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Future-proofed coffee

This roaster is protecting land and species to safeguard coffee for generations to come
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Future-proofed coffee

This article first appeared in our Women: time for action issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 02 July 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Coffee is the world’s most popular drink; around 2 billion cups are consumed every day – 95 million in the UK alone.

It’s a love affair that shows no sign of fizzling out any time soon: caffeine is so deeply engrained in our culture that we down takeout espressos on station platforms and linger over fishbowls of frothy latte with friends.

So what would we do if there were no farmers left to cultivate coffee, because they had been so drastically underpaid and undervalued that they felt forced to migrate to seek better opportunities? How would we manage if there were no soil left to farm because it had been scorched, eroded and chemically abused? How would we feed our caffeine addiction if the landscape had been destroyed by monoculture? Would we have to resort to roasting acorns, like we did in 1942?

Taking what we need

Since 2005, Puro Coffee has worked hard to create nature reserves that promote biodiversity in the countries from which the family-owned roaster’s coffee is sourced.

Puro uses green energy – alongside knowledge acquired over 220 years – to roast multi-award winning carbon-neutral fairtrade organic blends for businesses around the world. It’s the house coffee at My Green Pod HQ and tastes delicious; each 1kg bought saves 20m² of rainforest – that’s 1m² per six cups of coffee, which we easily drink each day.

‘Indigenous wisdom, from some of these very lands, teaches us only to take what we need, to give something back in the place of what we have taken and to make decisions that will benefit the lives of those seven generations ahead of us’, explains Puro Coffee’s Andy Orchard.

Demand for coffee is set to grow substantially over the next 30 years, and the way we use land will determine whether it will be possible to quench our thirst for coffee in years to come.

Responsible land use

Puro’s farm in Honduras is a fairtrade and organic cooperative member of the same coop from which Puro buys its coffee. The farm has demonstrated that coffee can actually be a tool for conservation.

The land has been replanted with native trees and coffee, to help it to heal from less conscious agricultural practices that took place in the past. Coffee can grow happily in the shade, so tall native trees can be left alone to maintain a healthy balance.

The coop Puro belongs to follows in the footsteps of nature; after the bean has been removed from the coffee cherry, the fruit is composted and returned back to the soil around the coffee plants. This gives the plants all the nutrition they need, and also means that no manure needs to be trucked in (a point celebrated by vegan coffee drinkers).

Puro’s real conservation magic lies in its exclusive partnership with World Land Trust, the UK-based charity of which Sir David Attenborough is a patron.

Puro Coffee sales create a cash stream that flows back into funding the purchase and protection of Puro rainforest reserves.

These reserves now span more than 430km² across 11 coffee-producing countries – that’s an area larger than the UK’s 100 largest natural parks combined.

But it’s what these reserves contain that sparks the real talking point for Puro.

Protecting species

Water sources in Honduras have quadrupled since being protected by Puro, meaning local coffee-growing communities are now able to drink tap water.

More than 500 species at risk of extinction now call Puro reserves home, including the saola (Asian unicorn), black rhino, Malayan pangolin, golden poison arrow frog, rondo bushbaby, golden-rumped elephant shrew and black-headed spider monkey.

Many new species previously unknown to science have been discovered in Puro’s reserves, three of which have been named in honour of Puro: a frog (Pristimantis puruscafeum), an orchid (Teagueia puroana) and a tree, which will be announced very soon.

Amphibians considered extinct for many years have now discovered it’s safe to step out and be spotted in Puro’s Ecuador and Guatemala reserves.

Scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew recently outlined the 10 golden rules for tree planting; number one was to protect standing forests first. This was great news for Puro, as it has been estimated the company’s reserves protect more than 27.5 million trees and store 41.5 million tonnes of carbon. One of Puro’s reserves in Guatemala protects the sparkling Laguna Brava, the country’s last remaining pristine lagoon.

Working with equals

We can’t look seven generations ahead without acknowledging ancestral wounds. After helping to plant trees and cleaning the lagoon on the land that is now the Finca de Puro Café (Puro Coffee Farm), the team at Puro returned home to find this moving message: ‘You know we are raised to see blonde, blue eyed people as superiors… and when you come here, work hard with us, eat with us and make us feel like equals, you guys leave a huge mark. And I’m really grateful for it, thank you.’

By trying to understand the complexity of the challenges faced by coffee farmers, Puro rooted itself in the same soil in a bid to empower change from within. The team is mindful of being equals: divided by oceans, connected by coffee.

Puro Coffee, which is abundant in credibly conscious cafés, kitchens, restaurants, hotels and offices, is now seeking new tribe members to join in serving, selling and celebrating a type of success that’s aligned with community and conservation.

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