Coffee is the most popular drink in the world. Together, the world consumes a staggering 500 billion cups per year – pretty impressive, right? And according to Sustainable Coffee Challenge, the demand for coffee could double by 2050.
But over the past decade, and even the recent year, coffee shortages and rising prices have become more and more common. Perhaps, you’ve even heard some pretty devastating rumors… rumors saying that coffee is endangered.
Yes – it’s a frightening thought. But is there any truth to it? Is the rapidly changing climate really about to make your once-reliable morning brew go poof?
Fear not. We’re about to deep-dive on all things coffee and climate change, and explain what we can do to help coffee survive the climate crisis.
Ready? Let’s get into it.
Is Coffee Going to Be Extinct?
Let’s start with the most critical question – is coffee endangered, or not?
Well, the truth is that nothing is certain in our changing climate. And sadly, that includes coffee.
Coffee, in particular, is a somewhat fussy plant – the ideal climate for coffee growing is very specific, with just minor changes making a huge impact. So with temperatures rising and the weather becoming unpredictable, the coffee plant is one of many that struggles to adapt.
Land suitable for growing coffee is predicted to be cut in half by year 2100. Experts also warn that out of the 124 wild coffee species in the world, 75 will face extinction within the next few decades – and that’s just over 60%.
So yes – this is not a drill. The threat to coffee is very real.
Luckily, there are still things that can be done to save coffee. But before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at why the coffee plant is struggling. How, exactly, is the changing climate already impacting coffee production?
Climate Change & Coffee Production
As we said, coffee is a fussy plant. Take Arabica, for example – a high-quality, worldwide favorite. To grow optimally, Arabica needs temperatures between 18-21 degrees Celsius (64-69 Fahrenheit), a mix of warm days and cold nights, a good amount of rain, and ideally a three-month dry period. That is no small list of requirements.
As temperatures rise, the optimal zone for coffee plants gets pushed higher up mountains and slopes, where temperatures are generally cooler. In Zona Cafetera, for example, a well-established coffee region in Colombia, the temperatures rise about 0.3 degrees per decade – and the effects are already being felt by local farmers.
But the rising temperatures don’t just make for smaller, lower-quality yields. They also bring pests and fungi that can kill entire coffee trees – trees that take 3-4 years to give fruit in the first place (the coffee bean is the pit of the coffee cherry).
And while the obvious solution to this would be to move the coffee plantations, it’s not quite that simple. Most coffee plantations around the world are owned by small stakeholders, often families, and buying new land to move their plantations isn’t an option for most. Instead, many choose to grow other, more reliable crops.
And as such, coffee production declines, leading to shortages and rising prices.
The Effects of Coffee Going Extinct
While starting your days without a cup of joe is a scary thought, it’s not actually the worst that could come from this.
About 125 million people worldwide rely on coffee for income. 25 million of them live in impoverished areas, where other sources of income are difficult to come by. In Ethiopia alone, coffee stands for 60% of the country’s export income, and supports 15 million people.
So, if the coffee industry collapses? It could have disastrous financial consequences for families around the globe. While big corporations can simply pick new suppliers, families with small farms don’t have the option to move, and so they are the ones taking the hit.
And the loss of wild coffee species? It could have a bigger effect than you’d think. Wild coffees are used to breed more resilient variants of coffee, that can withstand pests and the environmental changes to come. This is key for coffee’s survival.
Besides, a variety of coffee species contributes to the rich flavors we all know and love. In other words? Without wild species of coffee, we won’t just have less coffee available in a few decades – what’s left will also taste worse.
How Can We Ensure Coffee’s Survival?
But it’s not all bad news! There are still ways to make sure coffee survives.
In fact, some solutions are already out there. For one, farmers can plant shade trees, to stabilize the soil and keep the plants cool – we’ve written about the benefits of shade-grown coffee at length here.
As we mentioned earlier, farmers can also move their plantations further up hills and mountains. Another solution is switching to more resilient coffee varieties, that can take fluctuating weather patterns and resist pests.
The problem with these solutions, of course, is that they all cost money. And after the small, low-quality yields of the last decade, most farmers simply can’t afford them.
So, the best way to ensure coffee’s survival is ensuring that coffee farmers have the resources they need to handle the climate crisis. This, of course, begins with ensuring that farmers are paid fair wages, and improving access to information about how to weather the changes. The Fair Trade Foundation is one organization that works hard to ensure that coffee farmers earn fair wages, and are offered reliable prices despite the fluctuating seasons and yields.
Fair Trade also encourages communities to organize cooperatives, and provides information that helps regions create income stability and support networks for those most affected by climate change. By buying Fair Trade-certified coffee, you can help support these initiatives – cause at the end of the day, wages that are sustainable allow for a more sustainable coffee industry.
To preserve wild coffee species, we need more conservation. Out of the 124 wild species out there, 34 grow in areas without any conservation initiatives – but through organizations like conservation.org, with their Sustainable Coffee Challenge, hopefully, we will see better protection of these endangered coffee species.
Still, these solutions are essentially damage control – for as long as warming continues, so will the threats to plants and wildlife around the globe.
What Can Be Done To Make Coffee More Sustainable?
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do to create change is to vote with your dollar, and be picky about which companies you support. So, how can you tell whether coffee has been grown sustainably, without causing harm to the planet or people? Well, there are a few things to look for.
1. Buy Shade-grown Coffee
Did you know that coffee’s natural habitat is in the shade, alongside other plants? Like most plants, when coffee is grown in its natural habitat, it becomes resilient and can grow with more independence. The surrounding plants provide nutrients, making the plant stronger and the fruit richer, while also naturally protecting it from disease and pests.
That’s why shade-grown coffee is both more sustainable and more flavorful. It works with nature rather than against it, letting the plants grow the way they were meant to – which saves both resources and money.
2. Demand Organic Coffee
Another thing to look out for is whether the coffee has been grown organically. Pesticides and fertilizers are common ways to create fast-growing, large yields, and the coffee industry is no stranger to them.
But chemicals aren’t just bad for your health – they also affect the soil quality. After soil’s been exposed to chemicals, it can’t hold as much water and nutrients anymore, which creates a bad cycle of needing more fertilizers and water. In the long run, these plants also need more pesticides, since they don’t have as much natural protection against pests.
In other words? If you’re looking for sustainable, healthy coffee, organic is the way to go.
3. Seek Fair Trade Certified Coffee
Finally, looking for Fair-Trade certified coffee ensures that throughout the entire production, everyone involved has been treated fairly. It also supports initiatives and practices that ensure coffee’s future.
By choosing Fair Trade-certified coffee, you can be certain those in the coffee industry who are the least protected, and who feel the effects of climate change the most, are paid fair prices and fair wages, and are better prepared for the difficult decades ahead.
After all, coffee farmers are the first line of defense against the changing climate’s impact on coffee – but without resources, there isn’t much they can do.
Peak State is Organic, Shade-Grown, and Fair-Trade Coffee
At Peak State Coffee, we believe in great coffee that benefits our planet – and everyone on it.
From regenerative, organic farming to biodegradable packaging, sustainability is our priority at every stage of the process. Our coffee is shade-grown and made from clean, ethically sourced ingredients, and infused with daily wellness benefits to help you reach your Peak State.
We are both Fair-Trade and USDA organic certified, and work exclusively with female farmers to close the gender gap in the coffee industry. As a 1% for the Planet company, we also donate 1% of all sales to environmental conservation projects, and constantly look for more ways to make a positive impact. Have any ideas? We’d love to hear them.
Curious to try our organic mushroom coffee? Get your free sample of one of our delicious blends delivered right to your front door, and feel the difference for yourself!
Psst… New to mushroom coffee? Check out this post all about the benefits of functional mushrooms!