The future of coffee is happening now.

Today’s practices are laying the groundwork for what coffee will look like in the future.  Impacting that future are several critical trends:

  • Farming coffee can lead to deforestation, removal of natural carbon sinks and erosion controls, and the destruction of diverse ecosystems
  • All coffee consumed in the US was shipped here from overseas, typically by traditional fossil fuel-powered shipping methods
  • Roasting equipment may not be energy efficient and can emit various pollutants including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide
  • Retail coffee is usually sold in small packages, leading to large volumes of packaging material that may not be recyclable

But all of these areas of concern also present clear areas for innovation and improvement. 

Here’s the short version of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Check out our blog post on this for a deeper dive.

Some features of the world of coffee:

  • Coffee is a crop that thrives only with a specific balance of climate factors, i.e. land temperatures and moisture. A changing climate is affecting a significant portion (around 50%) of the land around the world currently used for growing coffee.
  • There is stark inequity in the coffee market. If you pay $15 for a bag of roasted coffee, maybe $1 of that actually gets to the farmer.  These economics are making it increasingly hard for coffee-growing communities to exist, let alone thrive.
  • Global demand for specialty coffee is rising.  As demand goes up, and supply potentially declines due to the issues above, the market could experience volatility and prices could rise significantly. Farmers may also then be incentivized to grow coffee more quickly, often using methods that are not eco-friendly or sustainable.
  • New roasting equipment and technologies are making it easier and easier for more people to roast coffee commercially. Gone are the days when a café or restaurant had to buy roasted coffee from an upstream third-party.  As we see roasting move downstream to parties that historically bought roasted coffee, the market is becoming more fragmented.

Reward the difference makers

Buying coffee from roasters who are at the frontier of sustainable practices is an investment in those practices.  Similarly, buying coffee from a roaster who is doing nothing to minimize waste, trade fairly, or source eco-friendly beans will only incentivize that roaster to not change at all.

Coffee is a buyer-driven market, and roasters are the buyers, or they direct the buyers.   Forward-thinking risks and experiments around the future of coffee need to be rewarded if they are to continue and succeed. We can ensure that roasters trying to innovate will be rewarded for that risk.   

Encourage transparency

The journey that your coffee took from where it was grown to your grinder was extra long.  Who it was handed off to, how they were paid, what value did they add to the coffee, is not always clear.

Transparency is key to shining a light on practices that otherwise would be off limits to consumers. Reducing information asymmetries also helps all stakeholders in the coffee market make better decisions around their role in the supply or value chain.    

Inform coffee drinkers

With the proliferation of commercial roasters, coffee drinkers should be able to learn about different roasters, what they stand for, and what they are doing (or not doing) to protect the future of coffee. We provide a standardized way to make these comparisons. 

Just as no two people have exactly the same values and priorities, no two roasters are doing exactly the same things when it comes to sustainability, innovation, and equity either.  But every little bit helps.  And whatever you want to see a roaster doing in these critical areas, there’s probably at least one out there doing it.