Coffee and Climate Change

December 7, 2016



As time goes on, the impacts of climate change become more and more real. There has been much debate over the true reality of climate change, but it’s hard to deny that our climate is getting warmer; the effects can be seen in many different geographic areas around the world. Spending my days working intimately with coffee, I have become extremely interested in how the change in climate is impacting coffee farmers and their crops.


Because the coffee tree is sensitive to many elements, rising temperatures can be particularly detrimental to this crop. Overall, coffee producing countries have reported lower than average yields correlated to (1) increased undesired rainfall, (2) extended drought cycles, and (3) more resilient diseases and pests—all related directly to a warmer environment.


Moreover, as temperatures rise, coffee trees migrate to higher elevations, seeking more optimal growing temperatures. This is where additional problems can arise. There is a demand within the specialty coffee sector for coffees that grow at higher elevations, because typically (but not always) coffees grown at higher elevations tend to be of higher quality and greater complexity. However, as more and more coffee trees move higher up in elevation, land becomes sparser, resulting in lower crop yields. This can negatively impact everyone throughout the coffee supply chain, but we are especially concerned for the coffee producers themselves. With less coffee being produced, our coffee farmers face the issue of bringing home even less income than before.




With the immensity of climate change, it can sometimes seem like there is nothing we as individuals can do, but I truly believe that we can all make positive contributions. For example, biking is a great way to reduce personal emissions. Shopping locally can reduce the distance food and other goods need to travel by freight to reach us, helping to minimize our environmental impact.  The list goes on, and the more personal changes we make, the larger our positive personal impact becomes.


It’s important to note, though, that even greater responsibility lands in the hands of businesses and corporations. Manufacturing industries, including coffee roasting, have a larger influence on climate change, because many of these industries inherently produce byproducts like toxic waste and carbon monoxide. Coffee roasting, specifically, produces byproducts in the form of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and other particulate matter, both of which contribute to climate change.


Luckily, a few things can be used by coffee roasters to nearly eliminate VOC’s and particulate matter. Utilizing equipment like a catalytic or thermal oxidizer is the most effective way to reduce emissions. A thermal oxidizer, also called an afterburner, takes the exhaust smoke and VOC’s and incinerates them at around 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. This technology is what we at Wander Coffee are proud to use to help lower our emissions. (Check out the picture below to get an inside look at our micro-roastery. The afterburner we use is the silver machine on the far left.)

 While we love roasting and sharing our coffee, we are also concerned for our environment and are insistent on using equipment and technology that help lower our contributions to climate change. We encourage all consumers to learn more about the environmental impacts of coffee roasting—and to always seek out coffee that’s produced with a conscience. It’s just one more way that we, as individuals, can make a both an environmental and global difference through our everyday actions.   


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