Coffee is grown in more than 70 countries around the world.
These countries include Brazil, Colombia, India and Vietnam to name just a few. So, why can’t coffee grow in the UK?
Here in the UK, we love coffee; in fact, we love it so much that 70 million cups are drunk each day. However, unfortunately, we will never be able to grow coffee in this country.
For instance, for Arabica coffee to grow, the conditions need to be perfect. While some of these conditions are found within the UK, others are still lacking.
Below we take a look at what’s needed to grow coffee, and answer the question, ‘why can’t coffee grow in the UK?’
Why Can’t Coffee Grow In The UK – The Impact of Temperature and Altitude
Arabica beans need a consistent temperature of between 13 to 26 degrees Celsius. Although you will find these temperatures during some months in the UK, coffee doesn’t just need a warm temperature to grow.
Coffee plants need to be grown at between 500 to 1900 metres above sea level to ensure a successful harvest. If coffee is grown any lower, pests and parasites can damage the plants. Even if the coffee was to be grown at the correct altitude here in the UK, the cold temperature found at that altitude would quickly damage and kill off the coffee plant. Even if you managed to get all of the above correct, the next problem would be processing the cherries.
If somehow your coffee plant did end up producing green beans, your next step would be to dry them.
In countries where coffee is grown, drying takes place on either concrete patios or specially designed raised beds. Coffee is usually dried over a period of around 14 days where the green beans are turned at regular intervals to ensure even drying. Countries with warm climates are ideal for drying coffee beans as they need consistently high temperatures to dry correctly.
So Why Can’t We Dry Coffee In the UK?
Unfortunately here in the UK, our climate is anything but warm! It’s unlikely that temperatures here would stay consistently high to allow the beans to dry appropriately. Also, the drop in temperature at night would cause extra moisture in the beans meaning they wouldn’t ever dry properly.
Although growing coffee in a greenhouse would give it that consistent temperature, it would miss out on the rainfall that it needs to survive. There would be a very low chance of any coffee crop growing in a greenhouse, and if it did, the result would be disappointing.
Talking of rainfall, coffee needs around 60-90 inches of rainfall a year to ensure it grows successfully. Anything less than 60 inches will produce a much smaller yield and will affect the health of the plant.
If a coffee plant receives more than 90 inches of rainfall a year, other issues may arise. Waterlogged roots occur when a plant receives too much rainfall, and as the name suggests, the roots become waterlogged. These roots are prone to disease and rot. Even if sufficient drainage is in place, high precipitation can lead to deadly diseases such as coffee leaf rust.
Humidity plays a huge part in coffee growth. Too little humidity will cause the beans to dry out, whereas too much humidity can cause mould growth. Humidity levels can also be an issue when storing coffee.
Ideal humidity levels are around 70-90%
Coffee plants require direct sunlight for around 2 hours every day. If the plant is exposed to direct sunlight for too long, it can cause it to dry out. To tackle this, farmers use shade growing methods, where trees around the farm are used to protect the plant from constant sunlight.
The plant receives its required sunlight, and as the sun moves across the sky, the trees protect the plant. This not only reduces the risk of the plant drying out, but it also helps to preserve local wildlife such as birds.
The Bean Belt
When asked ‘why can’t coffee grow in the UK?’ there is one key element which you must consider. You will see that when looking at all the coffee growing countries on a map, they can be found in what is known as the ‘Bean Belt’. This is the belt around the world in between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
As mentioned above, coffee plants need plenty of rain, sun and shade to grow properly. All the countries that can be found in the ‘Bean Belt’ have an ideal climate for growing coffee. They also have a distinct dry season, which is crucial for the workers who need to harvest and dry the cherries during this time.
So, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing a single origin UK coffee anytime soon! We’ll just stick to growing fruit and veg instead.