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Ethiopian wild coffee
Photo by Emblema

I’m not a coffee “connoisseur”, like probably the majority of those who read my blog, but I can certainly tell apart a cup of instant coffee from one made out of recently ground coffee beans. And I can also tell if I’m drinking Folgers canned coffee or Ethiopian coffee, pretty much as I can differentiate orange juice from a bottle from juice coming of freshly squeezed fruit. Colombian and Kenyan coffee taste different to me too.
However the subtle difference between coffees that come from close regions or if a coffee is wild or cultivated, escape to me. An expert can certainly tell which is which.
I love coffee, but unfortunately for me, I can’t drink it very often due to a chronic stomach condition, so the rare occasions I taste a cup are a treat. I don’t know why, but when I was in Ethiopia, I drank coffee everyday with no major consequences;  maybe my stomach agrees with the Ethiopian varieties!
Anyway, I was reading the other day that mainly due to climate change and big companies planting coffee to obtain huge profits, wild Ethiopian coffee is doomed to become extinguished as also are other wild African coffees.
There are two main varieties of coffee, “garden” and “forest”. The first one is the one that has been planted to be harvested in large quantities, and the second one, is the one that naturally grows in a coffee region. No more than 5% of the whole production comes from forest coffee, maybe even less, depending on who you ask and what he considers truly forest coffee.
Forest or “wild” coffee is native to Ethiopia and has been harvested for hundreds of years by the local population.
The loss of wild coffee is troublesome, not only for the loss of “exotic” flavors, but specially for biodiversity. Once a variety is lost, is lost forever, and with it other series of species that somehow depend of it.
Recently, forest coffee has been exploited more and more, and to do that and get more beans from the plants, the forest is cleared of other plants that live under the canopy of the coffee trees. The whole system is altered, many species can’t survive the intense harvesting, including the wild coffee trees. Plants and animals disappear, soil degrades, and in the end, nothing remains. Local people obviously need a way to make a living, but maybe they will need to find a way to better manage the resources, so in years to come, the source of their money remains available.
Regarding the global warming, that is much more difficult to control only from Ethiopia.
I don’t know the answer to this problem, maybe allowing certain forests to remain wild, untouched and harvest others? Or alternate harvesting from one forest to the other? Or gathering seeds from the forest trees and replanting them in a place more suitable for heavy harvesting without harming the original forest?
But a solution must be found if they want to keep the wild varieties of coffee alive and well for years to come.
I invite you to take a look at this beautiful photo gallery from Emblema. I also leave you some links if you are interested to investigate more about the subject.

Links:

Coffee is not dead – but it is losing its wild side The Guardian
The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities article
Emma Bladyka Writes About South Sudan WCR Expedition World Coffee Reasearch
How “wild” is Ethiopian forest coffee? Coffee Habitat. com
Wild coffee production in Ethiopia: the role of coffee certification for forest conservation (.PDF) by Christine Schmitt and Ulrike Grote
Wild Ethiopian Coffee: Harvesting the Perks of an Indigenous Crop World Watch.org
Harenna Forest Wild Coffee Slow Food Foundation
Ethiopia Wild Coffee – photo gallery by Emblema, photojournalism in Italy

 

alicia
AliciA