Coffee is not essential to life, but for coffee lovers it is as life-sustaining as water. No wonder it is called a legal drug. Honoré de Balzac produced a prodigious amount of writing—85 novels in 20 years—with his 50 cups a day. But today, the miraculous bean is facing its biggest crisis, with climate change affecting yield and a fungus called la roya, or the coffee rust that thrives on free moisture and warmer temperatures, evolving with each outbreak.
In 2014, as la roya raged across Central America, 70% of coffee fields took a hit. Yields plunged, 500,000 people lost jobs and losses totalled approximately $1 billion (around Rs6,400 crore now). Today, demand far outstrips supply. The only exception is Ethiopia. Ethiopians don’t even have a local name for coffee rust—the plant disease is hardly a threat there. This is the idea that food writer Jeff Koehler explores in his latest book, Where The Wild Coffee Grows. For him, the solution to a coffee crisis lies in Kafa, a province in Ethiopia where the first fruit grew.