Climate change has a lot in store for menus, with coffee, sushi and chocolate in its crosshairs

Take note if your menu features sushi, coffee, gin and tonics, chocolate cake, and other popular items.

Climate change has an effect on the availability and flavor of these and other ingredients that chefs and menu developers value or consider indispensable. Drought, heat waves, and other weather-related forces are increasing, negatively impacting the quality and quantity of crops and livestock.

During a recent episode of the Menu Feed podcast, Michael P. Hoffmann, professor emeritus at Cornell University and co-author of “Our Changing Menu,” explained what’s happening and what operators can do about it. His insights may alter the way restaurants and foodservice providers create menus in the future.

Coffee, chocolate, and wine are popular among consumers and restaurants. How are they endangered?
Coffee is highly vulnerable to new pests that thrive in warmer and drier conditions. The coffee-growing regions are not receiving as much precipitation as they once did, which is affecting yield and flavor. 40% to 50% of the cacao used in the production of chocolate is sourced from West Africa. There, shifting conditions make it more difficult for farmers to cultivate and harvest cacao beans.

In a survey conducted by Hoffmann and co-authors, respondents were asked to compare their interest in coffee, chocolate, beer, and wine. Hoffman stated, “They were most concerned about the first two.” “I was surprised because I enjoy wine, and high temperatures in California are affecting the acidity, flavor, and aroma of wine grapes. We will continue to produce wine, but in the future we will cultivate grape varieties that are more resistant to climate change.”

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