Values-based roasters are creating the future of coffee. ​

Discover roasters committed to sustainability, innovation and equity in specialty coffee.

Specialty coffee is facing significant challenges:

Climate Change

The dominant species of coffee globally, Arabica, thrives only in a delicate combination of climate factors, all of which are projected to be heavily impacted in the coming decades.

Unequal Value Distribution

Operating in the buyer-driven coffee market, farmers receive only a fraction of the end retail price of the coffee they grow and sell, even as they bear the costs and risks of cultivation.

We feature small roasters who are solving these challenges through: ​

Sustainable Practices

Sustainability goes beyond agriculture, to maintaining sustainable living wages and sustainable relationships with growers that ensure long-term stability for the entire coffee value chain.

Progressive Innovation

Innovation is critical to the future of coffee as we know it - roasters must encourage exploration of new coffee varieties and growing techniques, as well as more creative, win-win trade arrangements.

Consumers are projected to spend over . on specialty coffee globally by 2030.

Source: Research and Markets

Buy coffee from roasters who are building a stable and fair market for all parties, including farmers.

What does innovation in coffee look like?

Microlots from rare origins, unusual taste profiles, experimental processing methods, new roasting technology, and creative relationships with farmers are all ways roasters can exhibit their innovation.

FAQs

Lightyear Coffee was created to be a bridge between like-minded specialty coffee roasters and coffee drinkers – specifically around sustainability and innovation.

Why is this important, right now? Coffee as we know it is under threat from climate change, as the unique mix of environmental and agricultural factors that coffee needs to thrive is becoming imbalanced. As historically-suitable climates around the world become less conducive to growing coffee, not only could we see significantly reduced availability of our favorite coffees, but we could be facing severe socioeconomic crises given that tens of millions of livelihoods around the world depend on cultivating coffee.    

A “sustainable” coffee can mean a lot of things: the coffee could be certified organic, or shade-grown under a canopy of native trees, or roasted in zero-emission roasters, or traded in exchange for equitable wages for farmers. All of these attributes, whether environmental, agricultural, socioeconomic, or otherwise, help create a stable and sustainable future for coffee.

In many cases, sustainable practices also produce higher-quality coffee. For example, shade-grown coffee develops and ripens on the tree at a slower rate compared to coffee in direct sunlight. The expanded ripening process allows for more natural sugars to form, a favorable attribute when it comes to taste.  Other certifications are indicative of a cleaner, pesticide-free growing environment, which is certainly beneficial compared to the alternative.

Everything. Roasters are at the end of a very long coffee value and supply chain, putting them in the best position to encourage downstream changes and standards, from trading all the way down to farming. Roasters are also the most public face of coffee which, combined with being the buyer in a buyer-driven market, creates an influential voice.

No. Our mission is to bring visibility to any roaster who demonstrates sustainable and innovative business practices, in an independent capacity.

We maintain an evolving, proprietary set of metrics related to sustainability and innovation, covering the agricultural, environmental, socioeconomic, retail, scientific, and trade components of the entire coffee supply chain. Having researched thousands of single origin coffees as well, we can objectively determine what origins, processing methods, and roast profiles represent true rarities and outliers. 

Because of the number of different initiatives related to sustainability or innovation that a roaster may choose to pursue, we do not calculate or use a “passing score”. There are many, many combinations of these sustainability and innovation factors that, when taken together, can make a difference.