To say that Australians enjoy our coffee would be to put it very mildly – we are nothing short of obsessed. Whether you’re a one-and-done type or you need a double shot just to start the car, there are some deeper intricacies within the beverage that we tend to overlook.
Coffee growing, like any sort of agriculture, is susceptible to environmental and social change. According to John Kozsik, Lavazza Australia’s national training manager, producing sustainable coffee means considering the “social, environmental and financial impact” of harvesting the beans. “You want to look at the value chain of how that product is produced,” he says. “Every country and every region has different needs.”
At the start of that chain is agriculture. Initiatives focused on sustainability, such as encouraging mixed-use farming (planting more than just coffee is essential for soil health, and varying the crops gives farmers more than just a coffee harvest to rely on) and regenerative practices, are part of the broader education programs implemented by some coffee producers.
For each of the three regions where Lavazza’s Tierra coffee is grown – Central America, the Amazon and Africa – Lavazza has dedicated educational programs to encourage sustainable practices. “We set up what they call ‘farmer field schools’,” says Kozsik. “We’re training these guys on how to work their land [more sustainably] before the coffee is grown, so they [can] prepare it best. Not just so you get a good product, but also so you protect that land. It’s about respect for nature as well.”
Sustainability can mean more than just environmentalism. The communities that produce coffee for the rest of the world need to be supported in order to be self-sustaining. For instance, in places where plantations have been ruined by war, there are now programs focusing on land restoration, bringing back agriculture for the benefit of conflict-ravaged communities.
“There’s a project we’ve got in Colombia, in an area called Meta [that has experienced] civil war,” Kozsik says. “Cartels were rising up and farmers were either forced to leave their land and run for their life or they were forced at gunpoint to grow cocaine.” Lavazza’s Tierra program promotes the rights and wellbeing of these workers’ communities.
Making coffee sustainable doesn’t just mean ticking off points along the supply chain – it can mean reinvesting money in quite different projects, too. “The Tierra project that we’ve got in Peru, it’s about reforestation and protection of the forest, so it’s twofold,” says Kozsik. “In the last couple of years, about 76 hectares have been reforested. And we also purchased a drone to help the people there facilitate the monitoring of the area.”
They’re also working with UTZ – now part of Rainforest Alliance – tailoring environmental education programs to the needs of particular communities. “Rainforest Alliance can literally run training programs for people in different areas around the world and really be specific to their areas of need.” That means helping growers understand the impacts of their practices on the environment – such as how “washing” coffee in local water systems can have negative impacts on the community and the environment overall.
This article is produced in partnership with Lavazza