Colombia Los Naranjos

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This coffee farm rests along the edge of Cueva de los Cuacharo, Colombia, a 500 square mile biosphere where two mountain ranges converge.  Photo courtesy of Coffea Roasterie.

Coffee leaf rust, or roya, could affect a majority of the Central American crop for the next several years. Only a few years ago the Colombian coffee crop was 40 percent infected. However, Colombia is now recovering while its neighbors to the North are in crisis. Through a Herculean replanting effort and investment things are looking up. Farmers are now planting a crossbreed of Robusta and Arabica called Castillo that is roya resistant and tailored to the Colombian climate. What do you think of this new hybrid varietal? Please leave your thoughts and comments below. Read more

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere

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As one of the most sought after coffees in the world, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe has a floral, sweet, and citrus flavor profile. In Ethiopia you still find coffee trees in the wild and growing at elevations above 6000 feet. Ripe coffee cherries, such as these from the Kochere District, are processed at local cooperatives. The combination of wild trees, harvested by small farms, at these extraordinary elevations produces an incredibly complex and desirable coffee experience. Photo courtesy of Victrola Coffee. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

The Buzz About Caffeine

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Photo courtesy bigstockphoto.com. According to new research from the U.K., caffeine can give a memory boost….. at least to bees. The nectar of certain citrus flowers, along with coffee plant flowers,  contain caffeine. The study found that when bees feed on nectar containing caffeine they are three times more likely to remember the scent of that particular flower and are more motivated. It seems that caffeine is a stimulant for bees and influences their behavior much as it does our own. Who knew I was improving my memory with coffee all this time?

CAFFEINE SHOWN TO IMPROVE MEMORY IN BEES

Many plants contain caffeine in their leaves naturally as a defense mechanism. The bitter taste deters hungry animals from eating plants containing it. Caffeine can  also be found in the nectar of the plant. The amount of caffeine in the nectar of a coffee plant is similar to what we find in a cup of instant coffee. The bees do not taste the caffeine at these low doses  but it is high enough to affect their behavior.

In a recent study from the U.K., caffeine was shown to improve memory in honeybees. The bees were trained Pavlovian style to remember the scent of certain flowers. The ones that were fed the caffeinated nectar, as opposed to just sugar nectar, were three times more likely to remember the scent of that flower 24 hours later. Also, twice as many bees still remembered after 72 hours.

Caffeine changes how Kenyon cells, neurons which are involved in memory and learning, respond to information. It leads to more sensitivity and stronger reaction to input. In other words, caffeine helps bees remember the floral scents and come back more often. This gives these plants an advantage by having a “faithful” pollinator.

While the effect on bees is obvious, researchers are hesitant to say caffeine has beneficial effects on memory in humans. More study is needed  to see how caffeine affects us. But how many people drink coffee while reading or studying? Maybe our bodies are trying to tell us something. I think I’ll have another cup just in case.

What are your thoughts on caffeine as a memory booster?

Originally published by www.emerycoffee.com

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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Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Originally published by www.emerycoffee.com