Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. But it takes a lot of plants to produce the world’s coffee supply each year. This production process is having lasting environmental effects.
Farmers seeking to expand have to cut down old trees. In addition, many old coffee farms are not producing as many beans because of warming temperatures linked to climate change.
This leads coffee bean growers to move higher up hills and mountains in search of cooler areas to plant new trees. Cutting down old trees in order to plant new crops or build homes is called deforestation. And deforestation, along with the burning of fossil fuels, is a leading cause of climate change.
The effects of coffee production on the environment have led one company to create a “beanless” version of the drink. The Seattle-based company is called Atomo Coffee. It has already received more than $50 million in investments.
Atomo’s product tastes like coffee and is prepared in the same way – by pouring water over a fine grind. But it is not made with beans. It is instead made with plant material, such as seeds from a date. Caffeine for the product comes from waste during a process used to remove caffeine from tea.
"Coffee is causing deforestation at a pretty alarming rate - almost up to 10 (New York) Central Parks a day," Andy Kleitsch recently told Reuters. Kleitsch started Atomo Coffee about five years ago. He said the world’s coffee “machine” never stops, it is “always looking for more land, and that’s what we’re trying to stop.”
Studies show that by 2050, about half the land currently used to grow coffee could be unproductive.
Atomo hopes to do for coffee what engineered meat products such as Beyond Meat have done for meat alternatives.
The company has been testing out a kind of coffee called “cold brew.” It uses over 90 percent less water than regular coffee and is produced with reduced carbon pollution as well. The company is also in the process of making a hot coffee product.
Atomo hopes coffee shops will consider offering its beanless coffee to buyers who show interest in the product.
But the beanless version comes with a cost. Atomo’s coffee will sell for about $20 for one half kilogram. Regular coffee is usually $10 to $14 for the same amount.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by Reuters.
Words in This Story
fossil fuel –n. fuel, such as coal or gas, that is formed in the earth from dead plants or animals
caffeine–n. a substance found in coffee or tea that makes you feel awake
alarming –adj. information that creates concern or a feeling of danger
rate –n. the speed at which something happens over time
alternative –adj. not usual or traditional
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