New Glimpse Into A World Without Coffee

New Glimpse Into A World Without Coffee

The last time we looked at the future of coffee, it was pretty bleak. Coffee is often termed the “Goldilocks” of crops, thriving only in a “just right” combination of altitude, temperature, and rainfall. This delicate balance is often found in a narrow band in the highlands of countries like Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Indonesia — and will be among the first to be upset by climate change. 

Add to this the projected conversion of many of the world’s tea drinkers to java culture, and coffee is going to crash very hard, very soon. In an article co-published by Grist and Slate, author L.V. Anderson looks at the state of coffee substitute startups that are clamouring for their spot when the apocalypse comes. Gone are the days of chicory and Postum; tomorrow’s fake coffee is found in lupin beans, date pits, and leftover coffee fruit pulp. And everyone is promising a caffeine jolt to rival the real thing.

“In trying to explain what makes today’s beanless coffees different from the oldfangled kind, David Klingen, Northern Wonder’s CEO, compared the relationship to the one between modern meat substitutes and more traditional soybean products like tofu and tempeh. Many plant-based meats contain soybeans, but they’re highly processed and combined with other ingredients to create a convincing meat-like texture and flavor. So it is with beanless coffee, relative to Caro-style grain beverages. Klingen emphasized that he and his colleagues mapped out the attributes of various ingredients — bitterness, sweetness, smokiness, the ability to form a foam similar to the crema that crowns a shot of espresso — and tried to combine them in a way that produced a well-rounded coffee facsimile, then added caffeine.”

Another big promise is sustainability, with each company course-correcting different problematic aspects of coffee production. (For example: One uses European ingredients to prevent tropical deforestation, another repurposes agricultural waste like the abovementioned date pits.) Anderson even taste tests a few that are currently on the market: While definitely not coffee,  there’s no outright dud in the bunch. We’ll see if these coffee innovations end up tasting even better when the world starts falling down around us!