As climate change further disrupts rainfall and temperature patterns globally, one precious under threat is humanity's most favorite coffee. As such, scientists have pinpointed a coffee-producing plant that could be more durable against the hardships of ever-changing seasons.
The plant is called the stenophylla coffee or Coffee stenophylla, a rare, wild type of coffee plant found in Upper West Africa. Compared with the common coffee plant, it's better suited to bear climate shifts.
In the study, "Arabica-like flavor in a heat-tolerant wild coffee species," researchers said the variant has a flavor similar to high-grade Arabica coffee that is made from the Arabica plant, a Reuters report said. As such, coffee lovers and connoisseurs would still be satisfied. Arabica, which dominates the coffee market at 75 percent, is one variety threatened by the onset of climate change since they need specific environmental conditions to prosper.
Launch Pad for Climate-Resilient Coffee Crop Plants
Stenophylla coffee expands the "climate envelope" for high-grade coffee, providing an important launch pad for climate-resilient coffee crop plants, the researchers noted.
The plant is currently making a dramatic return after it was believed that it had died out in known regions where it had prospered, except in the Ivory Coast, with less published information on it for decades, a BBC report said. The coffee variety, however, was recently found in Sierra Leone.
Scientists studied samples of stenophylla coffee to get its taste and executed models to evaluate the type of conditions the plant could grow under. They discovered that the plant could handle temperatures of up to 24.9 degrees Celsius or 76.8 degrees Fahrenheit, which are warmer conditions than what the Arabica variety can manage.
Lofty Credentials that Could Save Coffee Production
Previous research revealed that the stenophylla plant could overcome and survive droughts and is impervious to coffee leaf rust. Such qualities could make it a potential option for coffee production in difficult climate conditions.
Poor crop yield has been the reason why stenophyllla has not been a major coffee variant, although competition from robusta coffee, with its rise as a major global coffee commodity coincided with stenophylla's decline, has been a contributing factor to its failure to become a prominent coffee variant, the researchers said.
Stenophylla coffee was also popular among coffee tasting specialists in blind taste tests, the researchers said. The variant can likewise be cross-bred to add climate resilience to other coffee plant species.
Shifting to climate-resilient coffee species is the lone option the industry is considering, and this means relocating coffee bean farming and adapting various areas of coffee bean production. But tackling the root cause of the decline is the most pressing: climate change.
Tests for Stenophylla's Viability as High-Grade Coffee Source
Stenophylla seedlings are now being tested for their viability as a high-grade coffee source. It may take time, though, for people other than scientists and experts to taste it. Researchers admit that stenophylla won't be in coffee shops in the near future, but they predict it to become a niche coffee variant in five to seven years before becoming a common option for coffee lovers.
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