Coffee beans have different classifications, which determine the role of coffee growers in the supply chain. It takes into consideration the economic, social, and environmental standards. And sustainable coffee is one classification, which refers to coffee beans that are certified organic. Sustainable coffee farming is a multibillion-dollar industry with significant implications on other commodities because of increased awareness and demand.
Get to learn more about coffee beans and sustainable coffee farming by continuing to read below.
A Brief History of Sustainable Coffee Farming
When it comes to choosing good coffee beans, it would be a good idea to know the origin and the manner of how they were grown. It’s done to ensure that you’re getting premium or high-quality coffee beans for home use or your business. Most coffee beans produced worldwide come from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. However, there came a time when coffee producers experienced a crisis.
In 2001 to 2003, the prices of coffee beans reached very low levels, which left many coffee growers in tight situations or poverty. That’s why policymakers and researchers landed into the idea of practicing sustainable coffee farming, which aims to provide new and better opportunities for coffee producers. It includes policies on sustainable coffee trade, such as eliminating middlemen for farmers to get higher profits and help them get away from poverty.
Also, a book was published, which includes the concept of sustainable coffee farming. It’s a detailed guide on how to practice sustainable coffee farming and what sustainable coffee trade is all about. The book is entitled, “The State of Sustainable Coffee,” which aims to help coffee producers who are facing difficult production conditions and prices.
Here are the benefits of sustainable coffee farming:
- Farmers that practice sustainable coffee farming will be highly favored by international coffee organizations, involving coffee traders and businesspeople.
- Help save the environment by using fewer pesticides and fertilizers.
- Get financial assistance from the government department of agriculture.
- Produce healthier coffee beans that are also safe and better-tasting.
- Coffee growers will receive more financial and work benefits (like health care, education, etc.) from the coffee they sell because of eliminating middlemen.
Types of Sustainable Coffee Beans
Several organizations commissioned a survey-study to assess the markets on a large-scale, including retailers, roasters, wholesalers, distributors, and importers. The result of the study indicated the primary sustainable coffees, which includes Bird Friendly, Fair Trade, Organic, and Rainforest Alliance.
By identifying these sustainable coffees, producers have added value and competitive advantages, which set them apart from other coffees grown in a non-sustainable manner. Sustainable coffee farming commands premium pricing, as well as better benefits for coffee farmers.
Here are the different types of sustainable coffee beans:
- Fair Trade Coffee: It’s also referred to as equal exchange coffee, which is a type of coffee produced by bypassing coffee traders. It gives coffee producers and buyers higher profits. As a third-party certification body, TransFair USA ensures that coffee growers get a minimum guaranteed fair trade price. Also, it ensures that coffee importers purchase from small farmers listed in the International Fair Trade Coffee Register. Also, coffee importers should credit farmers against future sales and help coffee growers stay out of debt from middlemen.
- Organic Coffee Beans: These are coffee beans produced without the use of herbicides or pesticides. Organic coffee beans are beneficial to consumers and producers. A certified organic coffee puts greater emphasis on soil health, recycling, composting, and environmental protection, which are essential to sustainability.
- Bird-Friendly Coffee Beans: Shade-grown coffee beans benefits songbirds. It’s because they use coffee trees as a natural habitat. Therefore, it reduces the need for herbicides and fertilizers. It also promotes biodiversification — growing shade-grown or bird-friendly coffee benefit migratory birds and coffee farmers. Also, shade-grown coffee tastes better due to more chemicals and sugars produced.
Here are the different types of shade-grown coffee beans:
- Rustic or Rusticano: When planting these coffee trees, they’re placed in an existing forest. Only a few changes are made to the native plants.
- Traditional Polyculture or Policultura Tradicional: It’s a more deliberate method as compared to the rustic method. Coffee trees are integrated with other plants, like fruits and vegetables within the coffee farm, which is somehow similar to social forestry. Farmers can diversify crops and still maintain the benefits of shade-grown coffee.
- Commercial Polyculture or Policultura Commercial: This method is quite the same with traditional polyculture. However, there are more coffee trees than shade trees. It allows higher coffee production but requires using some fertilizers and pesticides.
- Specialized or Reduced Shade or Sombra Especializada: This coffee uses a single canopy as shade.
Sustainable Coffee Farming Best Practices
Sustainable coffee farming uses less water. A sustainable farm replaces the land’s natural nutrients by spreading organic matter (such as composted coffee pulp) and fertilizers under and in between coffee trees. Sustainable coffee beans are grown in a way that’s kind to the people and the environment.
Here are some sustainable coffee farming practices:
- Sustainable coffee farming uses renewable resources to save resources and minimize pollution. It takes essential steps to take good care of the environment. Most of all, it should give more to people and cares for its workers.
- Instead of cutting down trees, like eucalyptus, as heating fuel, a sustainable farm reuses coffee husks. Sustainable coffee farming involves planting new trees to replace cut trees used during heating. Pollution-free coffee dryers, like a solar coffee dryer, can be used to heat coffee beans.
- Sustainable coffee farming minimizes water consumption. Water from fermentation tanks is filtered naturally and used for coffee irrigation. It shouldn’t be disposed to lakes and rivers.
- Sustainable farming engages in best practices, like shade growing, biodiversification, organic farming, and sustainable agriculture.
- Sustainable farms should also seek renewable energy resources, provide proper medical care for workers, promote education programs, provide decent wages, and ensure good working conditions.
Sustainable coffee farming has become the best solution to help coffee producers gain enough profit margin without causing harm to the environment. Because of deteriorating environmental conditions, climate change, and other issues that coffee growers face, sustainable coffee farming practices should be implemented. By doing so, sustainable coffee beans would have better prices to help coffee producers as well as the environment and the people with strict standards in place.