Where Quality Meets Sustainability

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.
BRainforest 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 Coordinator 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 Cooperative, 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 coordinator.
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 coordinator 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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