South Africa’s water crisis is being felt across all sectors of the country, and the coffee industry is no exception. Coffee production is a water-intensive process and producers of the popular caffeinated beverage are having to adapt and think wisely about the scarce resource on which they rely.
“Sustainable sourcing and production is not a fad or a luxury, but a necessity – especially in industries reliant on natural resources and climatic conditions,”
says Jonathan Robinson, founder of Bean There Coffee Company, South Africa’s first roaster of African Certified Fairtrade coffee. The company has long made sustainable and environmentally responsible production a priority, actively seeking out producers and methods that save water.
“Water scarcity is not new to this continent – it is an African reality, not just a South African problem. When we source beans, we partner with producers that use water-saving methods and reinforce this through agronomy training,”
says Robinson. Producers of Bean There’s coffee are incentivised to use methods that reduce their carbon footprint overall, blending their local knowledge with international innovations and green methods.
Bean There’s popular Burundi brand uses an “eco pulper”, which decreases the amount of water needed during the pulping process (the most water intensive part of producing coffee). In Ethiopia, Bean There partners with a co-op that cleans the water they use in the washing and soaking process through a natural ‘paddy field’ type filter, before releasing the water back into the river.
“We are on a mission to prove that Africa not only produces the finest quality coffee beans with the best aroma and taste, but is also a continent rich in innovative ideas that support the environment and make coffee production sustainable for producers, distributers and consumers,”
With three operations in two cities – Joburg and Cape Town – and a network of proud coffee producers across Africa, Bean There Coffee Company works hard to keep their business on the right side of the environment and the fair side of trade. They follow the Direct Fair Trade model, which makes fair payment for coffee a priority, and protects small producers from exploitation. Their products also get the Fairtrade stamp of approval. As the only roaster of DRC coffee in South Africa, their DRC coffees are 100% Ecocert Organic Certified, along with their Ethiopia Sidamo. Their Tanzania Mbinga coffee is Rainforest Alliance Certified. This ethos filters down into every detail. They use 100% compostable takeaway cups, sell or donate their coffee sacks to various recycling projects, and see fair trade education and training as a vital part of their business.
As a drinker or server of coffee one can support this approach by selecting single origin, fair trade coffee. “It is worth waking up to, and won’t leave the earth thirsty, either,” says Robinson.