Coffee leader Brazil is turning to stronger and more bitter robusta beans, which are hardier in the heat than the delicate arabica, in a sign of how climate change is affecting global markets – and shaping our favourite flavours.
Brazil is the world’s biggest producer of arabica, yet its production has stayed largely flat over the last five years. Meanwhile its output of cheaper robusta – generally grown at lower altitudes and viewed as of inferior quality – has leapt and is attracting more and more international buyers, new data shows.
The expansion is challenging Vietnam’s longstanding robusta dominance, while squeezing smaller players, increasingly leaving output concentrated in fewer regions and more vulnerable to price spikes if extreme weather occurs.
It also promises to gradually alter the flavour of the world’s coffee over the coming years as more of the harsher and more caffeine-charged robusta variety, widely used to make instant coffee, makes its way into the pricier ground blends currently dominated by arabica.