Patt Morrison for March 22, 2011

Drink it while the drinking is good: specialty coffee crops facing the heat

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Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Freshly-roasted espresso coffee beans cool in a refurbished 1918 Probat coffee bean roaster.

Love it or hate it, as Starbucks goes so goes the world of coffee—so coffee drinkers took notice late last week when Starbucks announced it was raising the price of its packaged coffee by an average of 12 percent. Starbucks blamed the price increases on the speculation market, which is driving up the price of Arabica coffee beans, but speculators might have reason to worry about supplies. In the last few years coffee yields in Colombia and in many of Latin America’s other premier coffee regions have plummeted as a result of rising temperatures and more intense and unpredictable rains. It’s debatable whether the weather phenomenon has a direct link to global warming but what is not up for argument is the finicky nature of coffee plants and the shrinking crop of quality coffee beans. There are some fears among purveyors that the Arabica coffee supply from Colombia may never rebound—that the world might have hit “peak coffee.” Should you fear for the future of your morning cup of joe?


Ric Rhinehart, executive director of Specialty Coffee Association of America

Peter Baker, senior scientist at agricultural & environmental research for the Centre for Agricultural and Bioscience International

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