Climate Change and Coffee (UPDATE)

Early blooms may mean less coffee as rains ruin early crops in Costa Rica.

Excellent story from the Seattle Times yesterday about climate change and how it is affecting farmers in Costa Rica. You can read it here.

“We want to prove to the coffee-consuming world that we’re doing what we can and ask them to do something against global warming because otherwise we will not be able to produce coffee,”  Roberto Mata, who runs the Coopedota cooperative in Santa Maria  says.

Some farmers are trying to move their farms (or at least the cultivated acres) into higher elevations, but soils at elevation may not support arabica coffees. Mostly, though, these farmers, as always, are at the whims of the elements. That’s not so much the problem, what’s creating a huge difficulty is that the elements and their interactions with the local climate seem so different than in the past meaning that much of the farmer’s historic knowledge is ineffectual.

From the story:

Farmers constantly watch the sky during the harvest, fearful it might rain and cause their trees to flower early.

Flores is dismayed to find blooms on some of his coffee trees in January, the peak of the harvest. He expected it: There had been rainy spells all week.

Still, the trees are not supposed to flower until April. Many of these January blooms will dry up from lack of water before the true rainy season arrives.

“Last night we had rain, so for next year we will lose coffee,” he says.

It first rained during the harvest on Poás in 1997, a year Flores remembers because it was something his family had not seen in five generations of coffee farming.

“We were scared about it,” he says.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times is hosting a live chat regarding their article on climate change and coffee in Costa Rica right now. You can find it (and the replay) at:

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Kenneth R. Olson (he/him) is co-founder and publisher of Barista Magazine the worldwide trade magazine for the professional coffee community. He has written extensively about specialty coffee, traveled near and far for stories, activities, and fun, and been invited to present on topics important to coffee culture. He is also an avid fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Washington Huskies, and public libraries.