Volcano coffee

As has been noted here, little is known about people living near volcanoes which had a VEI-7 eruption. But we do know something about Tambora. The slope of Tambora, on the Sangar peninsula of the island of Sumbawa, was home to the Kingdom of Tambora. The kingdom had been mainly located some distance from the sea (to avoid pirates) and this put it directly in the pyroclastic flows: nothing remained. It was a small kingdom, with a language which was different from that of other groups on Subawa, possibly originating from Flores. Their region was described as ‘barren’ and dependent on vigorous trade, mainly obtained from the forest. One of their trading products was coffee, a highly valuable commodity in the 18th century. Coffee is still grown here. The link between coffee and volcanoes is re-established even after an area is wiped clean by such a massive eruption. Here is a repost about that essential commodity for volcanoes and volcano watchers alike: coffee.

Coffee growing on Kilimanjaro

Coffee plantation near Kilimanjaro.
This post will explore the compelling combination of volcanoes and caffeine, and uncover the roots of the culture of coffee.

Volcanoes can be costly. The Kilauea eruption of Feb 28, 1955 destroyed 21 houses, 10km of road, 4000 acres of sugar plantations and one coffee plantation: the damage was 40 million dollar in today’s prices. The cost of Mount St Helens was 1 billion dollar. Both events were eclipsed by Eyjafjallajokull: its price tag of 5 billion dollars was almost entirely due to the flight ban. Eruptions in poorer countries are cheaper, but can still cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollar. Volcanoes may not be the most expensive environmental hazard (hurricane Sandy cost the US 65 billion dollar), but they are nonetheless a risky possession.

But all volcanic damage is recovered by a single product. The world spends 90 billion dollar each year on coffee, a crop that for quality depends on those volcanoes. For developing countries, coffee is the second most valuable export (after oil, based on data from 2000. This statistic is often misquoted as coffee being the second most traded commodity in the world – it is about number 110 by this measure, still respectable for a snack.) Over 75 million people, many in rural, low income areas, owe their employment to coffee. But, just as you can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg, you can’t grow coffee without breaking a mountain.

The plant and its origin

The word ‘coffee’ immortalises the kingdom of Kaffa. It was located in the southwest of current Ethiopia; the local people were known as Kaffichos. Here the coffee plant was first domesticated, sometime before 1300 AD. Southwest Ethiopia is one of eight areas in the world where agriculture was developed independently, and it has had some unique crops. For instance, ensete, a banana like plant of which the tuber is eaten, was domesticated here. From Kaffa, coffee cultivation spread north-east to Harrar. From Harrar the coffee plant was taken to Yemen. This may have happened as late as 1400 AD: the oldest known references to coffee drinking date from around 1450. It became used as a stimulant, and the growing of coffee bushes spread rapidly in Yemen during the 15th century. The rest is history!

(As an aside, this history is not universally accepted. Some people argue that the word coffee comes from an arabic word for ‘wine’, or from a semitic word for ‘dark’. Others argue that the word ‘bun’ used in a 10th century document refers to coffee, either the bean or the tree. Both seem speculative. There is general agreement that the story about an Ethiopian sheep herder discovering coffee by seeing his sheep eat the fruits and becoming more active as a result is mythology.)

The plant family which includes coffee is found in tropical Africa, Madagascar, the Comoros, and the two volcanic islands Mauritius and Reunion which were seeded by plants from Madagascar. The genus ‘Coffea’ contains 125 separate species, most of which are evergreens hiding in humid tropical forests. Only three of the species are used for coffee: Coffea canephora, Coffea arabica and Coffea liberica. Coffee is now grown on every continent, except for Europe which is too cold and Antarctica which is even colder.

Coffea species

Distribution map of Coffea showing location of groups. UG = Upper Guinea, including species such as C. humilis and stenophylla; LG/C = Lower Guinea Congolian, including species closely related to C. cenaphora, such as congensis ; E-CA = East-Central Africa; EA =East Africa, including C. eugenioides, C. kivuensis and C. anthonyi; Mad = Madagascan species; MAS = Mascarene (Mauritius and Reunion). From Maurin et al, Ann Bot. 2007, vol. 100, p.1565. Click for full resolution

Coffea arabica accounts for over 60% of the world’s coffee. It is a natural hybrid, but the parentage is a bit uncertain. One parent is probably C. eugenioides (a rather variable plant from the highlands of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya), but some genetic evidence suggests a closely related but different species, perhaps C. brevipes (Cameroon) or C. anthonyi. The second parent is probably C. canephora, but may also be a related species such as C. congensis. C. arabica has limited genetic diversity, and the hybridization may have been a relatively recent accident which happened only once.

Coffea arabica is self-pollinating and therefore malleable. Selective breeding over more than 500 years has yielded many different varieties. However, the plant is not particularly strong, perhaps because of the lack of genetic diversity and selective breeding, and can suffer badly from disease. A major outbreak of the coffee rust fungus in Indonesia wiped out much of its arabica plantations in the late 1800’s. C. canephora, at that time known as C. robusta, was found to be a much stronger, disease resistant plant, and was planted instead. It produces a lesser quality coffee. Coffee made from C. canephora is still known as robusta coffee. The Indonesian tests also found that C. humilis (a dwarf species from the Ivory Coast) had a very good, sweet coffee bean, but subsequently this plant disappeared from the test collections.

The coffee family

Coffee varieties

Source: http://sprudge.com/variety. Click for full resolution

Coffee comes in five main types, each of which has many different varieties, shown in the coffee tree figure above. The five types are:

  • Typica. An arabica, originally from Yemen. Very popular and widely grown. Famous varieties include Kona and Blue Mountain. All Typica varieties are believed to have come from one or two plants grown in Amsterdam in the early 1700’s, which were subsequently taken to Indonesia.
  • Bourbon, Another arabica from Yemen. It spread to Central America via Reunion where it was imported in 1715 (Reunion was called Ile de Bourbon at the time). It has a somewhat higher yield than Typica.
  • Ethiopian varieties. There are a large number of local varieties, which can be difficult to get hold of.
  • Robusta. These can withstand high temperatures and are grown at low altitudes in the tropics. There are several named varieties but the product is normally just sold as robusta coffee.
  • Liberica. These coffees are not widely produced, in part because the C. liberica plant is inconveniently large (an 18 meter tall tree) and in part because liberica is not as good a coffee. Barako is a liberica coffee from the Philippines.
  • From these five types stems a rich variety of coffees, some excellent, some with an impressive name, and a few with both. Blue Mountain is a well-known Typica (arabica), grown in Jamaica. Colombia is a hybrid robusta-arabica originally from Timor; the robusta parent makes it suspect to some afficionados. Red Bourbon is not surprisingly a Bourbon (the colour refers to the bean: other colours also exist). Peaberry is not a particular variety but a bean shape: coffee cherries normally contain two beans. About 5% (the peaberries) have only one, and the bean becomes rounder as a result; double beans are flattened on the facing sides.

    Growing coffee

    Robusta can be grown anywhere with a tropical climate. C. arabica is more picky: it is a tropical mountain plant, growing above 500-1000 meters, which demands cooler temperatures of 15-25C year round, with cool nights. A rainy season is needed in the growing and flowering season: 150-200mm per month is good. But the fruiting requires a dry season lasting three months. Frost is devastating to either plant.

    The map below depicts the ‘bean belt’, showing where robusta and arabica (or both) are grown. The locations where C. arabica is grown coincide with regions of volcanic activity. Non-volcanic regions mainly produce robusta. Arabica is the phoenix of the floral kingdom: it thrives on volcanic soils.

    Coffee growing regions

    Top: types of coffee; bottom: the world’s volcanoes

    As a forest plant, C. arabica likes to have shade and shelter. Banana plants are excellent for this: their large leaves provide shade (they also make good fertilizer), and the farmer can sell the bananas to supplement the income from the coffee. In Uganda, government advice is: take care of your bananas, and your bananas will take care of your coffee. However, large plantations often grow coffee in direct sunshine to maximise yield.

    C. arabica is a small tree, but for ease of harvesting is normally kept as a bush. A new plant will take 3-4 years before it first develops small white flowers. The fruits, called coffee cherries, take up to 8 months to ripen. Eventually, they change colour from green to dark red and the harvest begins. Maddingly, each cherrie ripens at its own rate, necessitating checking the tree every 8-10 days with labour-intensive manual harvesting. The plants provide the highest yield when around 15 years old. The productive life is 25-40 years.

    Romancing the bean

    coffee cherries

    Source: http://sprudge.com/variety.

    The bean is within the fruit. The flesh of the fruit can be removed by letting the fruit dry out in the sun (dry processing) or making the fruit rot in lots of water (wet processing): the latter is used mainly where the local climate lacks a dry season suitable for sun-drying. One type of wet processing even lets the fruit be eaten by animals and collects the beans from the fertilizer coming out at the other end – a coffee with curiosity value but do wash the beans well! After wet processing, the remaining beans still need to be dried in the sun for a couple of weeks.

    Finally, the papery skin of the bean is removed, leaving the green coffee bean.

    The beans are shipped to the coffee company and roasted. The roasting dries the bean further, breaks the shell and releases aromatic compounds from the kernel. Each roast has its own temperature and duration. A strong (dark) roast, at high temperature, will suppress the original taste of the bean. Arabica beans, with a more complex aroma, are normally lighter roasted. Robusta beans tend to benefit from a darker roast. However, many darker roasts do use arabica beans to good effect. Starbucks is particularly known for its dark roasts. Too light a roast can leave a sour taste.

    Immediately after roasting, while the beans are still warm, flavoured oils can be added. Some afficionados will consider this ‘bad taste’.

    After roasting the beans are finely ground, either in the factory or at home prior to brewing. Ground coffee begins to lose its taste quickly and cannot be kept for too long: for shipping it is vacuum-packed.

    Brew and chemistry

    The roasted coffee beans are edible, in moderation. More than 10-20 beans puts you at risk of caffeine poisoning (and be aware that coffee also increases cholesterol in your body).

    Healthier is to extract the flavour from the beans into a drink. The principle is easy: bring hot water into contact with the ground-up bean and serve the liquid. Basically, there are three ways to achieve this. One is to pour the hot water directly on the coffee grounds, either in the cup (drink with care) or in a cafetiere. Second, force steam at high pressure through the coffee grounds, producing less liquid but very strong coffee: espresso (the name refers to the high pressure). Third, percolate hot water through the coffee using a (paper) filter: filtered coffee. Each their favourite! Many variations are possible. Milk or cream and sugar can be added to taste. Dilute an espresso with hot water and you get an americano, large, with an unsubtle taste, the Donald Trump of the coffees. The creamy layer on top of the liquid retains some of the aromas and the trick of making coffee is to keep this intact.

    The taste of the coffee depends on the quality of the bean. For the strongest coffees robusta is a common choice, but even for espressos the bean makes a lot of difference. Coffee filters can remove some of the aromas. On the other hand, people who need to control their cholesterol may want to stick to filtered coffees as the paper also removes some cholesterol-inducing compounds.


    The caffeine molecule

    The best known compound of coffee is caffeine. In solid form it is a white powder, odorless but with a bitter taste. It occurs in some other plants. The role for the plant is as a natural pesticide, but for our use it acts as the world’s most popular stimulant. It increases alertness, affects the heart rhythm, delays the onset of sleep and reduces the total sleep time (but not the REM sleep). An overdose can lead to tremors, dizzyness and headaches – as well as death. Withdrawal symptoms (not applicable if the subject has died) include severe headaches which can last a few days. Cheers!

    Over 800 aromatic components are known in coffee. Most of the taste comes from about 20 of these, including vanillin and methoxyphenol. Caffeine itself has a bitter taste, which is very notable in robustas, and in strong coffees (especially Italian espressos). Instant coffees (made by freeze-drying) are also bitter. Several other compounds of coffee, such as quinic acid and trigonella, contribute to the bitterness. (Excessive quinic acid is the main cause of the bad taste when coffee is left on the heating element for too long.) The taste of coffee comes not only from the liquid itself, but also from the aromas which enter the nose, either directly or using the back route from the back of the mouth into the nose. Arabica is more aromatic; robusta coffee less so, leaving the bitter taste to dominate. The most complex taste comes from acidic components, such as malic acid and formic acid; these are especially strong in coffees grown on mineral-rich volcanic soils.

    Volcanic soil

    Coffea is a hungry plant which needs fertile soil. One 60 kg bag of coffee beans contains 1 kg of nitrogen, 60 g of phosphorous, 9 g of potassium, 16 g of calcium, 90 g of magnesium, 7 g of sulfur, 1 g of boron, 0.8 g of copper, 3.5 g of iron, 1 g of manganese, 0.002 g of molybdenum, and 0.7 g of zinc (www.coffeeresearch.org). All this has to come from somewhere! In rich soil, one coffee bush may produce 6 kilograms of beans per year (1200 cups of coffee), rich in aromas. A poor soil will yield very much less, and give a coffee which lacks taste. Coffee planted in poor soil is also more susceptible to disease, and requires pesticides – a bit ironic since the caffeine is itself a pesticide. The importance of soil can be seen by comparing Java to Borneo: they have the same climate but Borneo is geologically old and lacks the rich volcanic soils of Java. Coffee is a major crop in Java whilst Borneo has little agriculture – and no coffee.

    Sinabung ash fall

    Coffee plantation destroyed by volcanic ash, Sinabung 2014 (http://www.photovolcanica.com/VolcanoInfo/Sinabung/Sinabung.html)

    In tropical regions, the heavy rains quickly impoverish the soil. This will not do for coffee. The soil needs to be rejuvenated, either by flooding (alluvation), glacial sediments, or volcanic ash. Glaciation would be surprising (putting it mildly) for the tropical climate which coffee needs. Flooding is a low-land process, and is important to robusta but less so for the mountain plant C. arabica – which also tends to die off in water-logged soils. This leaves volcanic ash as the main natural fertilizer. Soils derived from volcanic ash deposits are called andisols. Andisoils are normally light, easily tilled, and hold a lot of water: all excellent for coffee.

    Volcanoes provide some further side benefits. They increase the elevation, good for C. arabica which is a mountain plant. The cone-like, isolated shapes attract rain, so that the slope (at least on one side) tends to be wetter than the surrounding land. Finally, C. arabica hates wet feet: volcanic soil does not become water logged (unlike clay), and furthermore, the slope of the volcanoes improves the run-off and therefore the drainage. The optimum slope is around 15 degrees.

    The combination of altitude, drainage and slope, richness of soil and a tropical climate is volcanic dynamite. Coffee can be grown elsewhere, but the best coffee is grown on volcanic soils. Ashes to coffee grounds. But within reason: too much ash can badly damage or kill coffee plants. Coffee lives in a constant conflict between the need for volcanic eruptions and an inability to survive them.

    Location, location, location


    Ethiopia remains the heart of coffee: the origin of Coffea arabica, the location with most genetic diversity (perhaps as many as 4000 distinct varieties) – and where it is valued most by the local population. Half the coffee grown in Ethiopia is consumed locally; still, coffee accounts for 40% of all of Ethiopia’s export earnings (before 2000 it was as high as 70% but other export products have since grown in importance). The beans are roasted at home using a flat iron pan, ground, and boiled in water for 15 minutes. An intricate ceremony can be attached to drinking coffee, including burning of incense.

    Sidamo (the southernmost province of Ethiopia) is particularly famous for the best-known export, Yirgacheffe coffee. Sidamo coffee has a complex, citrus-like but mild taste. Lekempti, from the west, is sweeter and lacks the citrus acidity. Harrar coffee, grown in the east of Ethiopia, is often used in espresso blends. It can have a blueberry-like aroma, and is used to add taste to the espresso mix. Unusually, Harrar coffee is grown under desert conditions.

    The Ethiopian forests where coffee grows wild are rapidly disappearing under the pressure of a burgeoning population. This puts in danger the genetic diversity of the wild plants, an essential resource to combat future coffee diseases. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is helping to protect some of the remaining mountain rain forest.

    Sources: worldofcoffee.co.za; wikimedia

    Sources: worldofcoffee.co.za; wikimedia

    Harrar coffee is grown close to Ethiopia’s most active volcanoes, which are found in the Afar depression. The other coffee-growing areas, towards Kenya, are closer to the rift valley and aided by the volcanoes found there. Of the nearly 60 volcanoes identified in the rift valley, at least three have been active in the past 10,000 years. Corbetti erupted around 400 BC, and Aluto perhaps 2000 BC (recently the latter has shown inflation). The ash from Ethiopia’s rift volcanoes fertilize regions well away from their immediate vicinity. Ethiopian coffee is a living gem, evidence of Africa’s volcanic heritage.



    Source: coffeeroastinghacks.com

    If Ethiopia is the heart of coffee, Yemen is the mind. The volcanic soil of the Yemeni mountains has been used to grow coffee for over 500 years. There are many local arabica varieties, closely related to those grown in Ethiopia, but each one is subtly different. Coffee is grown mainly in the mountains in the west of the country, surrounding the capital Sana’a. The mountains here have a number of eruptive volcanoes. The most recent eruption was in 1937, in a 3500-m high volcanic field called Harras of Dhamar. The coffee cherries grow during the summer rains, and dry in the autumn when the desert reclaims the mountains.

    Coffee bushes in the Yemeni mountains of  Harazi (http://www.roastmasters.com/yemen.html)

    Coffee bushes in the Yemeni mountains of Harazi (http://www.roastmasters.com/yemen.html)

    Ethiopia and Yemen carry almost all of the genetic variability of Coffea arabica. Elsewhere, coffee plants are genetically rather uniform.

    Tanzania and Kilimanjaro

    All Tanzania’s volcanoes are surrounded by arabica plantations. Famous Mount Kilimanjaro is the centre of the coffee growing region of Moshe, which also contains Mount Meru and Ol Doinyo Lengai. Mount Meru last erupted in 1910, and Ol Doinyo Lengai is currently active: this is the volcano which fertilises the grasslands that make the wildebeest migration possible. If the rite-of-passage climb of Kilimanjaro proved too much, a local coffee tour could still give the expedition a taste of success!

    Coffee growing regions in Tanzania. Source: wikipedia.

    Coffee growing regions in Tanzania. Source: wikipedia.

    The Moshi region has fewer than 200,000 people, and is poor, with little infrastructure and poor roads. As you may expect from a coffee-growing region, there can be a lot of rain. Traditionally, the local Chagga people grow the coffee bushes in shade, underneath larger trees. Starbucks is reported to be a major buyer of their coffee. However, most of the coffee is grown on plantations, which are replacing the local coffee varieties by ones that tolerate sun and have better resistance to fungi.

    A second volcanic region in Tanzania is in the southern highlands, north of Lake Malawi, with Mount Rungwe the best-known peak. It probably erupted a few hundred years ago. Away from volcanoes, arabica is also grown in the Matengo highlands, east of Lake Malawi, and next to Lake Tanganyika in the Great Rift Valley region. The main robusta growing area is to the west of Lake Victoria.


    Guatemala has the reputation of producing some of the best coffees in the world, and some of the most expensive. What to expect from a country as littered in coffee plantations as it is in volcanoes?

    Coffee is grown above an altitude of 500 meters, but needs protection from frost at higher levels. Almost all coffee is shade grown: the trees create vibrant eco-systems where the natural insects and birds (and the caffeine content of the plants themselves) reduce the need for pesticides.

    The central coffee authority (Anacafe) recognizes eight different Guatemalan coffee regions: Acatenango, Antigua, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes, Huehue (producing the world’s most expensive coffee), New Oriente and San Marcos. Five regions are known as volcanic and those are Acatenango, Antigua, Atitlan, Fraijanes and San Marcos. This leaves Coban, Huehue and New Oriente as non-primary-volcanic regions.

    Shade coffee plantation and humid broadleaf forest at the foothill of Atitlan volcano, Guatemala, 4 August 2010 @Knut Eisermann. http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu

    Shade coffee plantation and humid broadleaf forest at the foothill of Atitlan volcano, Guatemala, 4 August 2010 @Knut Eisermann. http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu

    Coffees from the volcanic regions are normally slightly more mineralized in flavour compared to the non-volcanic. But this is not the full story. All parts of Guatemala are now and then dusted with volcanic ash, and not a single region has avoided being covered in deep blankets from massive eruptions from Amatitlan and Atitlan. So, in a way the non-volcanic regions should be known as semi-volcanic regions.

    This leaves foremost Huehue with a beautifully balanced coffee that has taken center-stage as the best coffee known to humankind. In Europe or the US a kilogram of El Injerto Huehue coffee can cost as much as 1,000 USD. Rather than paying this, Carl (our Guatemalan coffee expert) recommends spending the money on an air ticket, to visit El Injertos cafe in Guatemala City in person. A cup of their fabled coffee will be produced for you by an expert for as little as 7 USD, and that cup will be, in comparison, even counting a reasonable cost for the flight, the cheapest cup of coffee you ever had.

    Take your cup and go out into the street. If you are lucky you will see Pacaya or Fuego happily puffing away the ash that gave your cup its taste.


    Indonesian Java Moccha coffee used to be famous. The coffee seeds were brought here from Yemen, and production grew huge. But coffee rust wiped out many of the plantations. A large research project was started to improve on the Yemen varieties. C. canephora, known as C. robusta, was found to be disease resistant, and robusta coffee was born. But although it worked miracles for the disease resistance, it was less wonderful for the quality. Some arabica/robusta hybrids were developed, but again these did not come close to the best coffees. Coffee plantations in Indonesia also regularly suffer from too much ash from its overactive volcanoes.

    In consequence, Indonesia is still a major coffee producer but now supplies mainly the less demanding markets. It is often used in instant coffee and in espresso mixes. Sumatra coffee is affected by a lack of iron in the soil. Some arabica is still grown, and the best coffee comes the highlands around Lake Toba. The Tambora region also grows coffee. Coffee growing here began before the 1815 eruption.

    Mauna Loa: Kona coffee

    Hawaiian Kona coffee is grown on the western slopes of Mauna Loa, between 100 and 800 meters above sea level. This is a lower altitude than usual for coffee, aided by the tempering effect of the coolish ocean. The Mauna Loa area is known as the Kona Coffee Belt; it is about 50 kilometer long but only two kilometers wide. Only coffee grown in this specific area is allowed to be referred to as Kona coffee. Kona coffee was originally derived from Guatemalan varieties.

    Rainfall in the Kona belt amounts to about 1500 mm per year. Most falls in the afternoons. There were very few pests found in this region, but regrettably the coffee-berry-borer beetle has recently arrived on Hawaii.

    Kona coffee is a smooth, light, excellent coffee, but known especially for its price. If you can afford it, go for the pure Kona coffee. Blends are a bit cheaper but may contain as little as 10% Kona beans. Much better to spend the same amount on a bit less, and enjoy the real thing. Try the Coffee Shack, along highway 11 on the Island of Hawaii in the Kona belt (pick a quiet time and go for coffee rather than lunch). It looks like a shack from the front but the views from the terrace are breath taking. Coffee viewing at its best.


    Vietnamese coffee is best avoided.


    Brazil produces 30% of the world’s coffee. 75% of its production is arabica and 25% robusta. Brazil bourbon is well known. Coffee is mainly grown in the south-eastern states, especially around Sao Paulo. Occasionally, severe frosts devastate plantations and necessitate large-scale replanting. Because almost a third of all coffee comes from Brazil, this can cause major price fluctuations.

    In Brazil, quantity has at times ruled over quality and the product is often sold as blends, mixing the good with the bad. And dare I mention a lack of volcanoes?

    From top to bottom: Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon and Orange Bourbon. http://madcapcoffee.com

    From top to bottom: Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon and Orange Bourbon. http://madcapcoffee.com

    Volcano coffee: a final word

    Coffea arabica is a fragile flower, the diva of agriculture, which will only perform if provided with a stable climate, cool tropical temperatures, rich, well-drained soil; the kind of plant for which paradise was invented. Volcanoes give it everything it wants, minerals, drainage, microclimate. Here is the paradoxical plant that wilts in heat but lives by fire. Other coffees are less picky, grow anywhere, have higher yields, but like non-volcanic mountains, lack excitement. Spoiled arabica remains the top performer. And in return, this picky plant provides more development aid than any western government ever has, provides a living for poverty-afflicted regions, and pays for any damage ever done by any volcano. Not bad for a bean.

    Albert, June 2023 (reposted from 2016)

    77 thoughts on “Volcano coffee

    1. A repost, as the next new post has been delayed due to work commitments. Enjoy!

    2. To see both cultivation methods in Tanzania had me intrigued Coffee shrubs wending their way through well established forest trees, and others grown in large plantations with nary a tree in sight. The answer to this difference is in the above article. The forest cultivars would appear more friendly to the locals, who care for the plants then harvest and market the beans; as opposed to large scale operations which would be in the hands of the few.

      • What would life be without coffee? I was once accused of racism for saying that coffee came from Ethiopia. Coffee matters to people.

        • I am so happy that the English learned to make Espresso. Now everything is perfect in my favourite pubs: First the fish’n chips with beer or wine from Kent!, Sussex! or Devon! or a cider and afterwards a cup of espresso.

          You were accused of racism? Amazing. Those folks, never black, always white people preaching to others are the reason why I didn’t call my blach-haired dog Negroni, although that is one of my favourite drinks.

          Good luck with your work load, probably exams.

          • I assume that the person meant ‘religious discrimination’ as the claim for coffee supremacy is between Ethiopia and Yemen. There is little doubt that coffee started out in Ethiopia, as the plant does not grow naturally in Yemen. The worldwide spread though came when it entered Turkey from Yemen. And the main coffee varieties trace their origin to Amsterdam. Many nations have a piece of the puzzle.

    3. Coffee have a low glycemic index so it should not increase colesterol. A coffee bean should be an ideal snack. The colesterol itself is not dangerous, high blood triglycerides indicator of inflammation. And the cause of almost all inflammation is sugar.

      Colesteol rich natural foods are very healthy as they dont cause inflammation in the body either
      and neither do they raise coloesterol or triglocyides like sugar does. Saturated fats are healthy! they of the best things you can eat, specialy so If its natural and unprocessed, our brain likes fat ketones very much.

      The 1970 s old dogma ” fats are bad and sugars are healthy ” have created an explosion of heart disease and dementia and diabetes as a high glycemic index diet cause inflammation and glyciation. Sugar and high Gi foods rusts and oxidises your body and your arteries.

      Natural fats have shown to cause No inflammation or glyciation at all.

      The real culprit behind heart disease and dementia is sugar glyciation .. not fats and the real villian often goes unseen behind faulty food guidelines.

      Sometimes it feels like the 1900 s food guidelines is only meant for us to eat only ultraprocessed junk food … like chips, white bread and cheap sasauges🤢 and indeed the traditional food pyramid is very much a product of the grain and sugar industry.

      We needs a New Stone Age food pyramid thats based on very slow healthy natural carbohydrates and healthy natural saturated fats, rather than the 1960 s food pyramid thats based on ultraprocessed white grains and junk food..

      So eat real whole foods thats not refined .. so they dont spike blood sugars, we runns better on fats and natural slow green carbs than ultraprocessed junk grain food

      • Coffee without sugar is very healthy
        Should be an ideal snack togther with an Onion or cheese or tuber

        Sadely I dont like the strong taste of Coffee… very foul in the mouth, not even with lots of milk, will I find coffee drinkable

        But real whole foods winns spectaculary over ultra – processed junk

        • : D D : the only think I learnt in high school and elementary school is that our main food source is white bread and pasta … and chips! 🤢 and with a processed sasuage or cucumber thrown in

          Thats a disaster for blood values and inflammatory processes.. food pyramid of evil 😈!

          But now we are moving too far from the coffee dicussion as well

        • My parents and brother love(d) coffee in all its forms, but I only love the aroma: Regardless of bean, preparation, sugar, creamer or whatever, to me any coffee tastes as bitter as quinine or saccharin.

          Which is weird, as I can tolerate ‘Builders Tea’…

          FWIW, the preparation list in excellent article missed ‘Turkish’, a ritual almost as formal as Japanese Tea, and the old-fashioned ‘domed’ percolator which steadily geysered against its lid’s glass…

          I was delighted to see the list of mineral content, as I’m writing a SciFi tale where ‘apparently trivial’ recycle losses mean the hydroponic ‘farms’ would need topping up with ‘a spoon of this and a pinch of that’ beyond ‘the usuals’…

    4. I guess Nyiragongos ultra potassic soils have to be very good for coffee growth as the Nephelinite lava erodes into highly fertile dirt mud. Lava erosion is crazy in Nyiragongo the 2002 flows are competely gone really as well as the 1977.

      Volcanoes in tropics give alot of fertility.. because usual tropical soils are extremely nutrient poor, as decomposition and recycling is so very fast in the rainforest, all nutrients exist in the vegitation and in the living animals .. and very little If none in the soil. So logging rainforest yeilds very little as the soil is poor

      Here in cooler Temperate soils are much much slower decomposition and recyling and forms a rich soil suitable for temperate agicultural activities

    5. Guatemala has frost?:

      Guatemala has the reputation of producing some of the best coffees in the world, and some of the most expensive. What to expect from a country as littered in coffee plantations as it is in volcanoes?

      Coffee is grown above an altitude of 500 meters, but needs protection from frost at higher levels. Almost all coffee is shade grown: the trees create vibrant eco-systems where the natural insects and birds (and the caffeine content of the plants themselves) reduce the need for pesticides.

      The central coffee authority (Anacafe) recognizes eight different Guatemalan coffee regions: Acatenango, Antigua, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes, Huehue (producing the world’s most expensive coffee), New Oriente and San Marcos. Five regions are known as volcanic and those are Acatenango, Antigua, Atitlan, Fraijanes and San Marcos. This leaves Coban, Huehue and New Oriente as non-primary-volcanic regions.

      • Acatenango is nearly 4 km tall, it and Fuego get snow sometimes 🙂
        People also get into serious situations at night quite often there it seems, deaths from hypothermia have happened. I imagine frost down at 1 km is not as common but it is probably getting on the cold side at night and in winter.

      • Yes Guatemala have sometimes snow covered volcanoes, because of elevation it have many climate zones, raging from tropical to almost tundra.
        Guatemala city is mild and pleasant all year with warm afternoons.

        I guess in Europe only Canaries and Maybe Azores coud perhaps be coffee friendly ?

        Europe overall is very mild and you can grow alot of stuff here that you cannot grow in America at same latitudes.

      • Life without coffee is possible, but senseless 😉

        Btw, I have the impression that grapes also grow on volcanic soil, but older volcanic soil (Chile, Australia, South Africa, South of France), just not only there.

        • Does it have to be older volcanic soil? You can get wine from grapes grown on Etna.

          • Probably not. If there is already another established industry like coffee however, there is no room for vines.
            La Palma could probably do coffee, possibly also wine in the South on the volcanoes near Fuencaliente, is busy with bananas though. South Africa went into vines right away with the Dutch, and the French Huguenots added a lot of knowledge and are said to have smuggled some grapevines from France.

            So vines grow on different soils I guess which gives the wine different tastes. They need sun though, but as they also grow in Devon, Sussex and Kent (and are not bad at all) might also accept some rain.

            Wine I believe and experienced suffers from transport what coffe beans do not. Best I think is always the local wine. Recently I had a phantastic simple white wine in Lazio, north of Rome, on the banks of a volcanic! crater lake.

            • The Dutch were big on coffee and not big on wine. It wasn’t them who first brought decent wine to South Africa: that was done by the French Huguenots who had been expelled from France without export restrictions. The Dutch had tried but not managed to produce anything drinkable before the French lend a hand! The Dutch did bring coffee to Indonesia. South Africa was used for growing produce to resupply the vessels on the way to Indonesia, but not for growing coffee as it was the wrong climate. Rule of thumb: only grow coffee where you can also get malaria.

            • La Palma does do grapes and wine. They lost quite a bit during the Cumbre Vieja 2021 eruption.

    6. I recently tried to curb my coffee intake and go months without any, drinking the odd black tea from the vending machine at work in replacement. In the end I didn’t manage much more than a few weeks, although I now don’t drink coffee first thing on a morning and wait until my morning break (and often dinnertime).

      The italians have it right though, no coffee beyond noon, as the caffeine half-life is around 9 hours.

      From trial and error, Ecuadorian coffee seems to be the nicest. Especially Cotopaxi coffee!

      • Not right. They drink an espresso after lunch and even after dinner and ask in the ristoranti whether you’d like one.
        Besides this is different for every person. I myself cannot fall asleep when I have coffee around five o’clock, neither tea, but easily when I have an espresso before going to bed.
        I think most things obey to the rule “watch yourself”, and therefore most recommendations, also for food, are just an average which might not work for you or me..

        • Is that an Espresso or an Espresso Martini before bed…

          I thought they refused to sell but maybe it’s an urban myth.

        • In Naples, I felt it was very unfair to have something as addictive as coffee and allow it to be served only before lunch! On the other hand it may be something to adopt for the current vaping catastrophe.

        • Once I read somewhere a scientific explanation of the action of caffeine in the brain, I don’t remember the details (it is a complex one), but is the normal effect in the first minutes after drinking to get more sleepy, the stimulating effect establishing only some quarter of hours afterwards.
          I am a perfect example : cannot sleep at night if having coffees in the afternoon or night, and absolutely able to fall asleep immediately after drinking. When driving, I prefer caffeinate drinks like Coke or Pepsi to stay awake, the high amount of sugar can make the difference.

    7. Trident and other volcanoes within the Katmai complex is producing more very deep quakes up to 50-60 km at depth. It’s going to take some time before whatever is destabilizing the deep chamber spreads to the shallow reservoirs. Anyone know where I can get some good insar data on the system

    8. Exciting story on volcanoes and coffee!
      The story of Tanzania made me look for the famous Ngorongoro crater which I watched on tv in documentaries in the later 80s /early 90s before the internet age. Today I miss a bit the “analogue” culture of documentaries of that time. They were made with passion for topics. Today documentaries are too stressfull, they’re always on escape to next photo or moment, they can’t just stay somewhere. But internet allows to look for Ngorongoro crater and its volcanic history. The crater was created two to three million years ago in the beginning of Ice Age.

      It is interesting to look for the natural evolution of cultural used plants. What was the place of coffee plant in its ecological system?

    9. I ditched the electric coffee maker and went back to the traditional Swedish way of preparing the brew. Put cold water and ground up beans directly in a stovetop kettle, bring it to the point of almost boiling, then remove it from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. The grounds will sink to the bottom and then you can pour the brew into a cup. Tastes even better when made on a wood burning stove.

      Fun fact: in Swedish coffee is called kaffe, but caffeine is called koffein.

        • The recommendation is about 55-60g to 1l of water (I’m a metric guy so I don’t know the equivalent in olympic size swimming pools). A coarse ground coffee is to be preferred – too fine will give a bitter result and more grounds will end up in your cup. The first cup you pour will usually contain some grounds that got stuck in the spout. For that reason I usually pour the first cup to myself so my guests don’t have to chew on it.

          • I guess NASA coffee will be the traditional American recipe of 1:1, that is one bean – one olympic swimming pool of hot water. (That was in the olden days. Now you can get very good coffee in many places in the US.)

            • That reminds me of the first conference I ever attended on US soil. The coffee looked like swamp water and tasted, well, not much at all. First I thought someone had made a mistake, but when the same swamp water was served again after lunch I soon realized, to much despair, that this was how it’s supposed to be. I had been warned about the coffee, but could never imagine it would be this bad. Thankfully, things have gotten better these days and last time I crossed the pond there was good coffee to be found in all places I went.

    10. I don’t like going to Harrods any more as it is too busy. But Harrods coffee corner is adorable, full of the most delicious smell.
      Concerning tea I had the most delicious tea on Christmas morning in the Sofitel Waterloo. It was called Chocolate tea and had a very slight and fine chocolate taste. Not cheap, but worth every penny.
      The English, contrary to their reputation, can do the most delicious things whereas the French are ruining their reputation at the moment.
      But the British always had a much better attitude towards tourists. And I do suffer without British pubs.

    11. The North Frisians invented a type of coffee which hides alcohol: The Pharisee.
      It is a coffee with rum and whipping cream. On the small island Helgoland they sell it “duty free”. It was over long time a destinations for people who like to drink / get drunk with low budget.

    12. Tilt at Kilauea is shooting up over the past hours. Probably rain

      • I think it might be part of a DI event. Around May 14 there was a drop in tilt that resembled the deflation phase of a DI event, but the inflation phase didn’t come. This might be the inflation finally kicking in after a 24-day-long DI event.

        • I think the Uwekahuna tiltmeter is in the basement of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (former observatory), which means there is less noise from other phenomena. That is why Uwekahuna (UWE), unlike the other tilt meters, doesn’t show daily fluctuations from temperature changes.

      • UWEV tiltmeter is buried, so rain wont get into it like happened at Pu’u O’o 🙂

        • It is not the meter that is getting wet but the ground itself. Wet soil expands. Anyway, that was my guess

          • Buried meaning it is inside a vault under HVO, which as I understand was built on the bedrock to avoid this problem, as they only had water tiltmeters back then. Actually one of those water tiltmeters is still there for continuity although it isnt displayed publically, going on well over a century now 🙂

            I think Hectors idea is quite likely, but it could also be a simple rebound after the deflation stopped for a few days. The quakes also slowed this weeks and then stepped up again with the new upward tilt. Not sure if DI cycles would exactly link up over such a long time, more that maybe DI’s can be only a D or and I sometimes and we got two of these in a row this time.

            • It’s based on my model of how DI events work. The deflation is the opening of a crack that starts to detach a mass of rock in the walls of the chamber. The inflation is when this crack links with the other side of the wall and start to fully separate it, with the block of detached rock returning to its more relaxed shape. The DI event could theoretically last this long if the detachment process just takes a long time to be completed.

              Earthquakes have clearly increased with this deformation:


            • There can also be DI events inside DI events, or overlapping DIs. We have seen a lot of these complex shapes lately I think.

            • Big earthquake or something in the tilt right now. Shook it 7 microradians down.

    13. Looking like something might actually be happening now at Kilauea 🙂 finally.

      No obvious intrusion yet but the tilt is really shooting to the moon and there are quite a number of quakes, it would not surprise me if it erupts in the next few hours.

      • Yep, big dispacement on the tiltmeter, from a 3.8 quake at 0.5 km shallow depth possibly on the northern ring fault of the 2018 caldera.

        • The caldera floor has sunk slightly from the earthquake, which in turn has caused Uwekahuna Bluff to rebound up. It’s funny how a sudden inflation can subsequently trigger a mini-subsidence of the caldera.

          • The earthquake will also increase pressure on the magma chamber, and might also have extended slightly the floor (could bring forward the next fissure eruption a little?).

        • Strange that the deformation is continuing, now the tiltmeter is rapidly dropping, I wonder if a small intrusion or a DI event has just started somewhere in the magmatic system.

        • It has started dropping quite furiously now. 6 microradians. A few microradians more and it might be comparable to a very small dike. If the ring fault opens up might be bad (risk of explosive eruptions).

    14. There is almost certainly a magma intrusion occurring at Kilauea, after the M 3.4 earthquake. We have continuous earthquakes merging into tremor and a rapid deflation, clear sings of an intrusion:

      This might be a small ring fault intrusion, triggered by the earthquake. There have been a number of these strange mini-intrusions since 2018 that have not erupted.

      • The last time this happened was 3 months ago on March 11, when I referred to these events as UEs, unidentified events. It was a very complicated sequence of deflation-inflation-deflation-inflation-deflation-inflation, that started out of nowhere, and triggered a M3 ring-fault earthquake towards the end. But the deflation that time was very small, only 0.25 microradians. This time it’s much stronger 1 microrad, but still 3-4 times weaker than your average DI event, and tens of times weaker than a large dike intrusion.

        • The three earlier UEs that have happened at Kilauea since 2018, seen in the Uwekahuna tiltmeter. It’s the small signals with the up-down spikes:

        • Copy paste of part of a comment that I wrote about these events last time one happened 3 months ago:

          I will call the three events above UEs, Unidentified Events. All UEs made volcano-tectonic earthquakes in the caldera area. Here, I compare the seismic response of UEs to summit dikes and sills since 2018. Only the rootless sill of last year is not included, because it wouldn’t fit into the image:

          The events of 2020 are interesting. While the two dikes of that year made earthquakes mostly on the southern ring fault of the 2018 caldera, the UEs made earthquakes on the northern ring fault of the caldera. It is worth noting that the deformation of the 2 December 2020 dike, on Uwekahuna, was more than ten times larger than the deformation of the 30 November UE in this same place. Despite that, the 30 November event triggered a lot more earthquakes on the northern ring fault of the caldera. That means intense localized deformation must have taken place in or around that part of the ring fault. And with no dike swarm there, the most reasonable explanation is that the ring fault itself was intruded. This could also explain some other things. If a small portion of caldera ring fault was intruded, this may have set off the localized M 3 collapse events. Magma rushing into the ring fault would have produced deflation, but if the magma chamber roof sinks a little due to the intrusion separating it from the surrounding rock, it might push away the magma and restore some of the pressure in the chamber. That could be the reason why in these events the deflation and inflation seem to cancel each other out.

    15. HVO raised the alert level to ORANGE/WATCH now. Looks like they’re expecting the same as the recent eruptions.

    16. The tilt is shooting up now and not an immediate jump like a quake but a very steep angle, the ground is definitely moving a lot. Looks like a small intrusion did happen but failed fast and now pressure is increasing rapidly.

      • I wonder maybe, very unlikely but still interesting to speculate, but has a sill gone under HVO and into the area of dense swarming at the Kaoiki pali that has been prominent recently?

    17. And we have an eruption 🙂

      Massive fountains in Halemaumau now, probably over 100 meters when it first broke out and 30-50 right now. Already flooded probably 1/4 of the crater in under 10 minutes.

      • Seems bigger than the last two summit eruptions that took place

      • Yes the whole inner caldera is filled by sheet pahoehoe flood .. it broke through the floating stagant crust in many places too

      • Similar To the 1950 s and 1960 s intra halemaumau activity

        Are these fountains going through almost 400 meters of pooled lava right ?

      • The activity is in the crater itself and not on the ring fault. It is clear though that increased pressure in the crater caused movement on the northern ring fault

      • Very much like a fissure eruption in an Ionian Patera .. but on a much smaller scale. Gish Bar Patera maybe analougus filling

    18. Has been 20 min and now most of the crater floor is flooded with lava, over 1 km2.

      The tallest fountain now is about the same place that erupted first in January, and which became the main vent towards the end of that eruption. The place where the eruption actually first broke through now though was a new area between the 2021-23 lake basin and the 2020 tephra island, both if which may be no more by sunrise. Compared to the eruption in January this already looks much more powerful

      • Go a couple minutes in and the lava is gushing like a waterfall into the January lake basin, i think it gives a good visual of what the Pillan Patera eruption might have loomedlike, although the fountains there would be relatively alot smaller due to distance.

      • Looked like ? : D Pillan lava falls was stuff that makes niagara seems invisible:)

    19. I dont think this webcam will have much longer left in this world. Was a good run. RIP B1 cam

    20. My favorites are Kenyan, Sumatran and Ethiopian coffee, in about that order.

      All lands with large volcanoes. Much Kenyan coffee is grown on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.

    21. My favourite coffee is Ethiopian Yirgachefe, which has a completely different aroma (moreover, it feels that it has many overlapping, distinct aromas) that any other coffee I have tasted.
      BTW, reading above, I understand now why the used coffee grounds are also a good fertilizer. Funny to think that the extra growth power for my garden comes from tropical volcanoes.

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