The coffee world is exploding with new roasters, and it seems like every one of them touts eco-friendly bona fides. But how can you tell who's really committed to sustainability? One brand leading the pack is Counter Culture Coffee, which currently has nine education centers across the country and a 10th on the way in Charleston, South Carolina. Throughout May, the company is hosting Sustainable Spring, a series of awareness-raising events, tastings and presentations that highlight sustainability in coffee, overseen by Counter Culture's own sustainability coordinator, Meredith Taylor. We tapped Taylor to tell us what it really means for a coffee company to be sustainable.
The question "Is this coffee sustainable?" is an important one, and the answer is never as straightforward as "yes" or "no." It's more a question of where a particular coffee falls on a spectrum of "not sustainable" to "very sustainable" and takes into consideration the environmental, social and fiscal impacts of that coffee's supply chain. That said, consumers can look for a few things:
Certifications: Certifications like Organic, Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance are indicators of a sustainably grown coffee, but they don't tell the whole story. Certifications can be helpful if you're interested in a particular aspect of sustainability. Environmental concerns, for example, might lead you to prefer Organic over Fair Trade. No single one covers all the criteria that should be considered in determining sustainability. This chart decodes the most commonly seen certifications.