COFFEE NEWS ROUNDUP: WEEK ENDING JANUARY 18TH
Hello and welcome to another week’s end, and therefore another Coffee News Roundup.
There’s not a lot of news this week (quelle surprise), but the main story is a big one.
Bitter Reality: Most Wild Coffee Species Risk Extinction Worldwide - via Scientific American
It’s the end of coffee as we know it, and honestly I’m not particularly shocked by the news.
The world is hurting. Every day, another story comes out about how the ice shelf is melting, the oceans are warming (real fast), forests are disappearing, and we’re losing biodiversity and soil quality.
It was only a matter of time before coffee was involved.
Coffee is a staggeringly delicate plant—it needs specific, consistent and reliable conditions to flourish. Too much rain? Ruined harvest. Too little rain? Ruined harvest. Massive human-caused shifting in climate and long-term weather patterns? You’d better believe that’s a ruined harvest.
And now, a new study has announced that at least 60% of wild coffee species are threatened with extinction.
There are 124 known species of coffee worldwide; we currently cultivate just two, commercially at least. There’s Arabica, beloved of us coffee snobs for its subtle, refined taste and notes of jasmine and whatnot. Then there’s Robusta, the sturdy, resilient cousin who works hard but just isn’t held in quite as high esteem.
And that’s it.
The other 122 species are occasionally used for crossbreeding, to try to instill some tolerance and flexibility into the wan Arabica, but less than half of those species have been saved in germplasm collections (basically seed banks and other protected areas) for future use.
Scientists are trying to change that, with plans to set up coffee-specific germplasm sites, although the plant’s particular fragility means the wild species are not best suited to the dry, cool conditions of most seed banks.
Basically, it’s all bad. But at least people are becoming aware of the problem and trying to fix it.
Well, not fix it, but maybe postpone the inevitable.
Coffee price slump leaves farmers earning less than a cent a cup - via Yahoo Finance
One cent per cup. That’s it. Because of the drastic fall in coffee prices, one cent per cup is what a coffee farmer earns for the work they put in wrestling that feeble plant to harvest.
That ridiculous price means that, in many coffee producing countries, farmers are simply calling it a day and moving on.
$1 per pound on the commodity market has had a hugely disruptive and cascading effect on the producing countries most affected. Witness the so-called “migrant caravans” heading north from Central America, comprised at least in part of destitute farmworkers from coffee plantations.
While big companies respond showily—Starbucks has committed $20 million to help farmers in Central America, for example—the main culprit is the market, and the way it’s set up (something Starbucks, like all the other coffee behemoths, profit hugely from).
Turns Out, Celebrities Also Love Coffee - via Sprudge
OK, this is going to be a screeching shift in tone.
Are you ready?
Turns out celebrities are people too. They also drink coffee, have ridiculous demands and skimp on the tip.
This should be a revelation to nobody, but the article still highlights some interesting quirks about the demi-gods that reign above us.
For instance, Nicole Kidman has diverse taste—one time, it’s an espresso in an 8 oz cup filled with skim milk foam, another it’s a flat white. Björk is a caffeine fiend, downing two double espressos and a cappuccino in less than an hour. And Leo DiCaprio doesn’t make contact with mere humans, he has an assistant for that.
Celebrities—they’re amazing and baffling and ridiculous and drink coffee. Just like us!
Why You Should Think Twice Before Drinking Airplane Coffee - via Thrillist
Coffee on an airplane doesn’t appeal to me. In the first place, I hate flying, so the last thing on my mind while I’m making peace with my god is a nice hot cup of spillable coffee.
And also, airline food is famously bad, so it follows that the coffee will be bad too.
And, it turns out, I was right to be suspicious. Airline coffee is bad!
For one thing, water quality on airplanes is… not great. Water also boils at a lower temperature up there, which doesn’t help get rid of any bacteria that might be lurking. Then there’s the effect on taste and smell, meaning whatever sludge they do offer isn’t going to taste very good.
That should tell you everything.
Is coffee good for you?
At least, it might be able to help with daytime fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferers. The research hypothesizes that, since coffee and caffeine have showed a beneficial effect on daytime tiredness in Parkinson’s disease, the same could be assumed in MS.
Oh, and apparently dark roast coffee keeps your DNA from breaking.
That’s right, coffee confers immortality, probably.
What to read
Until next week, drink good coffee. It might not be around much longer.