/ by Adrienne Lewis
Summit Coffee is now a Certified Organic coffee roaster! We are excited and proud to bring you organically grown USDA certified coffees. You will notice however, that not all of our coffees bear this label. If all our coffees can be organic then why aren’t they? The answer is complex. While we do think organic is important, it is not the ultimate measure of quality or sustainability. Sustainability, especially as it relates to coffee, is multifaceted and difficult to define, but I’ll explain as well as I can.
In 1994 John Elkington coined the idea of the “Triple Bottom Line.” The Triple Bottom Line is an accounting framework that incorporates not only financial performance, but also ecological footprint and environmental responsibility. The “three P’s” of the Triple Bottom Line are People, Profit and Planet. These categories coincide with the commonly used “three E’s” of Sustainability- Economy, Ecology, and Social Equity. The three Es and three Ps are often used interchangeably, with the three Ps being more commonly associated with corporate responsibility and sustainable development. At Summit we focus on all these categories when we think about sustainability.
Organic certification relates to one area of sustainability, Ecology or Planet. There are many other ways for a coffee to be ecologically sustainable besides being organic. For example, being shade grown, bird friendly, grown on a less dense farm, grown on a farm that preserves biodiversity or practices sustainable forestry- the list goes on. There are also ways for coffees to be sustainable in the other two areas. To illustrate I’ll use a coffee we recently added to our offerings in the shop.
Kochere Bonde is an Ethiopian coffee from the Yirgacheffe region. The coffee at this processing station is guaranteed zero defects. To achieve this, the coffee is rigorously hand sorted in a process that takes three times longer than average. Sorters are paid a wage approximately twice average for their hard work. Wages are also held consistent despite fluctuations in the coffee market. This extra income and job security not only helps the sorters, it also goes directly to help the community. The workers use this money to send their children to school and invest in local infrastructure. The sorters are a key part of the sustainability of this coffee. Without them the coffee would be a lower quality and would yield lower profits. Without the higher profits the economy of the whole region would suffer and coffee farmers may sell to commodity companies or other investors who would destroy the land. Being invested in people and profits are key to making Kochere Bonde a sustainable, and delicious coffee.
Sustainability is more complex than many of us think about. There are intricate interconnections between Ecology, Economy, and Equity and the convergence of these results in a Sustainable product. We strive to apply these values to the coffee we source and serve to our customers at Summit.