We’ve all heard the reports that by 2080 Arabica coffee beans could be extinct. Not only that but factors like drought, coffee rust, and fungal disease are driving up the costs of those precious beans in Brazil. For us coffee lovers, the days may seem limited. But, with new research in California, there is hope that someday farmers can get beans harvested in countries not known for usually growing.
Jay Ruskey is the first farmer to grow coffee commercially in the continental US as part of Good Land Organics in Santa Barbara, California. Ruskey’s operation happens to be close to the ocean and that provides enough moisture to grow a handful of coffee varieties. Ruskey has also been in investigations with avocado farmers on the possibility of growing the two crops together have they use the same fertilizer, same amount of water and both hail from Central America.
Even further up north, a new coffee research hub at UC Davis’ has professors like Juana Medrana studying the genetics of Panamanian beans to understand how the beans are harvested at different temperatures and altitudes with different tastes and aromas. Grist reports that Medrana plans to study Ruskey’s coffee bean varieties from Good Land Organics in the lab sometime in the near future.
Could California be the saving grace of the coffee trade? It’s full of smaller operations now, and even if Ruskey’s efforts provide few good results, these studies and trials can offer better insight into studying disease resistance in coffee beans. Sammy Venegas leads the crew of workers who harvest the beans at Good Land Organics and says he only picks the reddest beans. “The redder the bean, the better the flavor,” Venegas explains in Spanish. “It’s perfect to drink.” Venegas comes from a family line of people who plant and harvest coffee in Oaxaca.
With all of these efforts to harvest and learn more about coffee beans in California, it might not be too long before American coffee lovers can exclusively purchase domestic roasts.