Nestle and Starbucks respond to illegal coffee report

by on January 22, 2007

In an article in an Indonesian newspaper, Nestlé and Starbucks both responded to the report that they had been purchasing robusta coffee beans illegally grown in a Sumatran national park in Lampung province.

A spokesman for Nestlé Indonesia made this statement:

“Nestlé never willingly purchases coffee from dubious sources. However, the company admits the difficulty of determining the precise origin of a coffee bag which has passed through different hands before it reaches the Nestlé buyer.”

The emphasis is mine, which precisely sums up why I continuously recommend not buying supermarket coffees.  If the companies themselves don’t know where their coffee comes from or how it is farmed, how can we know it is farmed sustainably?  Or believe them?

Nestlé also said that the coffee they purchase from Lampung (around 12,000 tons a year) goes to make instant coffee. So brands to avoid = Nescafé and Taster’s Choice.


A spokesperson for Starbucks’ Indonesian partner denied that the company purchased coffee from Lampung (the southern province in question), or any robusta beans from Sumatra at all.

Starbucks is listed in the report on page 50, in an appendix on recipients of tainted coffee.  The list was compiled from records of the Cooperative Industry and Trade Service of Lampung province. It’s possible these records could be forged or falsified, I suppose. There is nothing as yet on the Starbucks web site concerning this issue.

By the way, buyers of Lampung beans should know better.  It was in 2003 that published reports [1,2] revealed that 70% of Lampung’s beans came from inside or adjacent to Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and that endangered animals were threatened from the illegal cultivation.

[1] O’Brien, T. G. and M. F. Kinnaird.  2003.  Caffeine and conservation.  Science 300:587.

[2] Kinnaird, M.F., E.W. Sanderson, T. G. O’Brien, H.T. Wibisono, and G. Woolmer. 2003. Deforestation trends in a tropical landscape and implications for endangered large mammals. Conservation Biology 17:245–257.

Hat tip to bccy.

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Revised on March 1, 2015

Posted in Corporate coffee,Nestlé’/Nespresso,Retail and specialty roasters,Starbucks

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