Coffee Diversity 124 Known Species cannot be allowed to become just 2.

17 January 2019

I have to admit that until this week I hadn’t realised there were over one hundred clearly defined different coffee plants in existence across the planet. I was aware that just two, namely Coffea Robusta and Coffea Arabica are used to harvest beans for coffee consumption and that they are grown in vast quantities across a set latitudinal band of the globe in a wide number of Countries.

Demand for coffee has dramatically increased over the past five decades, putting it in the “big three” of world traded commodities but larger and larger volumes grown in ever intensive crop areas bring risks and potential problems. There are clear genetic links between the commercially grown plants and the other 122 growing in the wild. Any new threat to the world’s coffee crop, perhaps via a fungus, blight or insect attack could depend on one of the lesser know species to provide a solution. Just these two bean types can give a vast choice of coffee tastes thanks to roasting and blending, but loss of their lesser cousins could spell disaster in the future.

Around 75 of these lesser species of coffee plant are considered to be threatened with extinction, a further 30 or so are considered “safe “for now whilst the rest have such little research information no balance assessment or judgement can be made.

I recall reading somewhere a while back that there are or were hundreds of different varieties of strawberry plants in this country, but that the supermarkets only look to stock 2 or 3 types based on consistent size, bright colour and shelf life, nothing to do with taste. Again, any loss of this wide variety of plants could bring problems in the future if the popular plants suffer disease.

You can read the full story on coffee plants in the Science and Environment section of the BBC News website published on the 17th January 2019.

Written by: Colin at KSV.

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