See the full set on Flickr for Tim's notes on each photo from his trip to El Salvador in March-April 2011.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 8:31pm
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 5:39pm
Since the beginning, Counter Culture has pursued coffee perfection by developing partnerships that ensure prosperity for all people, improving the natural environment, and operating efficiently to minimize our environmental impact – and we continue to make progress in all of these areas. Our Sustainability & Producer Relations Manager Kim Elena Bullock filed an update this week on how we're measuring our progress toward an increasingly sustainable business via proactive, supply-chain auditing.
POSTED IN: environmental sustainability
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 3:51pm
Almost two years have passed since Counter Culture Coffee undertook to measure the seed-to-cup carbon footprint of one pound of coffee from Finca Mauritania in Santa Ana, El Salvador. For that project, I relied heavily on our exceptionally responsive and communicative partners along the supply chain – from farm owner Aida Batlle to the exporter, the shipping company, the warehouse, the trucking company, and even the coffee shop customer – to supply energy-use data, which I then crunched using free resources like Carbonfund.org.
When we arrived at a figure of approximately 11 lbs. CO2 equivalent – which includes the energy used to prepare coffee at Peregrine Espresso in Washington, DC – per pound of Finca Mauritania coffee, Counter Culture and Peregrine committed to plant trees in El Salvador that would capture the equivalent of the CO2 emissions that we had collectively generated in the growing, transporting, roasting, and brewing of the coffee.
One of the benefits of our self-directed supply-chain audit was that it familiarized us with the vocabulary, methodologies, and definitions of carbon footprints and greenhouse gas inventories. We talked to organizations that made it sound easy to do a quick audit and purchase offsets, but, having developed a pretty deep understanding of carbon and coffee, we recognized that taking our time to measure our footprint, strategize about reductions, and to find meaningful offset projects was the approach that best suited our dedication to real environmental sustainability. Our internal Sustainability Committee decided that, by 2015, the company would be carbon neutral and we have just achieved the first step toward that goal by completing a greenhouse gas inventory for the year 2010.
Working with Climate Smart, a Vancouver, BC-based auditing firm, we collected data on many aspects of our business, including the gas we burn roasting, electricity powering our espresso machines, fuel we use to commute, and the weight of paper we recycle (or don’t!) and determined that we produced 576 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) last year, or 1.2 lbs. of CO2e per pound of coffee we roast.
The roasting process accounts for a fair portion of our total footprint and our employee commuting does, as well, but our largest impact comes from air travel (and, wouldn’t you know, I’m writing this from an airplane as I make my way to visit our partner co-op in Colombia). While our business model may make it hard to reduce our air travel, the good news is that we have lots of room for improvement in other areas of our operations – from electricity consumption to waste generated – and we are ready to work to reduce our footprint per pound of coffee for 2011 and beyond!
Stay tuned to the Sustainability section of our website for updates on our progress and check out Climate Smart for great information about carbon and resources for businesses and individuals.
POSTED IN: sustainability
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 12:00am
Over the years, we have supported a variety of projects in the communities where we source our coffees. These projects sometimes have a social focus, like a drink-your-own-coffee campaign in Rwanda. At other times, our projects benefit the natural environment, as exhibited by a reforestation effort in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. In every case, however, these projects are important tools for us to use to add value to our relationships and deepen our commitment to real sustainability at each stage in the coffee chain.
Recently, we formalized that participation into a program called Seeds: Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. The first project to receive funding from the Seeds program is a training and capacity-building program run by the Cenfrocafe co-operative in San Ignacio, Peru, which brings us coffee from the five small communities of Valle del Santuario. With more than 2,000 families to represent and support, the agronomists, soil specialists, and coffee-quality-development staff employed directly by Cenfrocafe struggle to reach of the co-op’s members on a regular basis.
About two years ago, Cenfrocafe received a grant to develop a train-the-trainer program for a group of 50 young people, all of whom are the children of co-op members. These promotores (promoters) have learned about everything from soil-building practices to cupping for quality and they are now empowered to teach! The most recent phase of the initiative has been to set up a small coffee plot in each community where the local youth promoter can demonstrate good growing techniques, with an emphasis on organic management, stable levels of production, and high-quality coffee. Sounds awesome, right?
This project fits perfectly with the goals of Seeds and our company’s overall commitments to coffee education and to creating coffee people at every stage in the supply chain. Our Seeds project provided the funding for three demonstration plots, which not-so-coincidentally belong to the three promoters based in the communities where we source Valle del Santuario! I am excited about the long-term potential of this project and I can’t wait to both see these demonstration plots and talk to some of the older growers in the area about the impact of the on-the-ground youth promoters. Until then, I hope this makes your morning cup of Valle del Santuario taste extra sweet.
POSTED IN: Seeds
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 3:21pm
Since 2007, we have published an annual scorecard charting our progress toward social, environmental, and fiscal sustainability goals. Our business spans continents, cultures, and communities, and the data we measure reflects the breadth of our efforts across these divides: from investment in coffee-producing communities to the environmental impact of our roasting facility in Durham, NC.
When we created the scorecard, we selected metrics that would be meaningful and challenging over the course of many years, and, as we have continued to learn, adjust our energy and our categories to reflect improved sustainability strategies.
This year's scorecard includes new paper and energy use reduction goals while updating our progress on the five-year goals we set in 2009 as part of our CUPS initiative, which include measures of employee, producer, and customer satisfaction, as well as our company's footprint through the miles driven by our employees.
We love to share our thoughts about sustainability and believe in the benefits of collaboration, so please, share your feedback, questions, and ideas with us anytime!
POSTED IN: sustainability
Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 3:36pm
Though only a month has passed since our return, it already seems like forever ago that Jeff and I traveled to Guatemala to spend time with Jorge and Javier Recinos of Finca Nueva Armenia in Huehuetenango. As unbelievable as it might seem, Counter Culture had never seen this farm — home to one of our longest coffee-purchasing relationships — during the peak of the coffee harvest!
Even before the season began, I had mentally reserved a week for total Finca Nueva Armenia immersion, and I count myself blessed to have shared this trip with Jeff McArthur, Counter Culture roaster, cupper, and logistics guru — not to mention talented photographer. In addition to the typical responsibilities of a first-time coffee person at origin, we tasked Jeff with documenting the inimitable beauty of Finca Nueva Armenia and the quirky Recinos family. With his characteristic attention to detail, Jeff snapped more than 800 photographs while we were there, then winnowed them down to a manageable and beautiful set, which he posted to Flickr, complete with descriptions! Then, with his characteristic humility, he didn't promote these great photos around the office, so I’m taking it upon myself to crow over his skills.
Recent references to the theme of this year’s TED conference — The Rediscovery of Wonder — brought this trip, family and farm to mind immediately. First, because Finca Nueva Armenia is awe-inspiring. Have you ever wondered why we use a stylized photograph as the coffee’s icon on our packaging? I have wondered, and increasingly I think that it’s because, even with all of our powers of imagination combined, we could not dream up an icon so beautiful or dramatic as the scenery at this farm. Four years have passed since my first visit to Finca Nueva Armenia and I have seen a lot of farms and met a lot of people since then, which makes it all the more intriguing that I feel more star-struck now than I did on that first visit to this corner of Guatemala.
Though this was Jeff’s first trip to origin, I was the one gasping and marveling at the landscape like a good gringo tourist as the mountains and valleys of Finca Nueva Armenia spread out in front of us.
If it’s a little bit hard to believe that the farm is real. The same goes for warm and good-natured Recinos brothers. If I didn’t know them, I wouldn’t believe that coffee farmers like Jorge and Javier still existed. That’s a strange thing to say, I know, because it's not like these guys are churning their own butter: they drive cars, watch reality television, have university degrees, and have traveled to Botswana (that’s a story for another time). And yet, I can’t help feeling like they belong in another era because they lack the cynicism that sometimes seems entrenched in modern-day society (in Guatemala as in the US).
These 30-something twins speak reverently of the beauty of the land their great-grandfather purchased at the beginning of last century, and they marvel at the health and strength of the towering bourbon-variety coffee trees their grandfather planted there in the 1940s. They recognize that neighboring farms look, feel, and produce coffee very different from theirs. They know that if Finca Nueva Armenia had no shade, more plants per foot, and plentiful agrochemical fertilizers, the two of them could make more money. But, as inheritors of generations of tradition and preservers of a style of agriculture that almost doesn't exist in coffee, they've chosen to keep the old ways and make them work in this new world.
With all of that in mind, my hope for each of you is that when Finca Nueva Armenia's coffee arrives next month, you can taste it with a hint of that sense of wonder I feel!
Friday, March 11, 2011 - 6:01am
When Peter G. and Katy Meehan, our talented new graphic designer, decided to collaborate on a project to communicate the changes afoot in the global coffee market to the specialty coffee community, we had no idea about the magical results they would achieve.
Aptly called a "comic service announcement" by our friends at Sprudge.com, the Counter Culture Comics debut, "So What's the Deal With the Coffee Market?" is available online as part of our Flickr stream. Click here for a slideshow.
Although originally intended for an audience of coffee professionals, we thought it might be of interest to everyone.
POSTED IN: coffee knowledge
Friday, March 4, 2011 - 6:56pm
We're very proud and honored to be a part of the cadre of roasters and baristas collaborating on Coffee Common, which made its debut this week at TED 2011 in Long Beach, CA. Much more than simply a provider of coffee for TED participants, Coffee Common was handcrafting some of the world's most unique, delicious coffees and delivering a message about the complexities, intellectual puzzles, and amazing opportunities that the coffee trade presents. Our own Lem Butler, Erin Meister, and Peter Giuliano were there, brewing Buziraguhindwa Microlot 2010 and celebrating the wonders of coffee.
POSTED IN: coffee