Tiny Footprint Coffee offers 100% organic and shade-grown coffee, which they buy directly from farmers around the world. Every time Tiny Footprint sells a pound of coffee, the company donates a portion of the selling price to fund reforestation in Ecuador’s Mindo Cloud Forest. (A cloud forest is a rainforest that grows at higher elevations – in this case, in the Andes Mountains.) The great forests of the world have been called the Earth's lungs, and reforestation is one of the most important things we can do to slow and (possibly) reverse climate change. Tiny Footprint is doing it one pound of coffee at a time!
We interviewed Thomas Hertzog, Tiny Footprint’s sales and marketing lead, to find out how they are creating a ‘carbon-negative’ coffee brand — in other words, good karma coffee! – and why we should care.
What was the motivation for starting Tiny Footprint Coffee?
The main idea was to take coffee to the next level of sustainability. We roast certified organic and fair-trade coffee – which is great, but is also widely available. So we took this commitment further by becoming a carbon-negative coffee roaster.
Can you explain what ‘carbon-negative’ means?
We plant trees in the Mindo Cloud Forest of northwest Ecuador for each pound of coffee we sell. We calculated the carbon footprint involved in growing, shipping, and roasting the coffee beans, then we added the footprint of our roasting and office operations, as well as delivery to our customers. All together, each pound of coffee we sell generates about 4 pounds of CO2 by the time it reaches our customer. To offset that, we plant enough trees to take 54 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the course of their lives. The net benefit is 50 pounds of CO2 removed from the atmosphere every time we sell a pound of coffee.
Why the Mindo Cloud Forest?
It was a joint effort of two brothers: Alan Krohnke, who is one of Tiny Footprint Coffee’s founders, and Brian Krohnke, who is a co-founder of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. They saw a way to support both projects: a carbon-negative coffee company in Minnesota and a rainforest reforestation foundation in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.
What is the difference between canopy cultivation and sun cultivation of coffee?
Canopy cultivation is synonymous with shade-grown. Most of our coffee is grown in the shade of taller trees that form the forest canopy. Coffee itself grows better in semi-shaded conditions, and it’s also better for the soil. It diversifies the nutrients being put into the soil and reduces erosion.
The problem with sun cultivation is, first, that it often involves cutting down the forest to create coffee plantations. This releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and it short-circuits the cycle in which trees recycle carbon from the atmosphere to the soil. Coffee plantations require lots of chemicals to control weeds and pests, and they create soil erosion.
Can you talk about Tiny Footprint’s single-origin roasts?
We source coffee from all over the world. To fully appreciate the unique flavors of the countries that we buy from, we like to sell them as single-origins. Blending does create some nice combinations of flavors, but there is a lot to gain from selling coffee that comes from just one region.
Is there anything else that makes Tiny Footprint Coffee unique?
Where we differentiate ourselves is in our roasting. We produce roast profiles that really suit our customer’s tastes. For our customers who are looking for a darker roast coffee, we can draw out the bittersweet chocolate and nutty taste without burning the beans. It still has subtle, complex flavors. The taste comes out as you are swallowing and evolves as it cools down. And, of course we offer lighter roasts as well.
What is your best seller?
During the summer season, the Cold Press Elixir is our bestseller, hands down! Come June, come the first hot day, cold coffee is the way to go. We have a blend we developed specifically for cold press production— we blend light and dark roast beans together from different countries of origin around the world. It is by far my favorite blend because it’s a wonderful mix of light and dark roast coffee that is perfect for cold brewing— especially relevant in the summer time when its hot out.
Another top seller is our coffee from northern Peru. They export really nice coffee that comes from the western Andes. It grows at a nice elevation (1,250–1,800 meters), and has a delightful soft caramel-like feel balanced by a citrus acidity.
And you offer barista training, too?
Yes, we offer barista classes to anyone who is curious! We have entry-level classes on a regular basis. At any one class we could have professional baristas, who are learning how to make latte art, and home baristas, who just bought their first espresso machine. Or we might people who just bought a French press and have no idea how to use it. We really want to help anyone, along the whole spectrum of coffee knowledge, enjoy coffee more.
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