Viroqua coffee company: Climate change reduces access to certain coffee flavors

Cost of shipping coffee to the United States has doubled recently, according to Wonderstate Coffee

VIROQUA (WKBT) — According to the consumer price index, the price of coffee has surged nearly 16 percent nationwide since June 2021.

The Wonderstate Coffee roastery in Viroqua processes 2,000 to 3,000 coffee beans a day, said co-owner and President TJ Semanchin.

The cost of shipping coffee to the United States has doubled recently, said Semanchin, who said Wonderstate sources coffee beans from Latin America and Africa.

Co-owner Caleb Nicholes said the company maintains relationships with growers in a variety of countries.

“It’s a privilege and it’s something we do with a lot of care and intention,” he said.

According to Nicholes, certain types of coffee no loonger are being grown to the extent they once were because of climate change.

“There’s more and more varieties of coffee that you know people have planted now that are more climate-resilient,” he said.

“But those same varieties don’t have the kind of unique flavor that we’re looking for,” he added.

Nicholes said two types of coffee from Colombia — Caturra and borbón — have become less available due to funguses and other plant ailments. He said a fungus called “Roya” in 2008 caused these types of coffees to decline.

“Roya” is the Spanish word for rust. According to the website of Conservation International, “unpredictable rainfall and rising global temperatures fueled by climate change are causing coffee-leaf rust to reproduce more quickly.”

“Those Caturras and borbón heirloom varieties were then pulled out as they died with that fungus and replanted with a new hybridized variety called Castillo,” Nicholes said.

Nicholes said the presence of Castillo’s flavor in Colombia’s coffee yield has become widespread. Nicholes said Castillo is a lower-quality coffee flavor that contains a dry, edgy after-taste.

“Over 80 percent of all the coffee grown in [Colombia] is of that new hybridized variety which I attribute directly to climate change,” he said.

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