Caused by a leaf-blighting fungus, possibly exacerbated by growing practices and climate change, the disease leaves coffee plants spindly and barren, their precious fruits unripened.
“Where people have been using heirloom varietals for a century, you just have trees without leaves,” said David Griswold, president of Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers. “We’re already into the flowering cycle now, then it takes nine months to incubate the beans. You can see from the flowering what the losses will be. It’s just twigs. It’s as though you’re walking through a forest of twigs.”