The Best Coffee Beans to Buy—in More Ways Than One

AROUND THE WORLD, coffee drinkers consume about 2 billion cups of coffee per day; Americans alone drink nearly 150 billion cups a year. According to the Water Footprint Network, which measures the fresh water used to produce consumer goods, each cup of coffee requires the equivalent of a 16-minute shower to produce, farm to cup. It’s no surprise that there are so many bags of beans today that say as much about how the coffee is grown as it does about its flavor.


What is your favorite coffee produced in an environmentally and socially conscious way? Join the conversation below.

According to Giles Gibbons, CEO of UK-based consulting firm Good Business, “Sustainable coffee is booming because you know what you’re getting … from farms that pride themselves on their methods. and are dedicated to conserving their land by not eroding topsoil, limiting water consumption, and using natural alternatives to pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. ”

It is difficult to determine whether a coffee is truly “sustainable”. Many green-minded farmers don’t have the time or resources to get certified organic. And that certification doesn’t cover important issues like deforestation and habitat protection. Farming methods vary widely among the more than 50 coffee-growing countries, and unpredictable weather forces farmers to pivot to survive.

If you want to buy conscientiously, understand sustainability as a cycle. For farmers to invest in equipment and best practices, they need to buy long-term from companies willing to pay more for a planet-friendly bean. Money needs to go back to their communities to promote health and education. Roasters, too, need to reduce their carbon output. And resources need to go to scientific research. However, in the end, the higher price point will be difficult to sell if the coffee is not satisfactory. Here, some of the finest coffees are grown by farmers and roasted by companies committed to environmental, social and economic sustainability.


F. Martin Ramin / The Wall Street Journal

Invest in an ecosystem

Our Gorongosa coffee is produced under the auspices of the Gorongosa Project, which dedicates 100% of its profits to people, animals and land in or connected to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Founder Greg Carr has donated $100 million to date. The project commits, by 2035, to: restore 17,500 acres of rainforest by planting one million trees; build schools and finance education so that 20,000 girls will receive a high school diploma; and there are 250,000 species of large mammals that thrive in Gorongosa. Coffee is grown in the shade (key to promoting biodiversity) and comes in three blends: Elephants Never Forget, Girl Who Runs Around the World and Speaks for Trees ($17 for 12 ounces, The latter is a standout – a deep, rich roast with full aromas of praline, apricot and honey. Combine it with hot milk for a rich morning coffee au lait.



F. Martin Ramin / The Wall Street Journal

Support small farms

Most coffee enthusiasts know Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ hit blend Hair Bender and Holler Mountain. Few people may know that the company focuses on “direct trade”, fostering long-term relationships between farmers and buyers. If this sounds vague, but done right, it can help small, independent coffee farmers thrive and compete with merchants who buy machine-harvested coffee in bulk. The security these partnerships provide can allow farmers to channel resources into sustainable practices without fear of bankruptcy. Since 2003, Stumptown has worked with Finca El Injerto, the first Guatemalan farm to achieve a Carbon Neutral Certification. Made with premium Arabica beans, El Injerto Bourbon ($20 for 12 ounces, rich and chocolatey with a faint cheeky playfulness.


Get a carbon neutral cup

Founded by a top barista, Onyx Coffee Lab produces deep and powerful blends. By providing the roastery with solar energy, Onyx is now carbon neutral. They have reduced their use of natural gas by 60% by using infrared heat during the roasting process. And Onyx buys “honey-processed” coffee: the beans are left to dry with the fruit instead of being washed, which significantly reduces the amount of water used in the harvesting process and increases flavor complexity. coffee bean taste. . With notes of citrus, elderflower and black tea, Ethiopian Hambela Buku ($22 for 10 ounces, is made from an heirloom bean that is sourced from a high-altitude microbial batch in central Ethiopia. Onyx has worked with grower Aman Adinew for seven years on this award-winning coffee.



F. Martin Ramin / The Wall Street Journal

Risk reduction for responsible growers

Intelligentsia Coffee supports the nonprofit World Coffee Research in its efforts to help farmers cope with climate change and subsequent unpredictable weather patterns, as well as production risks. As a pioneer in the field of “direct commerce”, Intelligentsia has been pursuing this practice for 20 years. Perhaps most importantly, the company promises farmers fixed prices — and an alternative to erratic pricing based on the New York commodity exchange. Organic lighting mix ($18 for 12 ounces, artificial intelligence trang) has a sweet aroma of dark brown sugar and peach flavor. For the morning, El Gallo Organic Breakfast Mix ($16 for 12 ounces) offers a smooth, well-rounded finish — more like waking up to music than a shrill alarm clock.

The Wall Street Journal is not remunerated by retailers listed in its articles as stores that sell products. Regularly listed retailers are not the only retail outlets.

Edit & Amplify
Onyx Coffee Lab is the exact name of that company. The name was misspelled in one instance in an earlier version of this article. (Fixed on September 24th.)

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