Roast Magazine has announced their Roaster of the Year winners. One of the major criteria for the award is showing a commitment to sustainability. As in past years, I’ll give a recap of the winners, focusing on their sustainability initiatives.
In the large (macro) roaster category, Equator Estate Coffees and Teas of San Rafael, California came out on top among 40 competitors. Founded in 1995 by Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, Equator has a focus on sustainability, with over half of their coffees being certified Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or some combination of all three. On their excellent web site, you can read more about their eco-philosophy and social responsibility initiatives. Among them are these accomplishments that helped Equator win this honor:
- Use of biofuel and hybrid vehicles for all deliveries.
- Composting all of its coffee chaff and burlap bags.
- Providing micro-loans to coffee partners around the world.
- Purchasing its own farm in Panama, where they are in the process of growing
sustainable coffee alongside a team of Panamanians.
Kickapoo Coffee took the award in the micro-roaster category (roasting less than 100,000 lbs of coffee per year) out of a field of thirty. Located in Viroqua, Wisconsin (in western Wisconsin, southeast of La Crosse), and founded only four years ago, Kickapoo buys about 80% of its coffee through direct relationships with small producers, aided in these efforts through its membership in Cooperative Coffees, a green coffee buying cooperative.
Kickapoo is one of the few roasters that uses distinctive reusable and recyclable cans, made from 80% post-consumer recycled steel. They also use sustainable materials in their larger coffee packaging, and have eliminated most plastic from their operations. Their roastery is located in an historic train depot, and was restored and is operated using sustainable practices — the roaster even has handmade belts supplied by local Amish craftsmen.
Oh, and Kickapoo roasts some kick-ass coffee.