Over the past two decades, Counter Culture Coffee has been a major player in the rise of craft coffee in the United States. The Durham, N.C.-based roaster supplies beans to high-end restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores across the U.S. and runs barista training centers in 11 cities.
In recent years, the company has taken on a new role: Helping coffee farmers adapt to climate change.
Fearing coffee as a ‘poverty crop with no future’
Counter Culture’s business model depends on a steady supply of top-quality beans from trusted farms. The company spends years cultivating relationships with coffee growers in Africa and Latin America, investing time and money to help them meet its customers’ high standards.
But climate change threatens this model. Coffee plants require very specific environmental conditions, and warmer temperatures and changing weather patterns are already hurting production. By 2050, the amount of land that can support the crop is expected to shrink by half. Bean quality will also suffer, experts believe.
Most coffee farmers are ill-prepared for these changes. Much of the world’s coffee comes from small, independent growers in remote equatorial regions. As a group, they see little of the profits earned by the industry as a whole. Even as worldwide demand for coffee has increased, farmers’ fortunes have actually declined. Their real earnings are down by half since the 1980s, according to a recent report published by Dutch development NGO Hivos. Consequently, most have few resources to devote to climate change adaptation.