Caribou Coffee, based in Minneapolis with stores in 15 states, announced last July that it was partnering with Rainforest Alliance (RA) to provide certification for much of their coffee. They expected 20% of their coffee to be certified by the end of 2006, with a goal of half of all the green beans purchased to be RA certified by 2008. The phase-in is necessary because Caribou wants to preserve existing relationships. This has an upside in that new producers will be adhering to certification standards. Considering that a number of Caribou offerings are from Africa and Asia, which are not eligible for shade certification and which often are grown under shade as a matter of course, this means that well over half of Caribou’s coffees will represent shade coffees, in one shape or form.
(Update: 100% of all Caribou coffees will be 100% Rainforest Alliance certified by 2011. More on this here.)
As the second largest U.S. specialty coffee company, selling over 4 million pounds of coffee annually, the purchase of half their beans from certified sustainable sources is nothing to sneer at, and it makes Caribou one of the only big coffee houses where this kind of sustainable coffee will be readily available.