Coffee beans

That first cup of rich, smooth coffee is a delicious jump-start to the day. But its taste could change as the climate warms. Aaron Davis at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, in the U.K., studies Ethiopian coffee.

Davis: “Ethiopia is world renowned for its range of different flavor profiles, and these are really the unique selling point of Ethiopian coffee. That’s what makes it special.”

But drought and extreme weather pose a threat to those flavors.

Davis: “If you don’t have enough rainfall, then the beans don’t develop properly. And that really influences not only the productivity of the bush and each berry but also the taste.”

Davis says farmers could switch to varieties that better withstand the changing climate. But that would limit the range of coffee flavors Ethiopia has to offer, and eliminate the farmers’ competitive edge.

Another option is to change farming practices.

Davis: “They can mulch the soil, they can improve the shade coverage, and if possible, they can irrigate. Those are all things that do have an impact.”

But changes cost money.

Davis: “We should be paying more for our coffee, and that would help secure its future if that money went back to the people who actually produce the coffee.”

Reporting credit: Mark Knapp/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Jan O'Brien was assistant editor and website manager at Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. She brought more than three decades of experience in environmental publishing and policy research and more...