For Blue Bottle, the agricultural truth of a cup of coffee is always on our mind. We work with farmers from all over the coffee-growing world, and while the cultivars, processing methods, and profiles vary greatly, all of our producers are united in their commitment to growing coffee sustainably. They’re guided by long-term ecological needs and the belief that the strength of their business is only as strong as their community. Labor costs are often higher and the coffee yields more modest as a result, but these producers know that the only way to grow delicious coffee well into the future is by caring for the land and the people who tend it.
The Hard Work of Sustainable Farming
For this reason, we see Earth Day as an opportunity to thank all of the producers who grow incredible coffee without compromising environmental and ethical standards. It’s one thing to use compostable cups, as we do in our cafes; it’s quite another to prune for hundreds of hours instead of using fungicides, or to facilitate regional workshops for greener coffee growing in places like El Salvador and Honduras.
To give you a sense of the incredible tenacity of the farmers who inspire us, we want to share the stories of just a few of our producers. This is only a short list—a brief glimpse at the integrity and diligence that forms the backbone of our coffee-growing community.
This large and ambitious farm not only leads the way in the region for organic growing practices, reforestation efforts, and profit sharing, but also recognizes its position as a mentor to other local farms. As a result, FAF has become a center for coffee studies and an export company. It focuses on improving local farmers’ quality of life by teaching business skills and empowering them to charge more by growing premium organic coffee. Our Hayes Valley Espresso, served in all of our cafes, features coffee from FAF. We love that so many of our guests get to taste one of Brazil’s most transparent and delicious coffees every single day.
Elton Estate, Tanzania
This large estate in lush Mbeya Valley has converted over a hundred acres to organic cultivation. Replanting all of the coffee trees and re-establishing soil health with abundant compost and biodiverse plantings took herculean effort and an uncompromising vision fixed on long-term environmental sustainability. Elton Estate has had to diversify their crops, planting banana and macadamia trees, to maintain a steady income—all while continuing to produce elegant washed coffees.
After a lifetime of growing cotton, Don Miro bought eighty hectares on a wildly forested slope that’s home to myriad fruit species, orchids, and monkeys. The profitable move would have been to cut down the old-growth forest and plant fast-growing coffee trees. But Don Miro and his son refused to destroy the home of so much wildlife. His coffee trees, nourished by the lush, humid forest ecosystem, take longer to ripen than other varietals and produce dense seeds that require longer drying times. But the genetics of his plants have been strengthened by the biodiverse ecosystem, and his coffee is beautifully expressive.
Southern Shan State, Myanmar
We work with multiple communities here who process natural coffees because of their limited water resources. Each wet season, they collect rainwater and ration it for the rest of the year. Farmers have created a cohesive, harmonious system to make use of what is on hand. They use local bamboo for the drying tables, which are removed after the coffee harvest to make way for the tomatoes. The dried bamboo then becomes fuel for the colder months. Nothing here is wasted; everything is used.
Sipi Falls, Uganda
This collective of over seven thousand family farms, all smallholders working with two hundred to five hundred coffee trees, manages organic cultivation using dung fertilizers and biodigesters (a mechanism that breaks down organic material using microorganisms and produces fuel for heating homes). They clean their processing water using natural additives and sediment filters. The water becomes so clean at the end of this process that they raise tilapia in the final pond, and barbecue the fish every year.
To all of these farmers, and to all of the pickers, processors, and managers who grow and process our coffee, we say thank you.
In our eyes, coffee’s main purpose is to be delicious, and we go to great lengths to source, roast, taste, and prepare coffee so our guests can enjoy it at its very best. But we also know that good coffee depends on a strong community. This is why we work directly with farmers around the world to source our coffees as sustainably and ethically as possible. We take pride in knowing that we’ll always be able to enjoy coffee grown and processed by people who are as passionate about it as we are.
Earth Day is falling on the tail end of National Poetry Month. Enjoy our favorite coffee-inspired poems here.