A new research review revealed that coffee quality and taste is vulnerable to shifts in environmental factors associated with climate change. The study focused on how global warming might affect qualities such as taste and aroma. In the future, coffee grains would not only be harder to harvest, but their taste would not be as pleasing.
“A subpar cup of coffee has economic implications as well as sensory ones. 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, an economist and the Bergstrom Foundation Professor in Global Nutrition at the Friedman School and senior author on the study, published in Frontiers in Plant Science.
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 challengesSean Cash, senior author on the study
According to Tufts Now, coffee is grown on more than 27 million acres across 12.5 million largely smallholder farms in more than 50 countries. Many of those regions are experiencing the effects of climate change. This could stem from coffee’s taste, aroma, as well as yields.
Researchers identified two factors that had the most consistent association with quality: higher altitude produced coffee with better flavor and aroma; too much sunlight led to decreased quality. “Examining crops cultivated at different altitudes is often used as a proxy for temperature. Higher altitudes are associated with cooler temperatures that result in slower ripening, prolonged fruit-fill, and higher accumulation of flavor (taste and aroma) precursors,” the research notes.
The vulnerability of coffee quality at lower elevations provides insight on what may happen to coffee quality at higher elevations in the future with increased temperature linked to climate change, highlighting that climate adaptation is needed for coffee agricultural systems at all elevationsClimate Change and Coffee Quality: Systematic Review
The review highlights that coffee quality is sensitive to shifts in environmental and management variables linked to climate change and climate adaptation. Given the sensitivity of coffee quality to environmental variation, innovations are needed to enhance the sustainability and resilience of the coffee sector in light of climate change.