Craters and Cups: A Volcanic Eruption's Impact on Coffee

Volcanoes’ views are often fascinating and pleasant to the eye. However, behind the breathtaking scenery is a land formation that can possibly be devastating to humans and other living organisms. In the last couple of months, volcanic activities have emerged around the world. A volcano in White Island, New Zealand erupted last December 9, 2019, which resulted in casualties. Days after, the Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines also erupted, causing billions of damages to agriculture. As of January 20, 2020, the volcano is still on Alert Level 4. Human health and lives are greatly affected when volcanoes erupt. Furthermore, such instances can also cause severe harm to agriculture, mainly to the coffee industry.

A bitter impact

History tells us that volcanic eruptions can be costly for coffee farmers. During a Kilauea eruption in Hawaii, 4000 acres of sugar and one coffee plantation were destroyed. In the recent Taal volcano eruption, damages amounting to 73.6 million Philippine pesos or around 1.5 million USD were recorded (Rappler, 2020). It can be agreed upon that volcanic eruptions can ruin coffee production, but how much of an impact do they really bring?

According to Volcanic Ashfall Impacts Working Group, volcanic ash can trigger two types of damages on crops such as coffee: snapping of stem/branch and acid rain. Once volcanic ash covers plants, it becomes an additional weight on leaves, stems, and branches. As volcanic ash tends to cover objects in a large amount, its impact would cause crops and trees to break or snap.

Another effect of volcanic eruptions on coffee plants is acid rain. When rainfall interacts with volcanic gas or ash, acid rain tends to form. If acid rain is absorbed by the soil, plants such as coffee trees get dehydrated. Hydration issues on plants can diminish the quality of fruits, such as coffee beans.

 On the flip side

Although they can cause terrible damages to crops when erupting, volcanoes can also enhance the quality of fruits when they are inactive. According to Volcano Café, volcanic soil has qualities that would benefit coffee beans. Slopes present on volcanoes also improve runoff and drainage for plants. Coffee beans produced in volcanic regions are said to be slightly more mineralized and flavorful than those grown in non-volcanic areas. Several regions including Guatemala and Yemen produce their coffee near volcanic areas, and the quality of their beans are considered superb.

 Weighing up

Growing coffee near volcanoes has both an advantage and a disadvantage. Although volcanic soil can improve the quality of coffee beans, eruptions can completely destroy them through volcanic ash and acid rain. Wherever it is produced, the nourishment of coffee beans should always be at the top of the list. After all, it is with proper treatment that would give the coffee beans the best quality they could have.