Stenophylla May Be One Of Coffee’s Answers

Climate change is only one of the challenges facing coffee. Thanks to the Economist for keeping us up to date on prospective solutions:

How to save coffee from global warming

Look at research done two centuries ago

Coffee is a multi-billion dollar industry that supports the economies of several tropical countries. Roughly 100m farmers depend on it for their livelihoods.

Unfortunately for them, and for the many other people around the world for whom coffee is a near-essential adjunct to life, coffee bushes grow best in a rather narrow range of temperatures, so their cultivation is threatened by a changing climate. But a chance discovery by Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in Britain, published in Nature Plants, may offer a way out. Dr Davis and his colleagues report that they have tracked down a type of wild coffee which is both pleasant to taste and tolerant of higher temperatures.

The existing coffee market is dominated by Coffea arabica and Coffea canephoraArabica hails from the highlands of Ethiopia and South Sudan. It prefers temperatures of 18-22°C. Coffea canephora, commonly called robusta, originated at lower elevations in west and central Africa. It was once thought capable of coping with temperatures of 30°C, but recent work suggests that it does not flourish above 24°C.

Lots of other coffee species are known (122 at the last count). And many do, indeed, grow in places warmer than those preferred by canephora and arabica. But all were thought to have poorer flavours, smaller beans and lower yields. Dr Davis, however, came across a paper written in 1834 by George Don, a Scottish botanist, which described a species from the lowland hills of Sierra Leone. Don dubbed it Coffea stenophylla, and wrote that it had a flavour superior to arabica’s…

Read the whole article here.

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