Starmaya is a coffee that’s stopped us in our brewing and slurping tracks and had us engrossed in genetic diversity and the future of coffee farming.
As Greg Meenahan from World Coffee Research (WCR) put it on his recent trip to Australia for the Single O ‘No Death to Coffee’ project and Starmaya launch, “Starmaya could be a game changer for coffee farmers. It’s the first variety of its kind: An F1 hybrid that is propagated by seed, rather than through costly biotechnology. What it could mean for coffee producers is widespread access to an elite class of varieties that could reshape the industry.”
SPECIAL DELIVERY FOR YOUR ORIGIN BAR
We’re excited to have Starmaya in our hot li’l hands to share with you and our café community as both a single origin and blended in our signature ‘Reservoir’. Produced by Aida Batlle, who also visited Australia in support of No Death To Coffee, it’s the very first Starmaya crop from the Guadalupe Zajú farm, part of WCR’s Global Coffee Monitoring Program, located in Chiapas, Mexico.
Grown under a shade canopy, using great water conservation practices, its taste was described by our coffee buyer Wendy De Jong in Daily Coffee News “It has an orangey lemony acidity and lots of sweet notes, and some mild tropical fruits. It’s just a really nice balanced coffee, especially as espresso. And here’s the clincher – as well as delivering on taste, is has the much-needed traits to deliver higher yields and disease resistance at a crucial time for growers and the industry…
COFFEE’S IN/OUT/TIME PARAMETERS
It’s estimated that by 2050, Earth will need 280 million sacks of coffee, but we’ll have just 180 million. That’s a lotta coffee drinkers scrounging for a morning cup. Demand is growing as emerging markets want in (who can blame them), and we can’t change that, though Phil our Coffee Technician did suggest a new reduced global shot size could help.
But rather, we’ve been delving into what can be done on the supply side; As one of the founding members of World Coffee Research eight years ago, Wendy has been enthusiastically following new initiatives in coffee agricultural science that could help improve yields and make coffee farming more viable, one of these projects being the development of F1 hybrids, including Starmaya.
COFFEE SEX, NEW BARISTA SMALL TALK?
In coffee, as in other crops, F1 hybrid varieties are created by crossing genetically distinct parents, so, in the case of Starmaya, a wild Ethiopian variety x Marsellesa. In simple terms, it’s a molecular breeding process (not GMO!), with humans facilitating good ol’ fashioned plant sex. The offspring of the cross are first-generation (F1) hybrids and they tend to have higher production than non-hybrids, while maintaining high cup quality and disease resistance.
One of the main considered drawbacks of F1s in coffee until recently was limited reproduction in specialist nurseries…however the discovery that Starmaya could be propagated by seed represents a major breakthrough in coffee breeding, suggesting more widespread production of F1 hybrids – great news for getting into the hands of farmers who need them.
EXTRA HOT COFFEE; ANOTHER REASON FOR F1s
Heat is causing a lot of concern for coffee, and we’re not talking grinders heating up. F1s including Starmaya are needed now more than ever in the face of climate change. Coffee is facing a temperature challenge crisis with WCR predictions that 79% of currently suitable coffee areas will face hottest-month maximums of 30°C, well above the optimum average temperature range for Arabica at 18-21°C. Climate change – with extra heat, heavy rain and unpredictable weather patterns are all recipes for lowered yields and onset of increased plant diseases. It’s been heartbreaking to watch and hear about the growing Roya (Coffee Leaf-Rust) epidemic since 2012. And with that, to know that, as Greg Meenahan puts it, “Today’s coffee varieties are no match for the environmental threats of the 21st century. Bourbon is not gonna cut it in the future.”
So we are stoked to bring you new climate-resilient, future-loving F1s; Starmaya, and stay tuned for our origin feature, Marsellesa, also featuring in Killerbee plus if you’re drinking Paradox, it’s had an extra-goodness boost with Centroamericano.
For a plant that gives us daily delicousness, craft, passion and community, we’re pleased to have given it a little bit back through the awareness project No Death To Coffee, along with being a part of the World Coffee Research Check-Off program.
Taste Starmaya in our cafes throughout November, along with cafes we supply, or grab a pack online here.
Oh, and a big thanks to Professor Graham King and the crew at Southern Cross University for showing us ’round WCR’s International Multilocation Variety Trial. Keep us posted on the progress of those seedlings in the field!