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“For the longer term, stenophylla provides us with an important resource for breeding a new generation of climate-resilient coffee crop plants, given that it possesses a great flavor and heat tolerance. If the historic reports of resistance to coffee leaf rust and drought tolerance are found to be correct, this would represent further useful assets for coffee plant breeding,” Davis added.
Leaf rust is a fungal disease that has devastated coffee crops in Central and South America.
The study included flavor assessments involving 18 coffee-tasting experts. Stenophylla was found to have a complex flavor profile, with natural sweetness, medium-high acidity, fruitiness and good “body” — the way it feels in the mouth.
In December 2018, Davis and study co-authors Jeremy Haggar of the University of Greenwich and coffee development specialist Daniel Sarmu searched for stenophylla in the wild. They initially spotted a single plant in central Sierra Leone. About 140 km away in southeastern Sierra Leone, they found a healthy wild stenophylla population.
“Both locations were thick tropical forest, but stenophylla tends to occur on drier, more open areas: ridges, slopes and rocky areas,” Davis said.
Stenophylla had not been seen in the wild in Sierra Leone since 1954, and had not been seen anywhere in Ivory Coast since the 1980s, Davis said. A few examples were held in coffee research collections.
Davis said stenophylla is threatened with extinction amid largescale deforestation in the three countries where it has been known to grow in the wild: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Unlike the red and occasionally yellow fruit of Arabica and robusta plants, stenophylla’s fruit are an intense black. The coffee beans are inside the fruit.
“I think we’re hugely optimistic for the future that stenophylla can bring,” said Jeremy Torz, cofounder of the specialty coffee business Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in East London, where part of the taste-testing was held. (Reuters)
This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.