Caribou Coffee: 100% Rainforest Alliance

by on January 7, 2012

Caribou Coffee has achieved its goal of becoming the first major coffee company in the U.S. to source 100% of its coffee from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms. As I verified in 2010, this means every variety of coffee at Caribou consists of 100% RA-certified beans. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the coffee is organic or shade-grown, but Rainforest Alliance farms do comply with a variety of environmental, social, and  sustainability standards.

Based on 2010 green coffee purchases, this represents about 9100 metric tons. While this amount of coffee doesn’t even put Caribou in the top ten green coffee buyers in the world, it does mean they purchase more genuinely eco-certified coffee than at least five of the seven biggest buyers that disclose this data. They’ve accomplished this without compromising quality:  The average score for the ten varieties reviewed by Coffee Review in the past two years is 90, and in 2008 Caribou’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Roastmaster’s Reserve won the Roaster’s Choice award at the annual SCAA event. I think two of their coffees are especially good. A favorite at our workplace is the Guatemala El Paraiso (92 at Coffee Review). One of my favorite coffees of the past year was their Kenya Karibu (93 on Coffee Review), unfortunately now sold out.  This coffee is especially noteworthy since eco-certified coffees from Kenya are few and far between.

Caribou Coffee is the second largest coffee shop company, behind Starbucks, with over 550 stores in 20 states as well as some international markets, most in the Middle East*.  Caribou plans on adding another 20 to 25 stores in 2012. If you don’t live in a state with a Caribou store, you can shop online. This is a company worth patronizing for their sustainability achievements and great coffee.

You can read other posts I’ve written about Caribou, including reviews, here.


*The Middle Eastern presence was no doubt influenced by the fact that for many years, Bahranian-based Arcapita Bank was Caribou’s major shareholder. This meant that Caribou was a Shari’ah-compliant company which, along with a general paranoia about Muslim ownership, resulted in Islamophobic boycotts of Caribou.  As someone who is completely secular but living in the most Muslim city in the U.S., I can tell you that stance is totally asinine. But the hand-wringers can get caffeinated again. As of last summer, Aracapita sold off its remaining stake in Caribou.

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Revised on April 18, 2012

Posted in Caribou Coffee,Rainforest Alliance,Retail and specialty roasters

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