Where Quality 
Meets Sustainability

by Anna Clark, Rainforest Alliance

Twice a year, a panel of experts from the cof­fee indus­try con­venes to accom­plish a com­mon goal: demon­strate the qual­ity of sus­tain­ably pro­duced cof­fees. Since 2003, the Rainforest Alliance has been host­ing Cupping for Quality events to rec­og­nize farm­ers for their hard work in adopt­ing envi­ron­men­tally and socially respon­si­ble man­age­ment prac­tices, and to dis­pel any per­cep­tion that qual­ity is com­pro­mised for sustainability.

Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms in Ethiopia, Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador earned top marks at the Spring 2012 Cupping for Quality in New York City. The results were announced on April 20 at the annual Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Coffee Breakfast at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual tradeshow in Portland, OR.

This cup­ping had the most robust set of flights yet, with a total of 90 cof­fee sam­ples from nine ori­gins sub­mit­ted, At the InterContinental Exchange Grading Room in New York City, a group of 12 expert cup­pers par­tic­i­pated in the two-and-half-day event, eval­u­at­ing the sam­ples accord­ing to their aroma and fla­vor pro­files. The sam­ples were roasted and pre­pared by Marty Curtis of Combustion Systems Sales, who also led the cupping.

The best part of our cup­ping events is who they bring to the table,” said Maya Albanese, event host­ess and Coördinator of Sustainable Agriculture at the Rainforest Alliance. “Luminaries in the cof­fee indus­try dri­ving social and envi­ron­men­tal change in busi­nesses of all dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes come together to sup­port the mis­sion of the Rainforest Alliance. By spend­ing time tast­ing and eval­u­at­ing Rainforest Alliance Certified cof­fees, they are sup­port­ing farms with sus­tain­able man­age­ment prac­tices and help­ing to grow the mar­ket for sus­tain­able coffees.”

The high­est score – 86 points – went to Idido of the Kokie Farmers Coöperative, an asso­ci­a­tion of small­holder farm­ers located in the moun­tain forests of Yirgaceffe in Southern Ethiopia. Over 95 per­cent of the sam­ples scored above 80, the thresh­old for spe­cialty cof­fee — an indi­ca­tion that sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices often con­tribute to the pro­duc­tion of high-quality cof­fee. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are required to adopt social and envi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment sys­tems that are ben­e­fi­cial to the pro­duc­tion process, envi­ron­ment, and out­put of the farms.

Since the very first Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality event in 2003, it has been a joy to see improve­ments all along the way — and not just qual­ity improve­ments, but also new ori­gins with cer­ti­fied pro­duc­tion and over­all increases in the avail­able cer­ti­fied sup­ply,” said Chad Trewick, Cupper and Senior Director of Coffee & Tea at Caribou Coffee. “This event is tes­ta­ment to the great ben­e­fits of rec­og­niz­ing and reward­ing qual­ity within a prag­matic and effec­tive cer­ti­fi­ca­tion program.”

I believe that most of this advance­ment is a result of sus­tain­able prac­tices insti­tuted over the years,” added Marty Curtis, Lead Cupper and founder of Combustion Systems Sales & Service.

Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are com­mit­ted to reduc­ing their envi­ron­men­tal foot­print, being good neigh­bors to human and wildlife com­mu­ni­ties and abid­ing by a strict set of social and envi­ron­men­tal cri­te­ria out­lined by the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a coali­tion of lead­ing con­ser­va­tion groups with the Rainforest Alliance as lead coördinator.

The Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality takes place twice per year to accom­mo­date vary­ing cof­fee har­vest cycles around the world. Cuppers par­tic­i­pate on an invi­ta­tion only basis, but invi­ta­tions can be requested from the event coör­di­na­tor by vis­it­ing: www.ra.org/agriculture/crops/coffee/cupping-quality. The next two cup­ping events will take place in Long Beach, CA, on December 6 and 7, 2012, and in New York City on March 28 and 29, 2013.

To meet rapidly increas­ing con­sumer demand for sus­tain­ably pro­duced goods, more cof­fee com­pa­nies glob­ally are sourc­ing their beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. In 2011, over 245,000 met­ric tons of RA cer­ti­fied cof­fee were pro­duced. This is an increase in pro­duc­tion of 20 per­cent over 2010. Rainforest Alliance Certified cof­fee now rep­re­sents an esti­mated 3.3 per­cent of the global mar­ket. Another mile­stone of note in 2011 was the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of two cof­fee farms under the Rainforest Alliance’s new cli­mate mod­ule. El Platanillo in Guatemala and Daterra in Brazil are two cof­fee farms that will now be able to reduce their green­house gas emis­sions and bet­ter adapt to chang­ing cli­matic con­di­tions because of their addi­tional climate-friendly certification.

To learn more about Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and how it improves the lands, lives and liveli­hoods of cof­fee farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties, visit: www.sealyourcup.org.

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