Scientists say a “forgotten” coffee plant that can grow in warmer conditions could help future-proof the drink against climate change. They predict we could soon be sipping Stenophylla, a rare wild coffee from West Africa that tastes like Arabica coffee, but grows in warmer conditions. As temperatures rise, good coffee will become increasingly difficult to grow.
Studies suggest that by 2050, about half of the land used for high-quality coffee will be unproductive. To find a wild coffee that tastes great and is heat and drought tolerant is “the holy grail of coffee breeding”, said Dr Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Ke Coffea stenophylla is a wild coffee species from West Africa, which, until recently, was thought to be extinct outside Ivory Coast.
The plant was recently re-discovered growing wild in Sierra Leone, where it was historically grown as a coffee crop about a century ago. A small sample of coffee beans from Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast were roasted and made into coffee, which was then tasted by a panel of coffee connoisseurs. Over 80% of judges could not tell the difference between Stenophylla and the world’s most popular coffee, Arabica, in blind tastings, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Plants.