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    Bean North Coffee Roasting's blog

    Green coffee's current price is a crisis for producers

    Green coffee's current price is a crisis for producers

          

    Owners Helen Voogd & Michael King: "Improving the livelihood of small scale farmers was the inspiration to start Bean North Coffee Roasting in 1997 and still remains the core focus of our business today. One of the things we love most about roasting fair trade organic coffee is getting to know the farmers who grow our beautiful green coffee beans. We visit these communities annually to meet with producers and their families, and continue to be inspired by them. Building long term relationships based on equality and fairness has been crucial to our success and the success and prosperity of the farmers and communities we purchase from. It’s also one of the main reasons we are so excited about the Carbon, Climate & Coffee Initiative. This initiative helps farmers receive better value for the amazing work they do providing us with the incredible coffees we sell."

    Read more about our coffee sourcing practices and how we do our best to make coffee-growing a sustainable and beneficial endeavour for farmer families and their communities.

    This article writes in detail about the minimum price of $2.20 that Cooperative Coffees - our green coffee being co-op - established last year.

    A quote from the Daily Coffee News article Coffee’s Price Collapse: How Did We Get Here and What Can We Do? Rodolfo Peñalba, general manager at COMSA, Honduras: "It is hard to believe that the price of coffee barely reaches $1 per pound. Producers are worried, disappointed and frustrated, because with this price, their hopes die. They cannot cover their debts and, therefore, cannot obtain other debts to cover the urgent family needs and the maintenance expenses of the farms. Coffee represents a high risk in the New York stock market, the main market for Arabica. No producer can operate with current prices, as this will cause serious difficulties in the sustainability of their farms."

    This excerpt comes from the Daily Coffee News article Coffee Producers Demand Immediate Action Amidst Price Crisis: The groups are specifically addressing the ICE futures price for commodity coffee — often called the “C Price” — which is widely used as a price discovery and reference tool in the creation of futures contracts for transactions of green coffee. Throughout the coffee sector, the C price serves as a benchmark that affects prices at virtually all levels of the coffee trade. “Producing countries and other players are concerned that today’s ‘C’ contract is not the right price discovery mechanism and that by allowing the impoverishment of producers, the coffee industry is compromising its own future,” the consortium of producer groups wrote in yesterday’s declaration. 

    We recently visited our coffee producers in Guatemala

    We recently visited our coffee producers in Guatemala

    A group shot of the Latin American coffee producers, North American coffee roasters, and partners from Sustainable Food Lab, Maya Cert, Global Soil Alliance, and On The Ground.

    Bean North owner Michael visited Guatemala in February 2019. We had been to this beautiful country before and were excited to spend more time with our Guatemalan producers as well as other Latin American producers. Representatives from 11 cooperatives located in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru traveled to Panajachel. They were joined by 8 coffee roasters from Canada & USA as well as staff from Cooperative Coffees, Sustainable Food Lab, Maya Cert, Global Soil Alliance, and On The Ground. The week started with meetings in Panajachel - the focus was the Cool Farm Tool.  Participants then followed the shore of Lake Atitlán towards Quetzaltenango and El Quetzal for farm visits and fieldwork.

    Presentation on the Cool Farm Tool by Daniela (Sustainable Food Lab) | Bean North Coffee Roasting

    Carbon, Coffee & Climate - Cooperative Coffees | Bean North Coffee Roasting

    The six Cool Farm Tool principles. A great presentation by Daniela from the Sustainable Food Lab.

    The first day of the exchange focussed on the Cool Farm Tool. This Tool is a farm practices and resource management calculator that allows farmers to measure their environmental impact (positive or negative), and illustrates a variety of practical options that could improve the farmer’s environmental footprint and overall farm management “score.” After a presentation by the Sustainable Food Lab, there was a discussion on its practical applications in the field. Multiple producer cooperatives already work with the Cool Farm Tool and they enthusiastically shared their experiences. We heard how this Tool helps them calculate the carbon in their soils and what the result on the 'sustainability' of their productive systems is. Soil naturally absorbs carbon from the atmosphere through a process known as sequestration which not only reduces harmful greenhouse gasses but also creates more fertile soil. One of the things we heard repeatedly is that emissions from farming are often significantly lower than the 'carbon-capture' (absorption) is. As Monika Firl  - Director of Sustainability at Cooperative Coffees - says: "Industrial agricultural is clearly identified as a primary contributor of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. But while industrial farming is a big part of the problem, small-scale, organic coffee farmers can be a significant part of the solution to current, global, climate-change challenges." 

    On the afternoon small groups worked together to learn how to use the Cool Farm Tool to assess the carbon footprint on production systems and to plan for best practices from the producer's perspective. Michael worked together with Alberto & Honorato from the Peruvian Cooperative Pangoa, Matt from Just Coffee Cooperative and Daniela from Sustainable Food Lab. They used the Cool Farm Tool to input data for an average 1 hectare farm at Pangoa, Peru.

    Of course, no tool is perfect and during the discussion that followed a few of the questions discussed were: Would this be an effective tool to encourage the application of best "regenerative organic" practices? Does it facilitate and/or simplify both internal and external organic inspections? Does the tool recognize the "environmental service" provide by organic farming? In what ways could we take advantage of this tool in practical terms?

    Cool Farm Tool practice, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting, Yukon
    Cool Farm Tool practice, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting, Yukon

    Small groups work together and learn how to use the Cool Farm Tool.

    Global Context and Soil Health presentation, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting

    Left: Part of the second day was spent on a presentation on Global Context and Soil Health with participation of Alan Gonzalez of Global Soil Alliance and Noel Rivera of Maya Cert.

    Lake Atitlan, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting
    Coffee cherries are drying in the sun, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting  

    Left: a beautiful nighttime view on Lake Atitlán.   Right: We visited multiple integrated farms that are owned by farmer-members of Manos Campesinas and San Pedro. Here you see coffee cherries drying.

     

    Effect of climate change on coffee cherries, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting

    A nice walk around the farm, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting

    The effects of climate change are real for our coffee producers. You can clearly see that the cherries on this tree don't look healthy at all. The farmers told us that the rains now come at a different - unpredictable - time. The rains have also changed from a shower-like rain to a more intense downpour and wash all the nutrients downhill.

    This change in precipitation has an effect on the coffee trees, and in combination with the change in temperatures it means that harvests are down. When the cherries shown on the photo are picked, they are often empty - meaning that there are no beans inside, or sometimes only one bean (usually each cherry contains two beans). This means that the farmer has no (or a lot fewer) beans to dry or sell. 

    Of course this isn't the first time producers need to deal with climate change. The royal (leaf rust) crisis that started around 2012 is still in everyone's mind. At that time some of our producers were successful in managing their farms through intense organic practices and they were able to grow stronger, 'roya-resistant' trees. This knowledge has since spread to producers in different countries, thanks in part to workshops and exchanges organized by the Cooperative Coffees Carbon, Climate & Coffee Initiative

    At this time there's very little the farmers can do to mitigate the effects the rain and changing climate have. The photo below shows soil pits that farmers create close to their coffee plants. The heavier rains tend to wash all the nutrients downhill. Soil pits are dug to hold moisture and nutrients from the compost to ensure that the coffee plants get all they need. If that isn't enough, farmers dig under the root system to apply compost directly to the plant - you can imagine that this is a very time consuming task. 

    Many farmers are looking into commercializing other parts of their integrated farms. Most of them already grow various products on their land for sustenance, however now they see the need to find ways of increasing their income since coffee brings in fewer funds - examples of other common commercial products are honey, cocao, latex (rubber) and sugar.

    Soil pits on coffee farms - Climate Change | Bean North Coffee Roasting Honey bees - coffee farms | Bean North Coffee Roasting Rubber tree, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting

     On the right you see the soil pits that help keep the nutrients close to the trees. A couple of examples of diversification on the farm: honey bees & a rubber tree - the white milky sap is latex.

     

    Tostaduria - Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting Cafe Armonia, Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting Cupping local coffees in Guatemala | Bean North Coffee Roasting

    The group visited Cafe Armonia ('Cafe Harmony'). This cafe is owner by Manos Campesinos, one of the Guatemalan producer cooperatives we trade with. They roast their own coffee in the 'tostaduria' and serve delicious espresso based drink & lunch in the modern cafe. It's a hotspot in Quetzaltenango. And of course, no trip to origin is complete without a cupping session. We always have a great time when tasting the local coffees with producers and staff!

    Manos Campesinas - vision | Bean North Coffee Roasting "To be recognized as the best coffee in the region, offering high quality products and service  surpassing the expectations of our customers."

     

    Cherry-picked for you and roasted with love: our new Micro Lot coffees!

    Cherry-picked for you and roasted with love: our new Micro Lot coffees!

    A delicious light roast coffee with cherry & chocolate flavours, fragrance of orange, and a full body.
    The 4000 farmers of Telamo joined the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union to gain access to the local and international markets through a transparent and established organization. They receive financial and technical support to improve farming and technical processes. The Telamo farmers and staff work together to export a high quality coffee that’s only available in small lots.

    This medium roast coffee is very sweet and has flavours of cherry, brown sugar & black tea.

    Miriam Pérez is a third generation coffee farmer who has been producing coffee for over 20 years. She is a local leader in the Marcala community and within the COMSA organization. Miriam has become an outspoken advocate of gender equality and fair trade in the coffee industry."Today, I remain an organic coffee producer. Our vision is to have coffee production be the inheritance of our four children, and to instill on them the same vision and values of cultivating coffee in harmony with nature."

    Peruvian Canchaque Natural

    A light roast coffee with sweetness of strawberry & milk chocolate, and a hint of pipe tobacco.

    This cooperative is one of the oldest co-ops in the region - founded in 1969, and named after an indigenous hero who led a revolt against the Spaniards. “Prior to 1990, nearly 100% of Sierra Piurana coffee was natural process” says Norandino manager Santiago Paz. “This Canchaque coffee was famous world-wide for its special flavor profile.” It’s characterized by its consistently sweet blend of tropical fruit and caramel flavours, full body and bitter cocoa finish.

    This medium roast is a very nice silky, sweet and clean coffee with a full body. Enjoy delicious flavours of guava & dark chocolate.

    Only red cherries make it to the depulping and overnight fermentation process - an uncommon practice in Sumatra! Every step in the process is controlled by the farmers to ensure the highest quality green coffee.After the fermentation, the parchment is rinsed, the mucilage is removed, and it’s soaked for an additional twelve hours - this increases the complexity of the coffee. To prevent the hard sun, drying happens in the shade for the first 12 hours, and is then closely monitored throughout the drying process to reach the perfect moisture content of the final green product.

    The carbon footprint report of our coffee roastery

    The carbon footprint report of our coffee roastery

    Bean North Coffee Roasting Co. Ltd. is one of twenty owner-members of Cooperative Coffees, a green coffee importing cooperative committed to supporting and partnering with small-scale coffee farmers and their exporting cooperatives. In 2017, Cooperative Coffees launched the Carbon, Climate and Coffee Initiative, which involves quantifying its carbon footprint and funding carbon reduction initiatives within its supply chain. Cooperative Coffees’ roaster members pay an extra 3 cents per pound to the cost of all green coffee purchases - this money funds the Carbon, Climate and Coffee Initiative. Our producing partners in Latin America, Africa, and Asia have the opportunity to apply for project funding from this Initiative. The focus is on project-work that encourages reforestation, soil regeneration, and experimentation and learning about other “carbon-capture enhancing” practices. Projects that focus on complementary actions that contribute towards greater environmental balance in producer communities are also eligible. Read more about the various projects that received funding in 2017.

    This Carbon Footprint report was provided by Taking Root. Bean North Coffee Roasting has been working with this Canadian non-profit since 2012 - we've used their carbon credits to offset our coffee roasting greenhouse gas emissions. Taking Root is a pioneer in leveraging the forest carbon offset industry to promote economic development amongst smallholder farmers in Central America. Its mission is to use reforestation as a tool to mitigate climate change, restore ecosystems and improve livelihoods. This is achieved by encouraging smallholder-farming families to reforest the underutilized parts of their farms using native tree species in exchange for direct payments over time as the trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere. These carbon sequestration services are then marketed and sold in several western countries.

    The Carbon Footprint Report

    This report assesses Cooperative Coffees’ total carbon footprint for all roaster members and administrative offices along all segments of the coffee value chain for the calendar year 2016. The carbon footprint report includes segments of the supply chain that are not typically considered within the scope of an organization’s boundaries (i.e. scope 3 emissions) such as employees’ commute, the importation of green coffee, and third-party distribution services for the roasted coffee. From an accounting perspective, these emissions would be considered within the boundary of someone else’s carbon footprint. The inclusion of these segments demonstrates Cooperative Coffees’ commitment throughout its supply chain. 

    Bean North Coffee Roasting compared to Cooperative Coffees’ average

    Bean North’s total carbon footprint was 86.5 tCO2, which is equivalent of the emissions from 18.8 passenger vehicles in a typical year. Our carbon footprint is 1.1 kg (2.43 lbs) of COper pound (0.454 kg) of coffee. When we compare this to Cooperative Coffees' average, we note that our footprint per pound of coffee is above average - the average footprint is 0.66 kg (1.45 lbs) of CO2 per pound. We’re the sole western-Canadian member whereas all other roaster members are located in southeastern Canada and the USA. Due to our location, both inbound and outbound shipping have higher absolute CO2 emissions and explain our above average footprint per pound (more detailed explanations can be found below). Bean North’s total carbon footprint is about 3% of Coop Coffees’ total carbon footprint of 2,690 tCO2 for all roaster members and administrative offices. 

    Bean North Coffee Roasting's Carbon Footprint for 2016

    Commute substantially below average

    This is in large part because staff live substantially closer to the roaster than the average. Overall, CO2 emissions from employees’ daily commute were 3.72 tCO2.

    Importation above average

    Such emissions are a function of the distance traveled by land from the producer cooperative to the port in the producing country, the distanced traveled by ocean freight from the port in the producing country to the port in the USA, the distance traveled from the receiving port to the coffee warehouses where the coffee is stored in Canada (Toronto), and the energy consumed by the coffee warehouses. We purchase a large amount of coffee from land-locked countries, and those coffees have a larger carbon footprint per pound - something we'll reconsider! Overall, CO2 emissions from the importation of coffee is the greatest contributor to our carbon footprint with 37.93 tCO2. 

    Inbound Shipping just above average

    This section outlines the emissions related to inbound shipping of green coffee from the warehouse in Toronto to Bean North's roastery. Such emissions are a factor of the distance traveled and the mode of transportation used. Our coffee is transported by train - a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation compared to road-freight - for 65% of the way, a far higher percentage than any other roaster. Overall, CO2 emissions from inbound shipping were 17.31 tCO2.

    Energy Use well below average

    This section outlines the emissions related to energy used to roast the coffee, and the electricity used to heat and power our roastery. Overall, CO2 emissions from energy use were 8.33 tCO2.

    Outbound Shipping above average

    This section outlines the emissions related to outbound shipping of roasted coffee from roaster to buyers. This includes third party courier services and company-controlled vehicles for shipping and sales. Bean North ships a large amount of our coffee to wholesalers and individual customers outside the Yukon, which automatically means long distances. Overall, CO2 emissions from energy use were 14.02 tCO2. 

    Employee Travel average

    This section outlines the emissions related to employee travel to the coffeelands and Cooperative Coffees meetings or conferences. In 2016 we travelled to Honduras to participate in a the Diplomados de Agricultura Orgánica at COMSA. We also travelled within North America to attend various Cooperative Coffees meetings. Overall, CO2 emissions from employee travel were 5 tCO2.

     

    *with files from Taking Root & Cooperative Coffees