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February 2016 Newsletter

First of all, as I said last month I'll be attending the Café Asia
International Coffee and Tea Expo to be held in March 2016 at Marina
Bay Sands in Singapore. This means that we will be closed from
Wednesday 2nd March until Thursday 17th March. After the conference
itself I'll be travelling to the Northern (coffee growing) parts of
Vietnam and hopefully investigating some of the new-ish Arabica

If you've been following the news recently you will have heard both
lots of "doom and gloom" and lots of optimism about coffee. The
optimism comes from recent medical research showing that much of the
accepted medical lore about coffee is just plain wrong. Moderate
coffee consumption seems to be more beneficial to health than
otherwise, and even caffeine itself seems to have been given a bad

The gloom comes from the prospect of increasing coffee consumption
chasing decreasing coffee supply. Here, there are three main (and to
some extent intertwining) factors at work, and I'll list them in

First, increasing consumption. The world is becoming more urbanized
and interlinked every day. Coffee growing countries used to export
their premium beans and keep the crap for domestic consumption. This
model no longer works in a world of sophisticated consumers. The
world's largest coffee producer, Brazil, is also one of the world's
largest coffee consumers, and a growing urban middle class means
that consumption is rising every year.

In truth. most countries are seeing consumption increasing as cafes
become a vital part of urban culture everywhere.

Second, disease. Arabica coffee is the world's largest monoculture
crop. 99% of the Arabica grown today is descended from a single
plant, making it an easy target for various diseases and insect
pests. There is simply not enough genetic variation available in the
Arabica genome to provide long term resistance, as has been shown by
the current coffee rust epidemic in Central America.

Finally, and probably most importantly, climate change. Politicians
can argue about it all they like but coffee trees don't have that
luxury. Traditional coffee growing regions around the world are
seeing droughts, storms and growing season changes. Farmers are
changing to crops that are more hardy and more reliable. Some areas
are becoming marginal for coffee growing at all.

As the warmer climate envelopes once cool regions various pests and
diseases follow in its wake. The overall effect of all these factors
is a levelling off of coffee production at a time when more coffee
than ever is being consumed. There is some potential for growth in
untapped South East Asian regions, but that's far in the future.

The other thing that's happening is a heap of investigation into the
properties and genomes of wild coffee species growing in Africa and
Madagascar. Still, if you think about it, it's amazing how much
flavour variation we've accomplished from one single plant. This
month's special is a good example:
Kenya AB Thuti

It has an intense citrus acidity, a smooth mid palate and
distinctive honeycomb aftertaste. Think of lemon and honey and
you'll be close. There won't be a March special so hopefully I've
got enough to stretch.

Until next month


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