growing coffee is a dream. After growing all manner of produce on his Sicily farm, the third-generation farmer harvested his first coffee crop this year.
Mr. Palazzolo is still experimenting but his goal is to produce the first commercial coffee grown in Italy—a nation well-known for roasting coffee beans, but not for growing the tropical plant from which they come.
Growing coffee in Sicily may have been impossible a few decades ago. Coffee has traditionally grown only in the so-called bean belt in the tropics, stretching from Central America to Africa to Asia. But rising temperatures are making parts of the bean belt too hot for coffee, and other regions suitable for the crop.
By 2050, climate change could decrease the area in the tropics suitable for growing coffee by as much as 50%, according to the Climate Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on climate change.
Farmers outside of traditional coffee-growing regions, in places like California, Australia and Saudi Arabia, already are experimenting with the crop. Within the bean belt, some coffee farmers are moving to higher elevations in search of cooler air, says
a scientist at the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens who studies global coffee growth.
But not everyone thinks those efforts will be sustainable. While some new regions could develop a more suitable climate for coffee-growing, it may be costly and difficult to grow the crop in those places. So researchers also are working on another solution: breeding new coffee varieties that can better tolerate the changing climate conditions in the bean belt.
There is no doubt that coffee grown outside of traditional areas can be high quality, tasting experts say, but it also bring new challenges, as well as weather risks, such as frost. In a coffee-growing experiment in Laos, a frost in 2017 destroyed most of the crop, according to World Coffee Research, a nonprofit research firm dedicated to protecting and enhancing coffee supplies world-wide.