Sunday, January 20, 2019

...Then They Came For The Coffee.

      Look, when it was just snail darters and polar bears, I worried, but not so much.  But now they're warning that wild coffee may be in trouble, and that's a whole different thing.

     We don't so much drink the wild stuff, and it's not quite as bad a dead-end as the banana,* but there are only two main branches of the coffee family we drink; all of the lovely different kinds are just little variations on one or the other, grown in different soils and conditions, roasted differently and occasionally specially sorted (Tanzanian peaberry) or passed through a civet cat (no, really).  The wild relatives are used to breed in resistance to disease or pests, or to get a different flavor.  The seeds don't store well, so you need places where the stuff grows wild.
* There have only been two varieties of dessert banana sold in the U.S. and each one was essentially a cloned plant.  The Gros Michel was gone by the end of the 1950s, all but eliminated by Panama disease.  It was replaced by the Cavendish and if you're under 50 years old and haven't traveled, Cavendish may be the only dessert banana you have ever tasted.  Panama disease is going after Cavendish bananas now; there's a disease-resistant Gros Michel under development but you might bear in mind that the old song, "Yes, We Have No Bananas" refers to some of the earliest banana crop shortfalls in the 1920s -- and, perhaps, to the power of positive thinking!


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

My guess? Another made up crisis. They've done this so often before now that I have lost all trust in them. I am jaded and cynical.

Well, more.

The 'experts' have turned me into... a MISSOURIAN!

fillyjonk said...

Older relatives of mine claim "Bananas used to be lots better" and I wonder if they had been eating the Gros Michel ones. (My grandmother - she's been gone nearly 30 years, was born in 1897 - used to say that "Bananas were better back in the 30s" so maybe there's something to that)

Will said...

The current banana is not as good as the earlier version. Some years back, I was complaining to a sister about them going bad almost instantly when they ripened, and she pointed out they were not our childhood banana, and that these were ripe while still showing green.

"The History Guy" put out a video this past week on the banana story.
Neat channel. 5 to 15 minute videos that are very well done.

No link, as that seems to kill comments I leave on your blog.

Jeffrey Smith said...

What brand of Tanzanian peaberry do you use? I got the loose bean version carried by the local Fresh Market, which seems to be the only place in South Florida that has it, and wasn't that impressed by it.
Blue Mountain for me.
But I have to admit Fresh Market's coffees don't seem as good as they were when I started with them.

Roberta X said...

Jeffery, I buy it a Fresh Mart occasionally. The bulk bean coffee sold anywhere is very dependent on the store keeping after it -- if it sits in the self-service containers too long, the flavor goes away. I'm also not a fan of the in-store coffee grinders, since you always get a little bit of what other people have bought.

The general consensus is that that Gros Michel was a better-tasting banana. Perhaps the version they're working on now will taste as good.

NJT: subsistence and low-income agriculture is a problem for wild plants. Most wild coffee grows in places where people are pretty poor. This doesn't bode well. Is it as bad as the BBC's source claims? I don't know.

pigpen51 said...

I have heard of the coffee beans that pass through the civet cat. What I don't know of is who is the first person who tries this sort of thing? There are other foodstuffs of this sort that no one in their supposedly right mind would consider as a food, and yet it is prized as a delicacy in foody circles.
I have a friend from my working days, I have known him for over 35 years, and he buys his coffee beans from the internet. He pays a lot for them, I don't remember how much, but much more than what you would pay for the most expensive ones in a store. He doesn't buy the kind passed through the digestive tract of a cat, but he does buy expensive beans. I guess that we all have things that we like, that we will spend our money on. It might be going to movies, or nice clothes or guns and bullets, or whatever. But most of us living in America have to admit that if we really want something, we find the money to pay for it. Who in our country does not have a flat screen television of one type or another, in their home, if not two of them?
Actually, I have seen shows where nomads in Mongolia have yurts, and are nomads, but also have satellite dishes and televisions in their yurts. While famine is still with us, and most likely will always be a problem, for the most part, modern farming techniques seem to have eliminated most of the starving children commercials that I used to remember from my youth. Even accounting for graft and corruption, we are feeding more people with fewer acres than ever before. At what cost, I don't know. But I am sure that starving to death is a horrible way to die.