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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.
- Stuart McCook’s book is Coffee Is Not Forever: A Global History of the Coffee Leaf Rust.
- 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.
- There is a transcript, thanks to the show’s supporters.
- Banner photo shows coffee leaf rust inside a leaf, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia License