Are Climate Conditions Affecting Coffee?

A new study suggests changing climate conditions might be affecting the taste, aroma, and overall quality of coffee.

Trends found by researchers from Tufts and Montana State University indicated that farms at higher altitudes were associated with better coffee flavor and aroma, while too much light exposure was associated with a decrease in coffee quality.

“A subpar cup of coffee has economic implications as well as sensory ones,” said Sean Cash, an economist and senior author of the study, published in Frontiers in Plant Science. “Factors that influence coffee production have great impacts on buyers’ interest, the price of coffee, and ultimately the livelihoods of the farmers who grow it,”

Cash noted that climate change impacts are already causing both economic and political disruption in may parts of the world.  “If we can understand the science of these changes, we might help farmers and other stakeholders better manage coffee production in the face of this and future challenges,” he said.

Several key findings from the review include:

  • Geography: Cultivating coffee in different geographic areas was associated with variation of key secondary metabolites, driving coffee quality
  • Altitude: Twelve articles used in the study found that cultivating coffee at increased altitude was associated with an increase in sensory attributes
  • Light Exposure:  Eight of the 12 articles examining effects of increased light exposure on sensory attributes of coffee found a decrease in coffee quality
  • Temperature: Four articles found that coffee grown under increased temperature resulted in an increase in sensory attributes, while three found a decrease
  • Water Stress: The nine articles that examined the effects of water stress on coffee quality demonstrate mixed evidence. Two articles found increased sensory attributes with increased water stress, while one article found both an increase and decrease in coffee quality


Meanwhile, some companies are working on – and already have come up with – coffee made without any java beans at all. Learn more about these innovations in our FI Small Bites video “Coffee-less Coffee”.