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Protecting coffee from the threat of extinction

Coffee is one of the world's favourite drinks and one of the most important commercial crops. It's also the second most valuable international commodity.

This award-nominated film shows how scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are collaborating with scientists in Ethiopia (Arabica coffee originated from here) to understand how climate change is affecting wild Arabica coffee plants.

These wild plants provide the vital genetic diversity needed to sustain the global crop.


There are now 125 species of coffee, but we only use two of them to produce the drink we know and love; Robusta and Arabica. 

Arabica coffee is considered to produce the finest coffee beans, this plant comes from Ethiopia but has been transported and grown across the world. Now climate change alone could lead to the extinction of wild Arabica coffee (coffea arabica) well before the end of this century.


Plants: From Roots to Riches

The Great Providers

Plants from Roots to Riches, Radio 4 logo

Kathy Willis examines how we are building future resilience into our modern crops.

Plant Profile: Arabica coffee (Coffee arabica)

Coffee cultivation may have started in the sixth century in Yemen, its use being for spiritual purposes.

Coffee became a popular drink in Europe from the seventeenth century onwards, being imported from plantations established first by the Dutch in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Java, and later from plantations in Brazil and the West Indies established in the eighteenth century. Much of the world’s Arabica coffee is produced in Latin America.

Find out more

The world’s most famous botanic garden

Come and see our historic glasshouses, rare and beautiful plants, and inspring botanical art galleries.

A summer meadow in mauve and yellow

'Plants: From Roots to Riches' Book

Based on the Radio 4 series. Kathy Willis and Carolyn Fry take us from the birth of botany right through to modern day plant science.

Plants: From Roots to Riches, a landmark Radio 4 series

Adopt a seed

Help Kew's Millennium Seed Bank protect the future of the world's plants by adopting a seed for as little as £25.

Dimorphotheca nudicaulis seeds