Coffee Leaf Rust

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Smartse.

In the worst epidemic of coffee rust since 1976, many Central American countries are in crisis. Plant damage from this disease is a constant threat to the future of Coffea arabica and now seems to be getting more resistant. Coffee is such a large part of the economy in these nations that Guatemala declared a state of emergency earlier this year and is providing financial aid to affected farmers.

COFFEE DILEMMA IN CENTRAL AMERICA

Although rust is typically known as a reddish-brown flaky coating that forms on iron and other metals, coffee (or coffee leaves to be more accurate) can also “rust.” Coffee leaf rust is so called because it leaves yellow and reddish spots on the foliage that resemble rust. It is an obligate parasitic fungus known scientifically as Hemileia vastatrix. Hemileia vastatrix must take energy and nutrients from a live host (coffee) in order to survive and reproduce. The most susceptible variety to the fungus is Coffea arabica, from which all specialty coffee is produced.

The fungus, also called roya, has spread so widely that Guatemala declared a state of emergency earlier this year. Up to 40 percent of the Guatemalan crop may be lost this season, with Costa Rica losing between 30 to 40 percent. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are also in crisis. There are areas where plants have lost so much foliage the farmers will have to remove the dying coffee trees and replant. This will affect production levels for years to come.

What is it like when roya attacks a coffee tree? When you have a healthy tree the plant will focus on the beans once they start developing. But when roya attacks the plant its attention turns to creating new leaves to replace those being destroyed. As a matter of survival photosynthesis takes priority over the beans and the nutrients they need to mature. Instead of ripe red coffee cherries, you see many green beans that never ripen or, even worse, dry branches and beans because of the anthracnose that accompanies roya.

Roya is not a new problem. It was first reported in Kenya in 1861. In the mid-to-late 19th century it destroyed more than 90 percent of the coffee crops in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). The resulting collapse of the coffee industry in the area caused farmers started looking for alternate crops such as tea. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of tea in England today. According to the ICO (International Coffee Organization), the current epidemic is the worst since 1976 when it first appeared in Central America.

The good news is the fungus has not mutated, meaning it is the same fungus that was controlled in the past and that leaves hope for the farmers. Local governments are providing assistance to affected farms with financial aid and fungicides. Among those who are contributing funds and services to the fight are: Fair Trade USA, Starbucks, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, and many others.

While the coffee leaf rust fungus is not the end of the ever loving coffee world, it is causing quite a bit of concern, and with good cause. Coffee exports are a significant portion of revenue for these nations. We need continued research into ways to combat leaf rust for it is the farmers who suffer the most. The top echelon coffees are going to be impacted by roya this year more than ever before. There will continue to be excellent high-quality beans to fill your cup, only fewer of them.

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Originally published by www.emerycoffee.com
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Papua New Guinea

Photo courtesy of Beansmith Coffee.

Love the artwork from this roaster! Papua New Guinea, located just north of Australia, has been involved in coffee production since 1926 when the first Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee seeds were planted. The coffee is produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides due to cost and availability. This results in low levels of acidity and caffeine in a coffee known for full-bodied flavor with hints of mango and papaya. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Bab al Yemen, Sana’a

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Bab al Yemen, Sana’a – 13th century main entrance to the walled Old City. Photo courtesy bigstockphoto.com. Yemen is steeped in coffee tradition and the home of the infamous sea port Mocha. Although Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, Yemen has their own story as to who made the first cup of joe.

THE HISTORY OF YEMEN MOCHA COFFEE

The first authentic account of the history of coffee was written by Abd-Al-Kadir in 1587. The famous manuscript is preserved in the Bibliotecheque Nationale, Paris, and catalogued as “Arabe, 4590. A popular tale in coffee history goes as follows: In the year of the Hegira 656, the mollah Schadheli went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Arriving at the mountain of the Emeralds (Ousab), he turned to his disciple Omar and said: “I shall die in this place. When my soul has gone forth, a veiled person will appear to you. Do not fail to execute the command which he will give you.” The venerable Schadheli being dead, Omar saw in the middle of the night a gigantic spectre covered by a white veil. “Who are you?” he asked. The phantom drew back his veil, and Omar saw with surprise Schadheli himself, grown ten cubits since his death.

The mollah dug in the ground, and water miraculously appeared. The spirit of his teacher bade Omar fill a bowl with the water and to proceed on his way and not to stop till he reached the spot where the water would stop moving. “It is there,” he added, “that a great destiny awaits you.” Omar started his journey. Arriving at Mocha in Yemen, he noticed that the water was immovable. It was here that he must stop. The beautiful village of Mocha was then ravaged by the plague. Omar began to pray for the sick and, as the saintly man was close to Mahomet many found themselves cured by his prayers. The plague meanwhile progressing, the daughter of the King of Mocha fell ill and her father had her carried to the home of the dervish who cured her. But as this young princess was of rare beauty, after having cured her, the good dervish tried to carry her off. The king did not fancy this new kind of reward. Omar was driven from the city and exiled on the mountain of Ousab.

Omar had been in exile for a long time, and he was starving. He cried out in despair and a bird brought him a branch with red berries on it. Omar tried to eat the berries, but they were too bitter. He threw the berries in the fire. The fire made the berries too hard, so Omar decided to boil them. Omar loved the pleasant smell of the beans as they were boiling. He decided to drink the brown concoction. Omar found the drink revitalizing and told others about it. Word soon reached Mocha. The exile was lifted and Omar was ordered to come home and bring the berries with him. Omar shared the drink with others. People said it cured a variety of ailments. Coffee was hailed as a miracle drug and Omar was made a Saint. A monastery was built in Omar’s honor.

The earliest credible evidence of humans interacting with coffee was during the middle of the 15th century. Monks in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen were drinking coffee. Sufis used coffee to keep themselves awake during their nighttime devotion and long hours of prayer. It’s not known when people starting drinking ground coffee. The City of Mocha was a major trade center for the Mocha style of coffee bean. The green coffee beans are known for their distinctive flavor. One historian said Mocha became an important port due to an Ottoman law. The law required all ships entering the Red Sea to put in at Mocha, and pay duty on their cargoes. It’s commonly believed that Marco Polo learned of Mocha coffee during his travels through the Arab World. In 1595, Spanish Jesuit missionary Pedro Paez was the first European to taste Mocha coffee. Mocha was the major marketplace for coffee from the 15th century to the 17th century.

Yemen Mocha coffee is grown and processed today as it has been for centuries. Seedlings are grown on terraced hillsides. The dryness of the air and soil results in a small, hard bean. Yemen’s entire crop is processed by the dry method. The beans are allowed to dry completely on the tree before picking and hulling. This dry method is believed to be responsible for the unique taste of Yemen coffee. It’s described as fruity, winy and spicy.

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Originally published by www.emerycoffee.com

Coffee Drying in Ethiopia.

dsc03944Ethiopia – birthplace of coffee. Coffea arabica originated there and still grows wild in some areas. Photo courtesy of Coffea Roasterie. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Coffee Cherries and Coffee Beans

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Photo courtesy bigstockphoto.com. Did you know that the coffee bean we know and love is not a bean after all? Although similar in appearance to a member of the Leguminosae family, the coffee bean is really a seed. In the heart of a fruit, referred to as a coffee cherry, you will find what we commonly call coffee beans. Coffee cherries turn either bright red or purple when ready for harvesting.

Found in clusters along the tree branches, the skin, or exocarp, of a coffee cherry is bitter and thick. These are actually used with ginger to make another drink, qishr, that has been popular in Yemen for centuries. Underneath the the outer layer, the mesocarp has a grape texture and is extremely sweet. The parenchyma, a slimy protective layer, is followed by the endocarp. This forms an envelope around the bluish-green coffee beans that ave a final layer called the spermoderm.

Most often coffee cherries or berries have two seeds with their flat sides facing each other. In a very small percentage of coffee beans around the world (approximately 5%), the beans come with a single seed instead of the usual two. This natural mutation inside the coffee cherry results in what is called a peaberry. Peaberries are noticeably smaller and denser than normal coffee beans. While some say there is no taste difference, others claim they are sweeter and more flavorful.

Peaberries have to be hand sorted after picking and processing because there is no way to tell by looking at the coffee cherry if it will be a single bean or twins! Their exceptional taste and relative rarity command premium prices. But keep this in mind. If you are already buying great coffee from an award winning roaster and only 5% of all coffee beans are peaberries, you are likely drinking from the top 0.5% of coffee beans in the world! Not a bad way to start your day.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Originally published by www.emerycoffee.com