While the long-term outlook for sustainable coffee production remains mostly cloudy, a new coffee brand out of Washington State called Forecast Coffee Company is helping to shine a light on agroforestry.
The new coffee roasting brand is owned and operated by Bellingham-based Tony’s Coffee, the 2021 Roaster of the Year in the “macro” category. The new brand is designed to promote and support coffees that have been grown in agroforestry environments, in which trees and shrubs surround crops for more sustainable land uses.
“We started Forecast because we believe that agroforestry is a critical tool in fighting climate change and creating stronger food systems,” Tony’s Coffee Director of Sales and Sustainability David Yake told Daily Coffee News. “Our goal is to celebrate farms that produce beautiful coffees and are on the leading edge of agroforestry and regenerative farming methods.”
A description of land use as opposed to the more crop-specific designation “shade grown,” agroforestry practices in coffee have proven to effective in protecting biodiversity, leading to carbon sequestration, improving farmer livelihoods and other benefits. However, the practice is not mainstream in the coffee industry, which has historically incentivized deforestation for maximum production volumes.
In addition to buying coffees that stem from agroforestry and regenerative agricultural practices, Forecast Coffee Company is donating 5% of its profits to the nonprofit Trees for the Future, which supports agroforestry in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Agroforestry is a powerful piece in the biodiversity puzzle, both for flora and fauna,” said Yake. “That’s the beauty of mature, thoughtful agroforestry systems — they don’t just address problems — instead, they get to the core issue, creating healthy soil, which in turns creates more resilient, pest-resistant plants, and high-scoring coffees.”
A dedicated website for Forecast Coffee went live this month. While offering wholesale roasting, the business is slated to take grocery aisles by storm with hundreds of location launches coming this month.
Forecast’s forebear, Tony’s Coffee, was founded in 1971 and currently has about 50 employees. Recently the company withdrew from its lone retail cafe to focus entirely on its roasting operations, which turns out over a million pounds of coffee annually in Loring Peregrine S70, Probat G60 and Diedrich IR24 machines, all located inside a roughly 15,000-square-foot facility in Bellingham.
“We recently made a down payment on a second Loring Peregrine S70,” Yake told DCN. “This machine will replace our Probat G60, which has served us well for years. The second Loring will dramatically decrease our roastery’s carbon footprint.”
Forecast Coffee blends with names such as Cloudberry, Pedal Pusher, and Clouds Rest are roasted primarily on the Loring, while all coffees bearing the Forecast name are exclusive to the brand and not shared with Tony’s.
Green coffee suppliers for Forecast have so far included the producer cooperatives Café Organico Marcala (COMSA) in Honduras, many of whose members participate in a reforestation program, and Asociación Barillense de Agricultores (ASOBAGRI) in Guatemala, many of whose member farms are Smithsonian Bird Friendly certified.
The final products are packaged in plant-based Biotre bags in a variety of colors, which is another point of departure from Tony’s straightforward craft-style brown bags.
“Forecast is tackling some big, difficult challenges, but we felt it was important for the brand to have an uplifting energy,” said Yake. “That’s why we chose such vibrant colors and partnered with local illustrator Sarah Finger, who we adore, for our packaging. We teamed up with local illustrator Brittany Schade, who we also adore, for our website illustrations.”
The new brand’s inaugural cafe wholesale partner will be Roam Coffee + Beer (Instagram), a project opening this fall from Bellingham-based Wander Brewing.
Beyond that, both Forecast and Tony’s will continue to look inward for ways to balance growth with carbon and waste reduction. For example, Tony’s operates a “Green Trips” program that subsidizes employee carpools and public transit commuting.
“We’re making changes, small and large, to reduce waste at our roastery,” Tony’s Coffee Director of Marketing Cheriss Faiola said. “Since its inception in 2020, the [Green Trips] program has eliminated 8,670 single occupancy vehicle miles and helped prevent roughly 4.7 tons of CO2e. Everyone in the company is invited to take a real look at how we can reduce our impact. It’s the only way.”
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.