Bitter Aftertaste

Truth About Some Coffees

  • Laura Tangley
  • Aug 01, 2003
NEXT TIME you take a coffee break, consider where that cup of java came from. If the coffee is robusta—the kind usually found in instant coffee and the large cans used by offices—it may be contributing to tropical deforestation and the loss of wildlife species such as elephants and tigers.

In a study published in Science, researchers from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society report that falling global coffee prices have boosted the crop’s production in Indonesia’s Lampung Province, the nation’s leading robusta-growing region. As a result, between 1996 and 2001, the amount of land cleared for coffee increased by 28 percent in the province—where more than half of all coffee production takes place in and near Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, one of the world’s last refuges for imperiled elephants, rhinos and Sumatran tigers.

The researchers say the United States can help by participating in the International Coffee Organization and advocating certification programs that make coffee more wildlife friendly. Consumers can pitch in by purchasing “green” coffee, which, in addition to benefiting wildlife, gives farmers fair prices for their crops.

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