When Seedling Met Soil: A Coffee Bean Origin Story

How Nestlé coffee is raising the bar on sustainable growing and community development

Luz and family on their coffee farm in Armenia, Colombia. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AP Images for Nestlé Nescafé Taster’s Choice)

Your morning ritual probably feels like it starts when coffee hits your lips. But actually, it started before you rolled out of bed. In the case of this coffee, it started on a farm in Armenia, Colombia.

Coffee through the roasting process (Joaquin Sarmiento/AP Images for Nestlé Nescafé Taster’s Choice)

Nestlé has been on-the-ground in Colombia for nearly 75 years, building relationships with farmers like Nescafé Plan farmer Luz and her community. Luz is a sixth generation farmer who took over the family coffee farm with her brother. When she and her brother took over the farm, their coffee trees were dying from rust. Nestlé worked with the family to overhaul the farm and plant a new disease-resistant Castillo variety of coffee plant. It was a fresh start that was incredibly needed and now they’re helping to provide the highest-quality beans through Colombia’s National Coffee Federation.

Last year, we at Nestlé purchased 874,000 tons of coffee around the world. It’s not an easy time for coffee farmers. Most coffee farmers like Luz are smallholders living in developing countries, and they work hard to grow high-quality coffee. Aging or diseased trees, declining yields, volatile prices and climate change threaten the livelihoods of small farmers and the sustainability of producing coffee.

That’s why we assist coffee farmers like Luz and her brother to improve the economic returns from their crops, help their communities be more resilient and successful, and adapt to climate change and mitigate their environmental impact.

With the global demand for coffee increasing, the Nescafé Plan helps farmers in more than 20 countries — more than half a million farmers since it launched in 2010 — to ensure that coffee is farmed sustainably and that coffee farmers can feel proud of their work. Similarly, Nespresso purchases coffee through the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in 12 coffee-growing countries like Colombia and South Sudan. We’re raising the bar on how coffee is sourced and prepared in so many ways, including:

Leaves of a coffee plant which has been damaged by coffee rust. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AP Images for Nestlé Nescafé Taster’s Choice)

Starting Right: Just as coffee starts with a seedling, challenges can start there too. Leaf rust can destroy a farmer’s coffee fields and ruin their income for an entire season. In Colombia, we distributed more than 25 million new, rust-resistant coffee trees that could help farmers.

Farming Responsibly: Along with better seedlings, we trained 18,000 Colombian farmers in soil conservation, water management, waste management, and agricultural technology. That helped our farmers increase their productivity 35% and grow their incomes more than 40%. In the case of Luz and her family, that help came at a pivotal time; they could have lost their farm. Nestlé came just in time. We helped her and her family’s farm thrive, grow high-quality coffee and get paid a fair price.

Saving Energy: In addition to renewable electricity, we are also steadily increasing our use of renewable fuels. Nestlé’s worldwide operations now include 22 factories that use spent coffee grounds as a renewable fuel, and 24 factories use wood chips. One example of how we’ve achieved zero waste is our coffee facility in Toluca, Mexico, which uses spent coffee grounds as fuel for internal combustion needs. The grounds are channeled through a biomass generator, which provides 50% of the steam required by the factory and lowers gas consumption by 30%. The total share of renewable energy in our total facility energy use has increased by 42% since 2010.

Picking coffee cherries in Armenia, Colombia. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AP Images for Nestlé Nescafé Taster’s Choice)

Luz and her family are a constant reminder that even your morning cup of coffee can help improve and impact the lives of farmers around the world. So today, we’re embracing our morning ritual with a little extra pride.

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