The specialty coffee sector prides itself on innovation, creativity, and ethics – all of which depend on industry-wide education initiatives.
At every stage of the coffee supply chain there are opportunities to improve knowledge, from cupping protocols to sustainable practices. Education is essential to not only the producers, roasters, and consumers themselves, but the successful growth of the sector.
For example, when producers receive an education it can help them implement better growing methods, which can lead to greater yields of higher quality coffees. As a result, producers can sell their coffees at higher prices, allowing them to re-invest in their farms.
For more information about education in the coffee sector, I spoke with Word Barista Championship-certified judge Danilo Lodi.
Educating coffee farmers
A reality for many coffee farmers is they do not have enough spare income to invest in their education. Furthermore, it is not likely to be a priority when all their efforts go into successfully growing and selling coffee.
Investing in educational initiatives to help farmers broaden their coffee knowledge can be beneficial for both roasters and consumers.
Through these initiatives, farmers can learn how to grow better coffee and maximise their crop yields. In some cases, this means farmers can sell their beans at a higher price point.
Additionally, if farmers are educated about cupping techniques, they can understand how their coffee is evaluated. Cupping helps determine the sale price of coffee: the higher the cupping score, the more the coffee is worth.
“It’s important to educate coffee farmers about the entire supply chain,” says Danilo, who is also a green coffee buyer and farm consultant. “But, it is vital they understand the process of cupping and scoring coffees.”
By knowing the value of their coffee and the meaning of its cupping score, farmers can successfully demand a fair price for their product.
Unfortunately, it is common for buyers to purchase coffee at a lower price than it is worth if the farmer is unaware of its cupping score.
Danilo adds farmers should be taught the basics of extraction and the best roasting practices so they understand the potential of their green coffee.
“With these tools, farmers have more information when pricing their coffee and will be up to date with global trends,” Danilo says. “Then they can work to deliver what the market is looking for.”
An additional threat to the future of the coffee sector is profitability. As farmers continue to receive low labour wages, coffee farms are becoming a less viable option for landowners. As a result, many are selling their coffee farms or using them for another purpose.
While education is important for all producers, women in the coffee sector could benefit significantly from these initiatives.
Notably, the profits and opportunities for female coffee producers in developing countries can be restrictive. One of the primary reasons for this is their limited access to education.
Educating female producers with business advice and growing methods can help them establish their own livelihoods. More so, it can help them improve their independence and stability.
Educating coffee roasters
On the technical side of coffee roasting, there are several opportunities for education.
“In my opinion, roasters must seek information about extraction,” Danilo says. “They need to dominate the techniques of espresso and brew extraction, while also learning about water, equipment, and local trends.”
Alongside this, education can help roasters meet consumers’ changing demands. In recent years, consumer concerns about sustainability have increased. A recent study reveals 81% of consumers prefer to buy from sustainable businesses.
What’s more, a report by Research Insight clearly shows how vital it is for businesses to improve their sustainability. It states that six in ten people will change shopping habits to reduce their environmental impact. Furthermore, over 70% of consumers claim they would pay a 30% premium for products from environmentally responsible brands.
Therefore, roasters must improve the sustainability of their operations to avoid losing customers. With some research, the internet can provide roasters with free guides on topics such as ethical sourcing, direct trade, and reducing their waste.
By educating themselves on these topics, roasters can build a strong brand reputation while doing their bit to protect the coffee sector at large.
Some consumers may mistakenly believe coffee is inherently sustainable because it is a plant. They may assume it is easy to grow, it does not produce carbon emissions, and the production process can continue as it is.
In reality, the situation is more complex. Educating consumers can help them understand the current instability of the global coffee chain. Furthermore, it can help them realise the importance of choosing their coffee with care.
Education has a key role in helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions. By understanding more about the production process, consumers can support roasters that align with their personal values.
For example, without adequate coffee education, consumers may struggle to pick out genuinely environmentally friendly coffee brands. This is due to the difficulty in defining what’s sustainable and what’s “greenwashing”.
One of the most common metrics for a brand’s environmental impact is its carbon footprint. This tells consumers how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted by the coffee’s processing and transportation methods.
Consumers can use this knowledge to understand how coffee producers cut down their carbon footprint. Then, they can identify brands that are working to reduce their emissions.
Sustainability in the coffee sector also covers socio-consciousness. Consumers should be educated on the impact roasters and cafes have on the livelihood of producers.
This way, they can avoid inadvertently supporting malpractice, low wages, and gender inequality.
Educational campaigns can help inform consumers about the importance of choosing certified brands. As a result, consumers can identify brands that are certified and maintain socio-conscious standards.
A notable example is the educational campaign headed by Girls Who Grind Coffee. This female-run roaster highlights gender inequality within the sector, particularly on coffee farms.
They educate consumers about the gender wage gap in producing countries, and the barriers restricting women who want their own coffee farms.
In doing so, Girls Who Grind can help consumers understand what they are doing to help create equal opportunities for women within the coffee sector.
An education in coffee offers extensive benefits for the sector. When farmers, roasters, and consumers understand the importance of their coffee choices, the sector can flourish and continue to grow sustainably.
At MTPak Coffee, we have a wealth of information on our Education Centre, with content covering coffee sector trends, sustainability, roasting, and much more.
We work with specialty coffee roasters from all around the world, providing sustainable packaging services that range from concept and design to manufacturing, printing, and delivery.
Our range of high-quality recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable packaging options will preserve the freshness of your coffee and showcase your commitment to sustainability. You can also include additional recyclable components, including degassing valves and resealable zippers.