Sustainability isn’t difficult to understand. It’s even easier to embrace. All of us are players in this production and consumption of goods that make for our nutritional makeup. The concept of preservation, self-preservation for that matter, is what the cycle of renewal and reuse is all about. It’s really about connecting the “what” with the “how.” It’s about personal accountability for the decisions that we make. Sustainability is what organic farming promotes as a way of life. It’s about recognizing and rewarding those that play a role in the unbroken cycle from crop to cup.
Take Specialty grade Arabica beans for instance: this higher altitude, perfectly ripened coffee cherry delivers a complexity and thumbprint only available from the smaller farmer. At altitudes of 3500 feet and higher, the Arabica variety undergoes a slower maturation process which lends itself to more fully developed, seasonally rich flavor profiles. Unlike the Robusta variety, which thrive at lower altitudes and comprise the majority of lesser commercial grade beans, the Arabica farms know that lesser primary defects means more dollars from the quality driven importer. Since high volume production isn’t part of the equation for the smaller estate grower, a more “hands on” approach becomes operative. Chemicals and pesticides are not cheap, so the “steroid” approach to farming appeals only to those interested in quantity over quality. Now that organic farming is being recognized and rewarded at the coffee source, the incentive for smaller growers to continue measures in sustainability is helping to stabilize the specialty grade coffee market. And we get to enjoy their hard work.
The difficulty we’ve witnessed as a micro-roaster is one of designation and promotion. It’s the old supply-demand argument that business school hammers into the psyche of its pupils. If the marketplace doesn’t ask questions about the “how” and “effect” behind the products we buy, then the tendency for big companies is to lean towards low-cost, low maintenance systems of delivery. For years there has existed an unrecognized stable of growers that employed organic farming practices. The problem for most continues to be one of economic balance between grower and buyer. In the last two years, we have witnessed a renaissance in consumer awareness that is driving the organic and fair trade efforts at an unprecedented pace. Farmers are being heralded for their efforts and rewarded monetarily. The bigger retailers are taking notice of YOU, and what you are asking for in the cup.
Fourteen years ago, I began our business in my kitchen with a small batch roaster and one bag of organic Costa Rican green bean. Beautiful, consistent green bean, roasted perfectly without bitterness, was the goal then and now. From that one bag dream, Ryan Bros. now micro-roasts in excess of 300,000 pounds, representing the world’s finest small estate and organic offerings.
Ryan Bros. Coffee is located in San Diego, California (www.ryanbroscoffee.com). Harry Ryan is the Roast Master with brothers Tom and Carmine. Parents Tom and Helena also participate daily. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.