Humanity consumes a half-trillion cups of coffee annually, yet its method of production is about as far from modern agriculture as one can get. There hasn’t been a major effort to develop a new varietal in 50 years—and that’s made coffee vulnerable.
The two main species grown today are robusta and arabica, the latter being the more flavorful and coveted of the two. Most modern strains of arabica were developed in the late 1960s. Decades later, this aging crop is succumbing to modern scourges like coffee rust fungus and borer beetles, along with oscillating heat and moisture levels.