In a recent report by The Conversation, scientists from UCL found that ‘the average cup of coffee contains about 18g of green coffee, so 1 kg of it can make 56 espressos. Just one espresso has an average carbon footprint of about 0.28 kg, but it could be as little as 0.06 kg if grown sustainably.’ Essentially, while the caffeine hit might wear off, the environmental and ethical impact can linger on.
The coffee industry is full of complex challenges, with climate change one of the huge ones, but also community dynamics, as well as the socioeconomic/political conditions to be aware of in many coffee-growing countries.
According to a report by Sustain Coffee, ‘The coffee industry will need to produce between 4 million and 14 million additional tons of coffee per year to meet demand by 2050. Unless growers can significantly increase coffee productivity per hectare, the industry will need to double the area under coffee production by 2050. During this same period, climate change is predicted to create conditions where half of the land currently suitable for growing coffee becomes unsuitable.’
The challenge, then, for organisations such as Sustain Coffee and for coffee brands all over the world will be to achieve, over the next 35 years, zero net deforestation while satisfying increasing demand from coffee consumers. It’s imperative, therefore, that consumers are aware of the elements that go into creating a sustainable coffee consumption scenario.
The Fairtrade stamp or other environmental certification doesn’t necessarily mean the coffee you are drinking is sustainable, and it can be a bit of a minefield to know whether the everyday choices you are making are ethical. This is where companies such as Kiss the Hippo want to change the narrative – they want your daily coffee experience to be the best it can be without having a harmful impact on the environment or the people and communities producing the coffee.
They are taking the hard work out of it for the consumer, but in terms of understanding, what actually goes into creating a sustainable coffee brand, and what does it mean to be ethical in the current caffeine market?
We sat down with Maya Zara, the creative director of the brand that is disrupting the way we consider coffee (both ethically and stylistically) to discover how they became a carbon negative company and champion sustainable practices.
Known for their innovative and sustainable approach to coffee, independent coffee roasters Kiss the Hippo have recently, after expanding their existing partnership with Swiss non-profit organisation On A Mission, become a totally carbon negative company. What’s more, all of Kiss the Hippo’s coffees, coffee pods and coffee products are now carbon negative, too.
Born in 2018, the brand wanted to create the ultimate coffee experience and find a way to marry together sustainable practises with quality. They started by focusing on their shops, making them a place where people would want to enjoy coffee and aiming to deliver the best of the best while doing so in a sustainable way. ‘Our founder wanted to find beautiful coffee experiences, but usually in the UK, it’s a bit separated,’ explains Maya.
‘You might get amazing coffee, but sometimes the consistency isn’t always there. We wanted to create a space where everything came together. Care is at the core – we care about sourcing, working directly with the farmers and charity partners, and we care about our organic roasting, the taste, and also the experience. Then, it’s about caring for and not harming the planet.’
But when it comes to sustainability, essentially, as a consumer, the system means that we largely rely on the brand and shop who, in turn rely on their suppliers and importers, to know exactly what it is that we are buying. Transparency and trust is a key element to moving forward sustainably, and this is something that has always been important to Kiss the Hippo.
‘Sustainability has always been at the core, and then the taste and the design had to come together too to create that overall experience,’ says Maya. ‘In the very early days, even in setting up the roasteries, sustainability was always a big part of the ethos – we didn’t just want to be another coffee shop. We didn’t see any other option with the world going in the direction it’s going. Overall, it was always about taste and how do we create that in a sustainable way.’
Of course, when it comes to their eco credentials, all of the brands cups and products are compostable. The brand also turns their waste espresso into biofuel. But it’s about going that extra mile, too. Due to the unpredictable nature of coffee production, growing communities are often left without the guarantee of prices needed to cover their production costs. It leads to extreme poverty and socio-economic collapse.
‘Our coffee teams go around the sourcing countries to ensure we are sourcing ethically,’ says Maya. ‘We visit the farms and make sure their ways and methods are sustainable and ethical. We also have a commitment to paying 50% above the Fairtrade price, so that the farmers don’t just shoulder the heaviest weight.’
Even the roaster itself plays a big part in the journey toward sustainability. For Kiss the Hippo, this was an important element to get right. To ensure they had the most eco-friendly solution that didn’t compromise on roasting taste and quality, they turned to the Loring Smart Roast System.
The closed system design means that changes in the weather and humidity make no difference to what is happening in the roasting chamber, offering the skilled roaster the opportunity to really concentrate on the important thing; the roast profile. The Loring is also extremely efficient, using up to 80% less fuel than a traditional drum roaster, offering the very best performance in terms of environmental impact and controllability.
But, how did they go about becoming carbon negative? Maya tells me that the process of conquering the carbon was one of the first key objectives for Kiss the Hippo. Becoming carbon negative was an important step in pioneering real change, which they hope will, in turn, encourage bigger organisations to make similar positive changes in their wake.
In terms of how they did it, Kiss the Hippo achieved this important step by, firstly, reducing their emissions and, secondly, by calculating their carbon footprint by looking at their core products, packaging and transport. Finally, they started working with On A Mission to offset their CO2 value by contributing to reforestation efforts all over the planet.
‘It’s always been our long-term goal but it’s quite a lengthy process,’ says Maya. ‘We started doing all of our calculations and then we managed to hit our long-term aim last month – which is an amazing feeling. Our consumers don’t have to worry about the process that goes behind what they are consuming, but they can feel good about it, knowing it’s coming from us.’
All of their coffee is high grade and sustainably sourced, their workshop is powered with solar panels and the farm uses biomass boilers to heat its water. They also use the waste product from roasting coffee (chaff) as fuel for the biomass boiler, which means there are no transportation emissions. Plus, they use a carbon neutral courier service, too!
This UK-based brand strive to deliver greatness to every cup, bringing you ethical coffee that tastes amazing and transforms lives. They give 10% of our retail profits back to farmers, and support industry-led schemes to improve the lives of coffee producers and their families.
Their mission is clear: create a sustainable future for indigenous communities, the rainforest and the coffee industry. Working closely with remote Indigenous Communities, Easy Jose help them grow incredible specialty coffee, in harmony with the forests they live in.