Kew's coffee research in Madagascar is helping to save your daily cup
Kew scientists have distinguished 103 different wild coffee species, but only two produce most of the world’s drinking coffee. Kew's work, which involves finding and using new species, may protect the future of your daily cup.
11 Aug 2009
Coffee plant (Coffea pterocarpa) found in Madagascar (Image: Aaron Davis, RBG Kew)
One, two, one hundred and three...
Relying on only two coffee species to support our daily caffeine habits is a risky strategy. Domestic coffee is fragile and threatened by climate change, so finding and using new species may protect the future of your daily cup.
Coffea pterocarpa is a species from the coffee family, but not one of those that we drink. Commercial coffee comes from the seeds of only two species, which are then ground and roasted. The same two species also provide caffeine for soft drinks and headache pills, a tea from the leaves, and wood for building materials and a source of biofuel.
Saving coffee from the threat of climate change
Coffee farming supports 20 million farming families in 50 countries, but commercial varieties are already affected by climate change.
Scientists at Kew are studying the effects of climate change on coffee and doing research to support new wild coffee reserves. Breeding newly discovered wild species with commercial varieties may help to provide more robustness against diseases and environmental change, and thus protect the coffee supply into the future.
Aaron Davis says “On this plant hunting trip to one of the wettest parts of Madagascar, it rained every day for 10 days, and here we are trying to dry our clothes, our feet and our plant samples. But it was worth it.“
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