On Coffee and the Environment...

Over the weekend, I joined a friend up the coast in an attempt to forage for delicious mushrooms. It was a nice excuse to pack up a couple of kids and their kid-like fathers early on a Saturday morning and set loose in a beautifully lit forest, next to a wild and excited ocean, with wicker baskets and cameras and runny noses and car-sick bellies.

California is currently experiencing an incredibly dry winter. Without consulting the internet, I’m pretty sure it’s rained not at all in at least a year. That makes an enjoyable task like foraging really, really difficult. Impossible actually. The needle and cone and decomposing branch covered forest floor should’ve been dotted with lovely chanterelles and hedgehogs, but instead the boys played ninja sticks and I took some pictures of trees and of the sun’s attempts to break through the dark and join in on ninja sticks. In addition to the lack of fungal producing moisture, it was warm. All of this is to say that it was a lovely morning spent with friends in a beautiful place. And, is anyone else concerned about the food chain?

Coffee grows from the earth. It starts as a blossom on a tree and turns into a cherry and that cherry takes in nutrients and stimulation and matures into something sweet and lively that just so happens to contain coffee beans. Those beans are what we do at Taylor Maid Farms. We buy the best of them from around the world. They are roasted and canned and some are made into delicious drinks at our coffee bar. Like all plants, coffee is sensitive to the world around it and is absolutely impacted by climate change. I’m not a scientist and I don’t understand more than a fraction of the conversation, but the take away is always the same: it’s freak out time. 

This illuminating article from the NYT paints a bleak picture for coffee production at origin. With the world warming, we can expect to see coffee farming and yields to be squeezed, driving prices up for everyone and putting enormous stress on a complex chain of producers, exporters, importers, roasters, and ultimately consumers. The coffees that we purchase at TMF already fall into the ‘specialty category’ (i.e. scoring above a high minimum established by widely agreed upon evaluative standards and free from defect) but with choked production and increasing prices, specialty may grow to become more exclusive and far more expensive.

Beautiful January days and depleted coffee crops are not accidents. While not yet running through our roastery screaming that the sky is falling, we all take this very seriously and are constantly looking for ways to minimize the impact of the work we care so much about. We use a fancy coffee roaster that requires less energy and puts out fewer emissions, we only buy organic green coffee, we use organic products in the coffee bar, and we try to build buildings and tables and fire pits (?) from materials that are renewable or repurposed. A few of us even cut down the number of showers we take each week. Every little thing helps, right?

We should be concerned with what’s happening with our environment; it’s undeniable that real change is afoot. Not to oversimplify and be reductive, but from mushrooms to coffee, it’s all part of fragile system worth caring about. 


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