By Peter Lawrence Kane

If you sometimes find yourself masochistically hate-reading really depressing news about climate change over your morning cup of coffee, here’s some more: The next victim might be that coffee itself.

There is a malevolent – if sexily named – fungus called coffee rust that is destroying coffee crops across Latin America. Worse, it disproportionately affects Arabica coffee, which as the best-tasting, least-caffeinated, and most commonly grown species of coffee, forms the backbone of Third Wave drip and just about everybody’s morning routine. 

How bad is it? Rainy weather spreads rust spores, and it’s been very rainy down south, so the government is already getting involved. US Agency for International Development is working with Texas A&M’s World Coffee Research Center to get rid of coffee rust through fungicides and by breeding resistant strains of coffee trees. It’s not so much an act of kindness or a strategy to prevent an armed revolution of baristas as to make sure that coffee-dependent economies in Latin America don’t become destabilized and impoverished. In the meantime, as coffee rust spreads, large American companies are starting to run out of options to source their beans from Central America’s prized regions.

So if you’re already wincing at what you pay for that Finca Zulema from Sightglass, you might soon wind up shelling out even more. Or, worse, cafes might have to adulterate their high-end coffees with inferior varieties. Turns out the bourbon emergency and the lime crisis aren’t the only shortages of an absolutely necessary commodity that we have to worry about right now.

Photo via Thinkstock

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