There is a focus at the moment on where food comes from, so increasingly our thoughts turn to where our food comes from, and personally we try to avoid buying food that has travelled half-way around the world to reach the supermarket shelves.
However, coffee is not grown in much of Europe, our climate is not right for this plant variety.
We simply don't have the daytime heat, the altitude, the right soil, the cool clean air (you get the message...)
According to coffeeresearch.org the optimum growing conditions are;
For growing Arabica coffee beans, there are two optimal growing climates:
1. The subtropical regions, at high altitudes of 16-24°. Rainy and dry seasons must be well defined, and altitude must be between 1800-3600 feet. These conditions result in one coffee growing season and one maturation season, usually in the coldest part of autumn. Mexico, Jamaica, the S. Paulo and Minas Gerais regions in Brazil, and Zimbabwe are examples of areas with these climate conditions.
2. The equatorial regions at latitudes lower than 10° and altitudes of 3600-6300 feet. Frequent rainfall causes almost continuous flowering, which results in two coffee harvesting seasons. The period of highest rainfall determines the main harvesting period, while the period of least rainfall determines the second harvest season. Because rainfall is too frequent for patio drying to occur, artificial drying with mechanical dryers is performed in this type of coffee growing environment. Examples of countries that have this climate are Kenya, Colombia, and Ethiopia.
Robusta coffee is grown at much lower altitudes (sea level-3000 feet) in an area 10° North and South of the equator. It is much more tolerant to warm conditions than Arabica coffee.
So, how relevant are food miles to coffee?
The product has to be transported and this is usually done in bulk - entire container loads, and due to their weight often sent by sea, thus not regarded as harmful to the environment as air transport (although the debate is inconclusive on this point)
So what do we do?
How can we reduce our carbon footprint?
Can we take steps towards lowering this?
Or do we accept this as a fact of life and not let it bother us?
For perishable food items I use the great food miles tool on OrganicLinker, http://www.organiclinker.com/food-miles.cfm
Is this relevant for coffee? or more relevant to potatos, apples and blueberries than it is to coffee?
Thoughts and debate welcomed.