The brewing battle between climate change and the quality of coffee

By Stratton P. Constantinides

As with many agricultural industries, coffee crops are not immune to the effects of climate change on the quality of consumer products. Characterized chemically by the effect of acidity on body and flavor, this quality has been significantly impacted by the stresses of changes in climate in the form of temperature, water quality, and carbon dioxide in the environment. According to a recent study by The Climate Institute of Australia, half of the world's coffee growing regions will be lost by 2050 if the current pace of climate change remains unchecked.

To battle these adverse impacts, many farmers and distributors have implemented offset measures that include changes in water use, shade management, narrowing the selection of coffee crops to more resilient species, and increases in the use of pesticides. What remains to be seen is the potential effects of these mitigation efforts on environmental regulations and sustainability of practices as the world's coffee intake continues to grow—specifically as related to major global coffee wholesalers and distributors. In fact, some major distributors have already taken steps to enhance the sustainability of their coffee-growing operations.

As the shift in these long-standing growing practices continues to evolve, it will be crucial for industry regulators to maintain oversight over potentially diverging strategies in order to sustain quality and monitor the environmental impact of global coffee production.

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Stratton P. Constantinides


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