Speciality Coffee: The story of coffee and climate change

This month we had a look at how climate change affects coffee production

The story of coffee dates back to the 15th century, when the first signs of coffee drinking can be traced in Yemen with merchants importing coffee goods from Ethiopia. Although it is not clear how coffee originated there are many theories and local legends surrounding this, by the 17th century it had made its way to Europe, and got the official stamp of approval from Pope Clement VIII himself. Since the 15th century, coffee has been enjoyed throughout the world and is a source of joy and energy for many people including all of us here at Bristol Twenty!

The story of coffee may be changing sooner than we think, with climate change rapidly affecting coffee production it may mean our daily cup of coffee will be a fond memory. With coffee farms predicted to run out of resources and remaining coffee beans having a huge price increase for consumers, this will have a big impact on coffee production as we know it.

Climate change is having a huge effect on coffee production and the livelihood of coffee producers. Coffee is a sensitive crop that relies heavily on weather patterns and temperature. As climate change continues to affect the planet, it can take a toll on coffee growers around the world. 

At Bristol Twenty, we source the very best beans to make speciality coffee from around the globe such as Costa Rica, Brazil and India. Many of these places have been affected by climate change. They have experienced extreme weather from rising temperatures, droughts and frost which has caused a significant decrease in the amount of coffee grown.

Speciality Coffee: The story of coffee and climate change

How does Climate Change affect coffee production?

Rising temperatures fueled by climate change have led to several detrimental effects, from droughts that can damage beans to an increased risk of crop-damaging pests. As well as climate change causing increased temperatures it also has caused the rain patterns to change causing extreme weather events like hurricanes. These can drastically reduce yields due to damage caused by heavy winds or flooding – leaving soils unsuitable for growth afterwards.

In addition, climate change has also led to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Studies have shown that higher levels of CO2 can actually reduce the flavour quality in coffee beans due to a decrease in enzymatic activity inside the plant cells. This means that even if farmers are able to keep their crops alive in hotter climates, they can still suffer yield losses due to decreased quality in their final product. 

All of this is devastating for farmers who rely on their crops for income as it would decrease their ability to make money from selling their product or even accessing land necessary for farming activities.

Speciality Coffee: The story of coffee and climate change
Speciality Coffee: The story of coffee and climate change
Speciality Coffee: The story of coffee and climate change

What can we do to help climate change?

We can pay a realistic price for specialist coffee that is grown sustainably, examine the environmental impact of our lifestyle and change the way we behave. The future of a cup of good coffee is intimately linked to the health of the planet and our quality of life.

In 2023 we can all do our bit to be kinder to the environment and help stop climate change to help future generations. Doing everything we can and researching what we all do in our everyday life that harms the environment, for example walking instead of driving for short journeys, using a reusable coffee cup instead of single-use cups, and buying recycled or biodegradable household products. Making these small changes and switches can make a big difference, but what can Bristol Twenty do to stop climate change and make our efforts better for the environment?

Since we launched Bristol Twenty Coffee Company nearly a decade ago sustainability and quality continue to be paramount to our core values, we want our speciality coffee beans to taste the best on the market while being a positive change in the coffee industry. Our sustainable business goals for 2023 ensure we continue on our mission to be carbon neutral by 2025 and carbon net zero by 2030.

If you are passionate about coffee and want to positively impact the environment, support businesses that source coffee beans grown sustainably. This may mean your flat white may cost a little more, but this means that the espresso coffee beans workers are paid fairly and not exported by corporations who only care about making as much profit as possible. You can check if your favourite coffee brand is sustainable if they have certifications like Rainforest Alliance, UTZ or Fairtrade, here at Bristol Twenty we work with as many certified farms as possible and where not possible we ensure the standards of sustainability are still upheld.

bristol twenty coffee trees
Speciality Coffee: The story of coffee and climate change

What does the future of coffee look like?

To grow the best quality speciality coffee beans you need the right temperature and environmental conditions, and with politicians and large corporations not making the necessary changes to better our impact on the environment, climate change is only getting worse. It’s forecasted that over the next 30 years, the impact this will have on the coffee industry is monumental, studies show that potentially over 80% of land currently occupied by coffee could be lost by 2050.

Humidity, cool temperatures, minimal light, and light rainfall are the perfect conditions for coffee trees to flourish and grow delicious coffee beans; these conditions are typically found in high forest elevations which are slowly diminishing with the effects of climate change. For many regions, it will be imperative to move their coffee farms to higher altitudes if they want to continue production, and for some, it may mean the end of the current livelihood they have built for decades, sometimes even generations.

So what does this mean for the future of coffee? It’s uncertain as it all depends on numerous factors, with the current state of climate change not improving we need to take action if we want to save our planet. Our speciality coffee may be a distant memory by 2050 so we need to be as environmentally conscious as possible in all areas of our lives so that we have a healthy planet for us and future generations.

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