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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE END OF ORANGE JUICE AND COFFEE?

Let me answer this question with a NO, but Scientific American is one of my subscriptions, and they reported on the end of orange juice and coffee.  What would breakfast be for most with these demises, although I might have this combination maybe only once or twice/year.  At 15 Craigside I seem now to be in a giant rut:  cereal, plain yogurt, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, pineapple and milk in a large bowl, mostly because the dining room here mostly looks the other way (they really don't want you to take food back to your room for reasons that are beyond my comprehension) when I sneak them out so that I don't have to return the next morning or two.  When I actually show up for breakfast, I have an equally uninspired hot oatmeal with raisins and a juice.  Breakfast is just to keep me alive and blood pressure controlled.

The fear about the future of orange juice is a gnat-sized insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, which has been attacking citrus groves.  The disease is known as Huanglongbing (yes, you can again blame China, for this is a Chinese word for "Yellow Dragon Disease"), and is caused by a bacterium, Candidatus liberibacter, carried in the saliva gland of this insect.  This microbe disrupts the flow of nutrients within the plant:


One solution is a wasp, Tamarixia radiata, that preys on the nasty insect.   The longer term answer is genetic modification, but those are now dirty words in agriculture.  Certainly, there must be something about Japan, for it is one of the few countries without this disease.

The USA produces more than 10% of the world orange juice, but Brazil is more than double our volume.  We are #1 in grapefruit, lemons and limes.


The story, probably apocryphal, is that an Ethiopian goatherd in 858AD noticed that his goats became excited after eating the beans from coffee plants.  Factually, it is generally recognized that the first plants came from Harar in Ethiopia.  It was termed a miracle drug then, and, more and more, medical science seems to now be saying that coffee is "good" for you.


An assortment of insects, like the coffee cherry borer (above), has caused problems.  However, coffee is mostly threatened by a fungus.  The fundamental problem, though, is that almost all the coffee crops originated with a handful of plants from Ethiopia, so there is no diversity of options within the available genes to combat coffee rust.  Global warming also appears to be exacerbating the effect.


Another problem is that very little fundamental research has been undertaken on coffee.  Some years ago I discussed with a researcher in our College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Relations about using genetic engineering to develop a coffee plant that produced a drink that tasted like it smelled.  Note, for example, that tea tends to smell like tea and taste like tea.  Coffee, however, smells great and tastes bitter.  After you add some cream, perhaps a touch of butter, too, and sugar, only then does coffee taste like coffee.  I thus order cappuccino, and add these ingredients.  Anyway, we could not find a source of funding.  I still think that the person or company that finds a genetic solution to this oddity will become very, very rich.

The most popular drink is, of course, water.  Next?  Tea, which is the national drink of China and India.  #3 is coffee, and, you would think the USA is #1 for all the Starbucks.  Nope, we are #25,  consuming about a third/capita as much as Finland.  Cold countries, all in Europe, dominate the top ten. The USA, notwithstanding Hawaii, does not rank in the top twenty in the production of coffee beans. Brazil and Vietnam dominate as #1 and #2.  However, Hawaii Kona Coffee ranks #2 in the world with respect to taste, with Tanzania Peaberry Coffee as #1.

Indubitably, you heard, probably from the movie, Bucket List, that Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee, with beans cycled through an Indonesian Monkey's--Palm Toddy Cat--digestive track.  Only 500 pounds are harvested each year, and a pound can cost more than $500, but Amazon sells it for less than  $400/pound.

I might add that I again had dinner on my lanai last night, and the sunset was above average, the first photo showing the Christmas tree of First Hawaiian Bank:


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