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Coffee leaf rust is bad news An up-close look at the half-smooth destroyer

Coffee leaf rust inside a leaf

Stuart McCook

Stuart McCook

When I think of Ceylon — Sri Lanka — I think of tea, but that’s because I wasn’t alive 150 years ago. In the 1860s, coffee was the island’s most important crop. Coffee leaf rust, a fungus, put paid to the coffee, but only after a global downturn in coffee prices, and planters switched to tea. The rust, however, is not the reason the Brits drink tea rather than coffee, just one of the things I learned from Stuart McCook, who has studied the history of coffee leaf rust and what it might hold for the future.

Notes

  1. Stuart McCook’s book is Coffee Is Not Forever: A Global History of the Coffee Leaf Rust.
  2. The disease is no stranger to news media. Coffee Rust Is Going to Ruin Your Morning is a recent example that actually says nothing about your morning joe — but does blame rust for Britain’s preference for tea.
  3. There is a transcript, thanks to the show’s supporters.
  4. Banner photo shows coffee leaf rust inside a leaf, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia License

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  • So why *did* the Brits switch to tea if it wasn’t because of coffee leaf rust in Ceylon?

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  • Can’t wait to listen to this.

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