FOOD

Empower Farmers & Preserve the Planet with Your Morning Coffee

April 6th, 2021

From precise, temperature-regulated pour-over systems to superfood mix-ins like collagen and adaptogens, your morning coffee ritual is personal—and you probably put a lot of care and effort into making that daily cup just the way you like it.

If how you prepare your coffee is a reflection of your tastes and dietary preferences, why not make sure it also embodies your values? By choosing your coffee beans mindfully, you can use your dollar (and your AM routine) to empower coffee farming communities around the world while helping to restore the health of the planet.

A Livelihood Based on Coffee

Think of any mainstream, big-name coffee brand. It’s likely that the company you’re thinking of buys commodity coffee beans at an artificially low price set in New York and London by the commodities and futures markets. There are constant fluctuations in the purchase price for those commodity beans, and as a result, coffee farmers in Central America, South America, and Ethiopia are at the mercy of the volatile market.

Typically, the entire economy of these farming communities are based on coffee production—nothing else. As such, when the commodity coffee price falls, the farmers receive an unfair and unlivable wage for their crop. That means little or no money for food, housing, schools, or education.

There is a better way for companies to buy coffee, and that’s purchasing it directly from farmers or through a farming co-op, like we do at Thrive Market.

Not All Coffee Is Grown With Nature in Mind

Coffee beans are grown in some of the most biologically diverse regions of the planet, and many of those regions are home to the world’s remaining tropical forests. When less-than-sustainable practices are used to grow coffee beans, it can cause serious damage to the ecosystem.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, a nature conservation group, 37 of the 50 countries in the world with the highest deforestation rates are also coffee producers. This isn’t surprising, considering coffee farmers are encouraged to cut down some of the forest as a way to expand their plantations, instead of growing their coffee using time-honored regenerative agricultural practices. (Note that most of these so-called “regenerative” practices are the farmers’ traditional practices that they’ve used throughout history).

Another environmental downfall of unsustainable coffee-growing practices: Growing coffee and washing the beans demands a lot of water, and the wastewater from that process can contaminate rivers and streams if left untreated. When chemical pesticides and fertilizers are added to the equation, that wastewater becomes toxic and dangerous. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How Thrive Market Organic Coffee Is Different

Thrive Market Chief Merchandising Officer (and veritable sourcing guru) Jeremiah McElwee traveled all the way to Peru to source Thrive Market’s organic coffee beans. He met with a cooperative of 13 families in Peru who use sustainable, regenerative agricultural practices to grow their coffee, including composting, recycling water, and planting cover crops.

The families grow the coffee plants on the side of a mountain, in harmony with the natural ecosystem, interspersed with bananas and other fruit plants. Once ripe, they handpick the coffee cherries, dry them in the sun, and send them to Thrive Market’s master roaster in California.

McElwee formed a deep partnership with the Peruvian families. He makes sure they have the equipment they need to continue producing high-quality beans, and that they earn a fair living wage for their gorgeous coffee. “We wanted to partner with them in a way that wasn’t just transactional,” he explains. “We wanted to ensure that they have the equipment they need, and that they know they’re truly part of the Thrive Market family.”

How Thrive Market Empowers Coffee Farmers

After many in-depth conversations, McElwee learned that the Peruvian community needed additional drying beds so that they could improve their bean quality, reduce costs, and increase production. In 2019, Thrive Market funded the material and labor needed to build 20 solar drying beds in the community. The benefits were immediately visible: The coffee was not only more efficient and less costly for the farmers to produce, but there were fewer defects in the beans and the quality is now even more impeccable than before.

How to Get In Touch With Your Coffee

Explore your coffee’s journey from the farm to your cup—you may just find that it makes your morning ritual all the more enjoyable.

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Erin Mosbaugh

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