Nonetheless, Arabica

SIERRA Coffee Biodiversity WB


I have spent most of the last year expanding my coffee knowledge. One thing I was already confident about, and remain so, is that arabica is better than robusta on two scales that matter most to me: taste, and environmental impact. From 2010-2017 during our residency in the Western Ghats, we developed and opened a series of properties where both taste and environmental impact were brand signatures formed in Costa Rica.


 Instituto del Café de Costa Rica

With regard to coffee, I knew there was more than one good reason why Costa Rica only permits arabica coffee to be grown in the country. And we sourced the highest grade arabica coffee produced in the Western Ghats as much as we could.


A Malabar pied hornbill, one of 204 species of bird found on coffee plantations in a new study, which found that the tree cover from shade-grown coffee farms provides a welcome habitat for all kinds of animal species. Credit Shashank Dalvi

I took to India a conviction that robusta coffee was to be avoided, but a few months ago started learning otherwise. Today I have read an article that reminds me to keep rethinking.

Thanks to Jason Daley in Sierra magazine for this look at the same scientific findings as those I first read in February in the New York Times,  (as I drink an organic arabica that I am sampling from a roaster in Atlanta, and even with this news about robusta I expect to remain committed to arabica for my own consumption, as well as our commercial purposes):

Which Coffee Is Better for Biodiversity?

A new study shows sun-loving robusta coffee doesn’t have to hurt biodiversity

SIERRA Coffee Biodiversity 2 WB

Alexandrine parakeet | Photo courtesy of Manish Kumarhoto

When coffee consumers think about the most sustainable way to manage their caffeine habit, they normally think about the cup it’s in—is it recyclable? But what about the coffee itself? Some coffee plantations require clear-cutting—will drinking one type of coffee have a bigger impact on the environment than another? Continue reading

Looking: Over and Out

India’s Western Ghats are one of our planet’s most biodiverse zones – as well as an intensely beautiful geological spine that separates the southwestern coast of the subcontinent from the southeastern. Kerala’s border with Tamil Nadu coincides with the range, which poses no mysteries. Transportation over the hills and mountains is tedious, and each side has it’s own cultural and meteorological identity; the border makes sense to an outsider. Continue reading

Indian Coral Tree ( Erythrina Indica)

Two days ago, when I went for a morning walk in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the spectacular show of bright crimson flowers attracted my eyes and forced me to stop and take photos. Due to the change of seasons, the trees are shedding their leaves and putting their energy into blooming flowers–and the results are fabulously picturesque.

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Pied Paddy Skimmer

The Paddy Skimmer is one of the smaller species of dragonfly that can be seen in the Western Ghats. Measuring about an inch long, their flight range is very limited, although apparently their breeding capabilities are unhindered, as they are without a doubt one of the most numerous species to be seen in fields, both wild and cultivated. The teneral (young) male has a black and gold body, green and red eyes, and would be difficult to distinguish from the female if it weren’t for the differences in their wings – the male’s (both in youth and maturity) are about half black, with the other half equally divided between a white strip and a transparent tip. The female’s wings are more complicatedly patterned, although mainly transparent. Continue reading

Scarlet Skimmer

One of the fastest and most agile dragonflies I’ve seen, this red male was sighted on a riverbank in Alleppey, Kerala. Although not unusually large, this insect stands out due to its bright red body and head. Most of the red dragonflies I have seen (in the genus Orthetrum for the most part) have some combination of colors – azure eyes, black face, blue thorax and red abdomen (O. pruinosum); black eyes, red face, brown thorax and red abdomen (O. chrysis), etc.

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