The specialty coffee supply chain is intricate and complex, consisting of many different and connected parts. Along this chain, coffee is vulnerable to threats that impact not only quality, but also its very existence. Every day, coffee fights for survival, confronted with erratic weather patterns, disease and pests, drought, as well as labor shortages and market forces that impact the ability of farmers to keep their coffee healthy and happy.
The sustainability of coffee—in other words, coffee’s capacity to endure—will ultimately depend on our ability to confront these real threats, to explore them through collaborative research, and to share findings that allow all parties along the supply chain to engage in best practices for our industry. The future of coffee is directly correlated with the future of the world in which we cultivate it, and is dependent on the actions that we take today to preserve this environment. We must recognize our influence, and work to mitigate this impact.
Within our microcosm of coffee (as well as in the wider world), the word “sustainability” carries many connotations. It can apply to a wide range of factors that impact coffee’s ability to thrive, which are often grouped into categories such as: economic (labor, compensation, and production), ecological (energy, waste, water, construction), political (government, law, leadership, communication), and cultural (gender, health, beliefs, learning).
With all of this to consider, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to help, but we do know one thing: Sustainability is a journey. It is not a destination that we will one day reach. It is a life-long pursuit for us and for future generations to come. It is important to remember that every little thing we do contributes to this larger effort.
This issue of The Specialty Coffee Chronicle will take a look at what’s being done to address the critical issues that span the coffee supply chain, as well as research projects that are underway through organizations such as World Coffee Research. Our goal, as a community, should be to not only make better coffee, but also to make coffee better. Improving our practices today with the goal of continuing this journey will have a lasting impact into the future.