Climate change and coffee

It seems like we can’t even drink our morning coffee these days without hearing about the worries of climate change, but we’d be forgiven for thinking that our morning brew is a world away from the effects and influence of climate change right? Sadly not…

Credit: EcoWatch

The coffee industry has a complex and bidirectional relationship with climate change. It is both responsible for contributing to it, and increasingly suffering from the effects of hotter and more unpredictable climates.

So how does the coffee industry affect climate change?

From farm to cup the coffee industry is capable of racking up a pretty notable carbon footprint – but when good practices are put in place and conscious consumers influence the market – this doesn’t have to be the case…

  • Deforestation – Tropical rainforests are often cut down irresponsibly and illegally in order to expand and create coffee farms. At Kogarashi – we help combat this by buying from only certified responsible farms, and paying well above fairtrade prices to ensure that farmers are not driven to illegal expansion in order to make a living.
  • Transportation – When coffee is grown on the other side of the world – it seems difficult to avoid the carbon footprint of transporting it to the UK – however using efficient and greener methods , and buying locally where possible, it is possible to lower the impact.
  • Packaging – As a coffee roaster, we find it very difficult to strike the balance between reducing unnecessary packaging, and providing a content-rich experience with fresh well sealed coffee. We are committed to achieving zero single use plastic packaging, and wherever possible opting for fully biodegradable options.

…and what is the effect of climate change on the coffee industry?

“Make no mistake,” former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told Time magazine last year, “climate change is going to play a big role in affecting the quality and integrity of coffee.”

What were usually once in a century weather events such as droughts, heatwaves or monsoons, are now happening once a decade or more – leading to increased disease, lower yields, crop failures and in worst cases – entire farming communities turning away from coffee production.

Multiple studies have predicted that up to 60% of land currently being used for coffee production will be non viable by 2050 should climate change continue at its current rate, and farmers around the world are already reporting having to move on average 200-300m higher in order to grow quality arabica coffee.

Less disease-resistant varieties of arabica face extinction with scientists working tirelessly to produce new more resistant varieties. A study found that 60% of wild coffee species — or 75 of 124 plants — are at risk of extinction.

“Some of our choices may just disappear, some of the particular specialty coffees will just no longer be on the market.” – Michael Hoffman

Coffee farming infographic, showing the process of coffee growing. Showing that coffee needs to move to higher altitudes and risks relating to it.
Credit: Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre

For everyone involved in the coffee industry; from farmer to roaster, barista to consumer – climate change is a very real and present threat. If we care about our morning brew, then next time you buy your coffee – think about how just how sustainable it is.