Despite the ongoing war coffee farmers have been fighting with climate change, consumers have likely not noticed much change in their daily routines. According to the International Coffee Organization, global coffee prices spiked in 2008 due to the scarcity of Colombian Arabicas, but have since fallen to pre-2008 levels as Colombia ramped production back up and farmers in Africa learned that growing coffee under shade trees can effectively lower temperatures by as much as 5 degrees.
But as Central America continues to struggle with coffee rust, worldwide demand for coffee grows and the climate continues to worsen, there's only so much researchers can do. Coffee roasters have already started using more Robusta coffee in blends to get more bang for their buck, and though separate research is being done to improve the taste of Robusta, it's unlikely to ever rival Arabica.
"Robusta farmers have worked on a quantity basis, but in general it's just not as good tasting," Rhinehart, of the Specialty Coffee Association of America says. "It's not impossible to make Robusta taste better, but I haven't seen it yet."
That means Americans might have to get used to worse-tasting coffee if Arabica eventually succumbs to coffee rust, warming temperatures or one of the many other diseases that can affect it.
"In the near term, it's not going to be that you can't get a cup of coffee, but the quality of the cup will suffer," Rhinehart says. "And if we don't dramatically change our approach to carbon emissions, then all the adaptation strategies in the world will be all for nothing, and frankly, the loss of coffee will be the last thing we'll be worried about."
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Corrected 03/28/13: An earlier version of this story misstated the total value of the worldwide coffee trade.