic conditions globally, rainfall patterns are being affected which in turn leads to higher than usual temperatures, and or reduced rainfall.
Intriguingly, nature seem to have manifested a great ability to selfcorrect with the emergence of different species of Coffee that are naturally designed to withstand some of the challenges of the changing climate. And they’re mostly located in West Africa, especially Sierra Leone and Liberia.
They are extremely heat tolerant. And is an interesting species because it matches Arabica in taste. Some belong to the Liberica Coffee family. The flavour profile is unique, and is described as smoky, nutty, floral with hints of dark chocolate, ripe berry and spice. It is favoured for its smooth aftertaste and lingering taste of rich dark chocolate.
With this expected shift, some countries that were not known among traditional big Coffee growers are likely to taste their soils especially countries within the West African belt and some in Central and East Africa.