Is Climate Change Making Your Coffee Taste Different?

July 4, 2024
2 min read
 Is Climate Change Making Your Coffee Taste Different? Is Climate Change Making Your Coffee Taste Different?
Content Writer

The world as we know it is changing, as human actions have likely triggered a new epoch. With increasingly frequent and severe weather events, 2023 became the warmest year on record. The climate crisis has taken center stage in our lives, from altering our seasons and coastlines to polluting the air we breathe.

But now, it has hit closer to home. It's threatening the very ritual that kickstarts our day and gets us going: our beloved brew. Coffee.

It’s very likely that the aroma and flavor we cherish might soon be lost forever.

Let’s get to know the curious case of changing coffee, a story linked to climate change.

What’s the present state of coffee?

Whether we're in a formal meeting or just hanging out with friends, coffee is intricately woven into our social lives. It has evolved into a cultural cornerstone and a quintessential way to connect with each other.

This popular beverage has a rich history that traces back to the highlands of Ethiopia. Today, coffee grows best in the region near the equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, known as the Bean Belt. It provides an optimal environment conducive to the growth of coffee.


The coffee belt, home to around 70 countries, offers 120 different varieties with unique flavors due to regional climate differences. Arabica and Robusta are two varieties that dominate the market.

The world consumes over 2.25 billion cups of coffee daily.

The global obsession with coffee and its expanding consumption (↑2-2.5% annually) have made it a multi-billion-dollar industry. It spans a lengthy value chain from farmers to consumers, supporting the livelihoods of around 125 million people worldwide.

Coffee plantations occupy a whopping 27 million acres of land. Brazil, Ethiopia, and Colombia are top producers of Arabica beans, whereas Vietnam, Indonesia, and India lead in Robusta.

Fun Fact: More coffee is consumed in the Northern Hemisphere than where it’s grown in the Southern Hemisphere.

As we delve deeper, it is significant to shine a spotlight on the two varieties.

Arabica and Robusta

While Arabica beans are famous for their fruity notes and soft taste, Robusta beans offer a harsher, more intense flavor. Their distinct flavor depends on the interaction of climate, soil, altitude, and more.

Arabica and Robusta Coffee

Arabica coffee grows best at higher elevations, with temperatures ranging from 15 to 24℃ (59-75 ℉). It requires 1,500–2,000 mm of water per year. On the other hand, Robusta is more heat-tolerant and thrives at lower elevations of 600–1300 m above sea level, with ideal temperatures ranging from 22-26℃ ( 72-79℉). Robusta has a shorter growth period and is more resistant to climatic shocks and diseases, thus yielding more per tree. 

However, with temperatures on the rise, these ideal conditions are becoming harder to find. 

So, what will happen to coffee in a warmer world?

Coffee is a climate-sensitive crop. With rising extreme weather events around the world, 60% of coffee species face the threat of extinction. For example, coffee-producing areas of Central America are recognized to be a central hotspot of vulnerability and risk due to increased droughts, storms, and the ENSO phenomenon.

The flavor and aroma of coffee are influenced by various factors, including elevation, water stress, soil, atmospheric CO₂, and rising temperatures. These factors can alter the acids, lipids, and sugars present in the coffee beans. As a result, coffee grown in hotter climates may taste more bitter.

Elevation is a vital factor in coffee cultivation. Higher altitudes provide cooler temperatures which is ideal for the growth of Arabica beans. Beans have more time to grow and produce decadent flavors. Further, high-altitude plants have better drainage, resulting in denser cherries with more intact sugars and flavors.

But this is likely to change. As per an IPCC report, climate change can reduce the coffee-suitable land to half by 2050. 

As the temperature rises, the higher altitude will no longer provide ideal conditions for coffee plantations, potentially diminishing its known flavors. Long-term exposure to temperatures just beyond 86°F (30°C) can cause stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and stem tumors in coffee plants. The shift from cool and wet to hot and dry conditions will also lead to a decline in coffee yield.

Warm and humid conditions prevalent due to climate change create the breeding ground for pests and diseases. This trend elevates the risk of crop failure. A synchronized crop failure could have a disastrous impact on the global coffee trade.

Climate change sets a chain reaction that not only affects agronomy but also reverberates throughout the coffee industry, impacting millions of lives. Any disruption to industry has far-reaching economic consequences.

The brewing crisis

For many, the day starts with a rich and invigorating aroma of freshly brewed coffee. But before it gets to your morning cup, coffee beans travel through a web of global supply chains. The ripple effect of climate change extends beyond coffee farms. 

In 2022, the global coffee market was valued at 127 Billion USD and is expected to grow by 4.72% (CAGR) from 2023 to 2030. It creates countless job opportunities and drives growth and development. The growth represents the evolving consumer demands, market trends, and economic opportunities. 

  • The coffee industry is upbeat due to an increase in the working population and their demand for specialized products. However, the potential change in coffee taste and aroma due to climate change can significantly modify consumer choices. 

90% of coffee beans come from the Bean Belt, which is highly vulnerable to increasing temperatures. Thus, the coffee production fluctuates annually. This disrupts the supply chain, leading to price volatility. 

As a result, the businesses involved in coffee production, from farmers to large-scale producers and factories, take a hit on their profit and sustainability. Therefore, the health and consistency of quality coffee supply are critical to the core of operations. 

Coffee prices ( Source: Macrotrends)

What's the future like?

The future of coffee is at the mercy of a population that continues to emit greenhouse gasses. If planet warming continues, we can witness a shift in coffee-growing regions across the world, especially for Arabica beans. With current patterns, we could lose our rich, flavorful coffee.

The coffee crisis is a reflection of large-scale environmental changes that are reshaping our world. As we go about our routine, we may not notice the subtle ways in which climate change is making its presence felt.

However, there is hope on the horizon.

A call to action

Curbing greenhouse emissions (controlling atmospheric CO2 levels) can solve most of the world's problems; it will also help us mitigate temperature-related risks to coffee plants. 

Adapting and innovating are necessary to build climate resilience. Who knows, solutions like shaded plantations and increasing biodiversity among coffee species might give us better-tasting coffee in the future.

Businesses can help by staying up-to-date with changing weather data. It enables them to make informed decisions, like diversifying their supply chain and committing to sustainable practices aligned with today’s consumer behavior.

As you enjoy your cup of joe, remember to make choices that protect both our coffee and the planet. 

Feel free to reach out to us to explore how our data empowers you to build sustainable solutions.

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