Australia, I love you, you know I love you, but some of y’all need to be on a daily regimen of high-dose chill pills.
Case in point: a recent article in The Guardian examines how World Coffee Research is planting 35 different coffee varieties in 23 countries to see how they perform in different climates. WCR’s goal, according to the article, is to find potentially suitable new coffeelands to meet a growing demand all the while climate change shifts where coffee can be produced. Now, one of these 23 countries is Australia. So what’s the headline for this article? “The end of coffee: could Australia save the world's beans?” And the lede line? “Climate change may devastate the globe’s major coffee-growing regions through extreme weather events – but Australia could be the solution.”
If that makes you not want to read the article, I get it, I’m right there with you. But I did anyway because, y’know, it’s my job. The article includes such very Australian assertions like how this trial may be “Australia’s most significant contribution to coffee since the flat white” (a drink created in New Zealand). But it does somehow keep from patting itself on the back for coming up with the American invention of avocado toast, which I guess counts as restraint these days.
The article’s argument in favor of Australia’s coffee savio(u)rdom points specifically to two things that the country lacks: coffee leaf rust and coffee cherry borers, two scourges to coffee in already established producing countries. Which is true, these things don’t exist in Australia, a country that doesn’t currently produce in any marked quantities the thing these two blights feed upon.
But what of the 50 or so farmers in Australia currently growing coffee? Surely, they will be some sort of bellwether for this great white hype. One grower, Zeta Greely, describes the “increasingly difficult” conditions she is facing.
“In the past we had fabulous conditions, a lovely microclimate for coffee,” she says. “It used to look rainforest-y around here, now it’s very sparse. It has been a gradual change – where once we’d be getting two metres of rainfall, [across 2018] we had less than one.
“Our crop actually didn’t happen this time, we had overripe cherries and completely green cherries, flowers on the tree – not what we want. So we decided to strip the trees and get them ready for next year.”
It's almost as if Australia will face all the same problems with climate change that the rest of the world is poised to undergo.
Now, I’m not wishing any sort of ill on any Australian coffee farmers nor am I saying that we shouldn’t be exploring potentially new areas for production. In fact, I hope that coffee trees take in Australia and it becomes a thriving new origin. I also hope the coffee plants do well in the 22 other countries the WCR is currently researching, the ones that aren't talking about saving coffee.
Australia, you have some of the best coffee cities in the entire world, it’s an undeniable fact and anyone who says otherwise is either delusional or bitter. A lot of what you do trickles out to the rest of the world and makes all of our coffee scenes better places. I’ve got nothing but love for you (and maybe a smarmy tone from time to time). All I’m saying is, just relax. The rumors of you saving coffee have been greatly exaggerated.