Starbucks revealed on Tuesday that it has created six new tree varieties that are immune to climate change all of which produce Arabica, a kind of bean that is threatened by it. The new tree seeds were created by agronomists at the Hacienda Alsacia farm in Costa Rica, which is home to Starbucks. They are resistant to coffee leaf rust, a disease made worse by climate change.
Researchers have been warning for years about the effects of global warming on coffee crops and farmer livelihoods. Starbucks, a coffee company based in Seattle, has taken notice.
“To grow properly, coffee crops require specific temperature, light, and humidity levels,” according to the Inter-American Development Bank, a financial institution serving Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, those conditions are largely met in certain parts of Latin America, within a region called the coffee belt, a recent IADB report noted.’
But by 2050, the bank warned, “rising temperatures will reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by up to 50%.” The changing climate could mean that some countries could newly accommodate coffee, IADB noted.
Starbuck’s Coffee Consumption
Accordingly, Starbucks, which claims to buy about 3% of the coffee produced worldwide, is creating new arabica varieties that are specifically grown to withstand the effects of global warming. Coffee leaf rust is a disease that affects coffee trees and is made worse by climate change. For more than ten years, agronomists at Starbucks have been breeding various types of coffee trees to find ones that will produce a large amount of fruit in a short amount of time and, among other things, resist it.
The corporation tested hundreds of kinds before settling on six that suit the bill and satisfy its taste and flavor requirements. The company’s Hacienda Alsacia coffee plantation, an instructional and research facility in Costa Rica, offers farmers a catalog outlining its six new types.
Each plant’s flavor profile is listed in the catalog. Another has a citrus, herbal, and flowery flavor, while the first brews coffee with notes of melon, honey, and sugar cane. The catalog also describes how the plant will grow, including its size and structure, the altitudes at which it will live, and how many years it will take before it begins to produce.
New Bred Trees
The new tree varieties are part of a five-year-old Starbucks project to provide farmers and suppliers with climate-resistant tree seeds. The company said it has given more than 3 million seeds so far but refuses to say how much the program or the creation of the new breeds cost.
The information was released as part of Starbucks’ first Global Coffee Week, which began on Monday and runs through Sunday. During this time, the company will also be announcing new tree varieties, in-store coffee tastings, and new coffee blends, among other sustainability-related announcements.
Starbucks, which has around 36,000 stores worldwide, is very dependent on farmers; it sources its products from about 400,000 farmers in 30 different countries. They are having trouble adjusting to the effects of global warming, along with other coffee farmers throughout the world.