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Climate change will impact the quality and taste of coffee

Some of us need a good strong cup of coffee to start the day. Others will chug down a pot or two before even thinking about engaging in conversation. Whatever style you adopt, you likely don’t consider how many environmental factors are involved in the production of your coffee. 

Now, a study from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts and Montana State University is Shedding new light on the impacts of climate change on coffee production.

“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,” said Sean Cash, lead author of the study.

The scientists examined ten environmental factors across 73 relevant studies, attempting to parse out their effect on coffee production. 

“Climate change is impacting crop performance and agricultural systems around the world with implications for farmers and consumers,” wrote the researchers.

“We carried out a systematic review to synthesize evidence regarding the effects of environmental factors associated with climate change and management conditions associated with climate adaptation on the crop quality of a culturally-relevant perennial crop, coffee.”

The researchers found that plants grown at higher elevations tend to produce coffee that tastes better, while plants exposed to more light tend to produce a worse taste. 

The study authors note that climate change has the potential to have a negative effect on the production of higher quality plants. Increased temperature and an increase in carbon dioxide concentration can make coffee taste worse, and both will be consequences of our fossil-fueled energy production. 

“These impacts on crops are important to study in general, not just for coffee. Our food systems support our food security, nutrition and health,” said study co-author Selena Ahmed.

If we want to continue to enjoy our cup of morning joe, mitigation strategies will be necessary, such as providing shade to crops or implementing more sustainable practices. 

“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,” said Ahmed.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

By Alex Ruger, Staff Writer

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