Last week I told the market here that if it wants meticulous selection, conservation of heirloom cultivars and improved cup quality, it needs to create incentives for them.
Today, I explore the extraordinary efforts of one roaster to do just that.
Counter Culture Coffee is reengineering its financial incentives for quality with some remarkable results: better coffee for Counter Culture, and less risk, more reward and greater transparency for growers.
In the conversation below, the company’s Sustainability Manager Kim Elena Ionescu and its Coffee Buyer and Quality Manager Tim Hill describe a new approach to sourcing that responds to both concerns raised by her research into the impacts of microlots on smallholders and his lingering doubts about the reliability of cupping as the sole basis on which to develop coffee quality.
Readers who are weary of the growing number of posts in the “Counter-Culture-raises-the-bar-again” genre on this blog had better skip this one.
Coffee may have something to learn from the mantra of the generals who ran the War Room during Bill Clinton’s 1994 campaign for president: it’s the
economy market, stupid.
Tracy Ging, Director of Sustainability at S&D Coffee, has contributed an article to The Producer Issue of the SCAA Chronicle titled “Sustainable Coffee and Meaningful Economic Benefit.” It seems to be almost an editorial afterthought, appearing near the very end of the issue and amounting to barely a full page of text. Bu the author packs a lot into that lone page. I will begin to unpack it here.
As an SCAA member, I receive every issue of the SCAA Chronicle.
As an international aid worker based in Ecuador, I get my copy several weeks after everyone else, since it is sent first to our headquarters in Baltimore then batched and sent along with other mail every few weeks to our office in Quito.
So I just got a chance to read the magazine’s luminous producer issue.
A few weeks ago, I lavished praise on the SCAA here for putting together for 2014 what may be the best “origin program” of any SCAA Expo in memory. Today (and notwithstanding my suggestion last week that the term “origin content” is an artificial construct), I want to hold up some of the extraordinay “origin content” from the SCAA Chronicle’s producer issue, whose tone–serious, sober, seeking–speaks to me of the maturity of the sustainability movement in specialty.
A month from today, at the 2014 SCAA Expo, CRS will help start something that is long overdue in specialty coffee: a conversation about farmworkers.
The SCAA today released the full program for next month’s Symposium. It is less crammed with obvious origin content than the Expo’s, but the issues it is addressing are no less important to the future of growers.
I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past few weeks as a result of all the coverage of water issues in coffee media–not on water so much as the nature of international development work. I am reminded that, in the words of a former colleague, the “how” of what we do may matter even more than the “what.”
Keurig Green Mountain and TOMS, the two corporations whose water investments have been the subject of the most discussion on this blog and elsewhere in the media, are both partnered with the non-profit Water for People. The what of the work each company is funding, in other words, is similar. The companies are oceans apart, however in how they are communicating their respective commitments.
Yesterday I highlighted some high-profile initiatives announced last week by specialty roasters in the United States.
The Keurig Green Mountain water stewardship work, in my mind, is particularly impressive for the degree to which it is embedded in the company’s core business: it sees water as both central to its business model and as a central constraint to the economic and human development of communities in its supply chain. For the quality of the thinking behind its strategy: its five-part “water policy” is carefully considered and comprehensive. For the breadth of the water-sector partnerships it has developed: American Rivers, Global Water Initiative (CARE, CRS, IIED, IUCN), Raise the River, charity: water, Water for People. For the scope of its investments: $11 million in new commitments this year. And for its ambitious aspirations for impact: clean water for 1 million people by 2020. Keurig Green Mountain has positioned itself in these ways to be a leader in the sector.
This is not to say that roasters that may share Keurig Green Mountain’s concern for the issue and commitment to act but not, perhaps, its resources, cannot make important contributions to improve water resource management. For most roasters, the best way to be part of the solution may be to avoid becoming part of the problem to begin with. To take care of the water in their own supply chains before thinking about taking care of the water needs of others. But how?
Pulp and wastewater from double-certified coffee being returned, untreated, to a stream in Central America.
Water seemed to be everywhere in the coffee news last week, and the biggest headlines were reserved for TOMS, which is expanding from shoes and fashion accessories into specialty coffee, and bringing its One-for-One approach with it: for each bag of coffee it sells, TOMS will deliver a week of water to a person in need.
But TOMS wasn’t the only coffee roaster that made a splash with new commitments to water security. Keurig Green Mountain last week announced its pledge to deliver clean water to 1 million people by 2020; today announced $11 million in new commitments.
And it’s not just the big brands that are getting serious about water.
Since I first attended the SCAA Symposium back in 2011 in Houston, I look forward to it every year with great anticipation–a welcome opportunity to step back from all the busyness of the daily routine to reflect and think and engage on the big issues in coffee.
Yesterday the SCAA announced the speakers for this year’s Symposium. If the event’s all-star lineup and compelling program are any indications, it will not disappoint.