Sicilian coffee dream a step closer as climate crisis upends farming

The Morettino family had been attempting to grow their own coffee on a small plot of ground in Sicily for more than 30 years. And they’d failed for the previous 30 years.

However, 66 seedlings produced roughly 30kg of coffee last spring, perhaps making the Italian island the world’s northernmost coffee plantation.

Experts warn the climate emergency is irreversibly tropicalizing Sicily’s Mediterranean agriculture, with a temperature of 48.8°C recorded in August at a monitoring post in the south-eastern city of Syracuse, the highest ever recorded in Europe. But it’s a dream come true for Andrea Morettino, whose family has been in the coffee business for a century.

“In the 1990s, my father decided to try planting some coffee plants in our modest garden on the outskirts of Palermo, on ground 350 metres above sea level, after numerous trips across the world. Coffee farms typically reach a height of 1,500 metres above sea level, according to Morettino.

“At first, it was just a basic experiment, but after hundreds of tries, we saw the coffee beans were multiplying, until an ample harvest allowed us to process, dry, and toast them last spring.

“Do you want to hear something even more incredible?” Added he. “The plants were grown without the use of greenhouses or pesticides in the open air. It’s entirely natural. It might be the start of something fresh for us.”

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