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Coffee news: scientists re-discover a rare wild coffee plant

Some big news for the world of coffee this week. Scientists have re-discovered a rare wild coffee that was previously thought to be almost extinct. Why is this so exciting? The more diversity in plants the better, as it helps guard the species against extremes of climate and environment. Having more varieties available helps give greater protection against a poor harvest.

The current coffee market relies on two types of coffee, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is more difficult to grow and has a smaller yield so is more expensive. It’s often blended with the cheaper Robusta. The new variety, Coffea stenophylla, has the advantages of growing at warmer temperatures and being more resistant to drought.

Dr Aaron Davis, who has the fantastic job of being head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says that although other wild coffees exist they don’t normally taste great. The Stenophylla, however, tasted ‘amazing’. When a panel of coffee connoisseurs tasted Stenophylla against Arabica, over 80% of the judges couldn’t tell the difference between the two. This is great news for the coffee industry.

Until recently, experts thought that Stenophylla was extinct outside the Ivory Coast. Some specimens were, however, discovered growing wild in Sierra Leone where it was grown commercially as a crop up to a hundred years ago. Scientists will plant some seedlings later this year so that they can start to study Stenophylla’s potential as a commercial crop. Dr Davis warns that we won’t be seeing it on the shelves any time soon but we could see it starting to make an appearance as a specialty coffee in the next five years or so.

If you can’t yet get your hands on any Stenophylla, you can still order our fantastic wholesale coffee beans from our range, all available at competitive wholesale prices. Just visit the coffee beans section of our website to find out more.

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