Turkish? Pour-over? French press? Among coffee connoisseurs, the best method for making an exquisite cup of coffee is a matter of intense debate. But one thing is for sure: Coffee is better when it’s good—when beans are grown and harvested more sustainably, in ways that protect ecosystems and worker well-being.
No matter what method you choose, knowing the coffee comes from a healthy ecosystem sets the stage for a perfect morning treat.
How to treat your responsibly grown coffee beans
Store your beans in a glass or ceramic container with a rubber gasket. Contrary to popular belief, you should keep coffee beans at room temperature (not in the fridge). It should go without saying that you must grind your own beans each morning—experts say that you have about 5 minutes after grinding before the coffee starts getting stale.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just pour some water over grounds in one of those beaker-like carafes? Not so fast. The expert technicians at the Oakland, California, based coffee roaster Blue Bottle recommend first wetting the paper filter completely with just-boiled water. Next, you place the grounds in the filter and use a light, consistent pour to moisten the grounds—then stop! Wait 30 seconds to allow the coffee to “bloom.” Pour the remaining hot water over the grounds slowly. Like, really slowly. You should be pouring so slowly that it takes a full four minutes for the water to drip down into the base of the flask.
For the French press, Serious Eats recommends the coarsest grounds possible to reduce the muddy sediment at the bottom. Scoop them into the carafe and add just-boiled water, giving it a gentle but thorough stir. Wait 30-45 seconds—again, to allow the coffee to “bloom.” You’ll know it’s time to place the lid on when most of the coffee has sunk to the bottom. Wait 6-8 minutes, then plunge gently, pour, and drink up!
Stovetop espresso maker, the moka pot
Yes, even this traditional Mediterranean device has given rise to a set of specialized instructions. Stumptown, the famed Portland coffee purveyor, recommends that you first boil water in a kettle, as you don’t want the moka pot to get too hot and impart metallic flavors; you then pour the hot water into the bottom half of the espresso maker. Insert the basket and fill it with fine grounds, then screw the two parts together (you must somehow remember to use an oven mitt before having caffeinated yourself, to prevent burning yourself on the base that you've just filled with boiling water). Brew on moderate heat with the lid open. Once the stream of liquid bubbling forth is the color of yellow honey, remove from heat and close lid. Wrap the bottom in a chilled bar towel or run it under water to stop the extraction. Pour immediately.
For many, iced coffee is a cherished summertime pick-me-up, but if you want to do it right, you’ll need 12-24 hours (and you thought the pour-over method was slow!). Stir coffee grounds and water in a pitcher, cover, and let steep a minimum of 12 hours; when the brew is ready, strain it, and store it in the refrigerator for another 2 hours.
Like other methods, brewing Turkish coffee calls for its own set of tools, including a lovely little cup called a finca and a small brass pot known as a cezve. Boiling the grounds—which should be finer even than those for espresso—together with water makes this thick brew. Traditionally, a cup of water is served with Turkish coffee to clear the palate before partaking in the delicious dark concoction (hipster coffee snobs have nothing on the Ottomans). Be sure not to drink the grounds at the bottom of the cup—you’ll need them to tell your fortune (and if you don’t know the ancient art of reading coffee grounds, never fear—there’s an app for that!).
The UTZ program, now part of Rainforest Alliance, adopts a balanced approach to sustainability that takes into account the three pillars of people, planet and profit. Today we talk to Henriette Walz, Global Lead Deforestation, about the environmental pillar through the lens of our coffee program. She explains in concrete terms why sourcing sustainable coffee is better for the environment.
Sustainable coffee helps farmers better manage wastewater
Approximately two thirds of coffee beans are processed through a technique called the wet process. This process removes the coffee bean from the husk and pulp using large amounts of water. “The polluted wastewater then often flows back into nature, contaminating the surrounding environment and water people use to drink, wash and play in,” Henriette explains.
Farmers are trained to implement better water management techniques to tackle the problems created through wet processing. These techniques include; keeping clean water separated from contaminated water, reducing water use through recycling water whenever possible during wet processing and by implementing a water treatment system to eliminate or reduce pollution caused by wastewater.
Change in action
The wastewater project in Central America is a prime example of how wastewater can be repurposed and put to good use. The project turned wastewater from coffee production into safe, renewable energy that local families could use to power their stoves or farm machinery.
Marvin Mairena, a farmer and agronomist who was involved with the project, explained the dramatic changes they saw:
“In the first year the system reduced the levels of [water] contamination by 81.3%. We used to use around 1,500 liters of water per 46 kilograms of pre-pulped coffee. Now we only use 250 liters.”
Coffee farmer Jeremias Benitez Díaz from Honduras is also seeing the benefits of a sustainable approach. He explains why it’s so important to protect the environment and talks about the transformation he’s witnessed:
Sustainable coffee helps farmers adapt to climate change
Another issue facing coffee farmers is climate change. “Coffee needs very specific environmental conditions to thrive,” Henriette says. “As climate change becomes a growing concern, coffee production is increasingly being impacted by rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, droughts and other environmental issues, like pests and diseases.”
Farmers are trained to address these problems by learning methods that can help them adapt to climate change in addition to methods that can help them reduce their negative impact on the climate.
Henriette: “Farmers can adopt good agricultural practices to better cope with the effects of climate change include things like planting shade trees, implementing efficient irrigation methods and covering the soil with compost to make it more resilient.”
But the UTZ program, now part of Rainforest Alliance, doesn’t stop there. “It’s also vital that we help farmers make risk assessments for their own situation so they can be aware of the effects of climate change in their region and identify the specific measures they want to implement,” Henriette explains. “Showing farmers how to keep records of things like rainfall is one example of ways we can help them decide which measures to adopt.”
By sourcing Rainforest Alliance certified coffee, St Remio is supporting the protection of the environment in and around coffee farms across the globe.
This year we are continuing our funding for Cocagi Femme. Due to climate issues and COVID-19, this coffee community faced some big challenges that destroyed some of the crops we purchased and donated to them last year.
So to ensure, this project is a success, we are back supporting them, replenishing crops that were destroyed, buying an additional 2 hectares of land, fertiliser for the whole 6 hectares of land, additional coffee seedlings and sunflowers to they can earn additional money from the land while they are establishing the coffee plantation.
Cocagi have been busy preparing the original 4 hectares of land (including weeding, purchasing liquid organic fertilizer and mulching) before planting 7318 coffee trees to ensure a healthy crop. They are now on track to plant the remaining 2,682 coffee trees by the end of January totalling 10,000 new coffee plants. They are still looking to secure the new 2 hectares of land which they have planned to use for both coffee and bananas, hopefully by our next report this will be secured and land preparation will be underway for this new addition!
As well as prepping the land and planting the coffee plants, the community have also been preparing the land to include sunflowers after severe weather destroyed the tomato crops last year. Plant diversification is very important to ensure that the women can secure an alternate source of income while the crops are being established. It also diversifies the risk of reliance on one crop and is an important aspect that is taught by Rainforest Alliance to these communities to ensure they can continually make money from the land and support their families.
As part of our support, we also invest in training for the Cocagi Femme who together with the support of Rainforest Alliance teach the community about leadership, gender equality, trade and marketing of their coffee. We also funded the cost of two female agronomists to assist the farming project. An agronomist are plant and soil scientists who work with the cooperative on the most up-to-date farming practices to boost crop yields while managing weeds, pest control and working in alignment with the surrounding environment.
As we have seen, no project is free from challenges like unpredictable weather, but so far, the project is moving forward without any issues. Thank you to our customers for buying St Remio. Your support is allowing us to fund this community and empower them in business and support their families. Coffee is the lifeline of many communities and your support will ensure that these communities can thrive and we can enjoy coffee for years to come.
Thank you to Rainforest Alliance for their support in this project too. This is a partnership we are so proud to be aligned with.
At St Remio we stand for three things; Quality, Transparency and Community. We are passionate about giving consumers premium coffee without the price tag, but more importantly, we are passionate about giving back to the coffee growing community, especially in Rwanda.
As part of this goal, this year we committed to fully fund the build of a coffee Cupping Lab in Towngere Umusaruro, Rwanda. This infrastructure will enable coffee growers and roasters to producer higher quality coffee beans via giving them the tools to be able to run daily checks and tastings.
This month some of our team will travel to Twongere Umusaruro, Rwanda to visit the coffee farmers and officially unveil the brand new St Remio funded Cupping Lab, which is very close to completion!
We cannot wait to get an understanding of the impact this new facility will have on the farmers of TUK and we look forward to sharing these stories with you in the next few months.
We would like to take this time to thank you, our customers for making all this possible and allowing us to give back to the coffee farming community with this wonderful initiative.
Thank you for being part of the change.
Founder, St Remio