From Seed to Cup, the Quest for the Healthiest Coffee Begins on our Farm

Purity Coffee Farms

It has been over a year since we bought a coffee farm in Colombia with partners who are specialists in the main aspects of the coffee supply chain. Together we seek to develop and advance systems for producing and exporting the healthiest coffees and to document the conversion of the farm from conventional farming to regenerative organic farming of coffee.

Over the next year, we’ll spotlight different aspects of farming and processing to paint a more detailed picture of the components that make up a healthy coffee and how they support wellness.

One way to look at healthy coffee is “the presence of good stuff and the absence of bad stuff”. We research and strive for the highest levels of the “good stuff” in our coffee: Polyphenols (like CGA), trigonelline, diterpenes, melanoidins, polysaccharides, N-methylpyridinium, β-carbolines, minerals and many other compounds. We test green coffees for some of these and test our roasted coffees for others, and we make decisions for products based on health.

A major area of study for Purity on the farms will be on cultivars or varieties of the coffee plant. Are some cultivars able to deliver more health benefits than others? Do some cultivars make people feel better? These are difficult questions to answer, because of the inherent complexity of coffee. Coffee “beans” (seeds) are composed of hundreds of compounds that change to hundreds of other compounds during roasting, and different levels of those compounds are extracted during any number of different brewing methods. In other words, the coffee cultivar is just one variable in the possibility of creating healthier coffee.

We use the term “cultivar” instead of “variety” because the plants are cultivated varieties. We avoid the term “varietal”, because it has been misused in the coffee industry as a synonym for variety, cultivar and even landrace.

Below is a drone photo of one of the lands (Lot 4) on the farm early last year that needed replanting.

Clearing land for coffee planting

The land had to be cleared of 6000 old coffee plants that were not producing well. Those plants will be used as firewood on the farm (photo below).

Old coffee plants to be used as firewood

At Purity we remind ourselves often that when we have decisions to make about our coffees, health should be the primary driver. However, on a farm we have to consider other factors to make sure the plant can be at its healthiest, such as microclimate, precipitation patterns and amounts, pests and pathogens, and water availability, among others.

From seed to cup, health guides our every decision.

We sent several different green coffee samples to the lab to see if there was some useful nutritional information that might help us decide what to plant. We narrowed down our choices to 3 different cultivars to test on our farm: purple caturra, pacamara and rose bourbon. Over the course of the year, we planted 24,587 coffee seedlings of these cultivars in five lots that needed replanting.

Below is a view of Lot 4 in August, which shows intercropping of banana plants with the young pacamara and purple caturra coffee in the foreground and older coffee (6-year-old) in the lot in the background. Prior to planting, workers dug the holes for each seedling and added organic compost that was augmented with nutrients and microorganisms to encourage plant growth and prevent fungal infections of the seedlings’ root systems.

Recently planted coffee cultivars

We planted both cultivars in the same lot so that they will have equal experiences in terms of soil composition, rainfall, sunlight, temperature and other inputs. That way, when it is time to harvest, the variable of cultivar will be able to be measured more accurately (we hope), when we send the samples for laboratory testing for nutrients, antioxidants and minerals.

Here is drone footage of Lot 4 in August:

Below is another photo of Lot 4 in November—4 months after being planted.

Coffee cultivars 4 months after planting

We will need to wait about 2 more years before we have a harvest off of this land and are able to send the coffee to the lab for testing. We’ll also be able to measure things like yield per plant, rate of ripening, etc. We’ll also be able to monitor the cultivars as the plants age to see what changes there are in the composition of the coffee over time. In the meantime, our team on the farm will be working with care to help create outstanding, healthy coffees of the future.

Purity Coffee Farms Montebonito farm worker

It's been an exciting first year! In our quest to be the best source of coffee for your health, we realized that we had to better understand how coffee is grown and what differences we care about that are the best for the environment and your health. If you feel that you can contribute in any way we want to hear from you! Real change often comes from outside the coffee industry and we are open to any ideas or feedback you may have. Please feel free to drop a line in the comments if you have a question, any suggestions or a contact that you could make. Thank you for following along with us on this journey! 

 


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13 comments
  • What a find you and your company are! I heard you interviewed on an online health summit (of all places) and learned SO MUCH about different roasts (I was a devoted dark roast fan, but you quickly changed that!) and your company. I continue to read your blogs – and definitely continue to drink your coffee!!! I am a one-cup-per-day person, but am thinking of readdressing that as well. Thank you for allowing us to follow your process in producing even better and healthier coffee!

    Teal on
  • What an informative and thoughtful post! Thank you! Love being able to follow your journey. And love your commitment to health and transparency over all. Onwards!

    Chip Thompson on
  • Are you aware of Elaine Ingham’s work studying soil biology? Worth a look.

    Also, would you consider lightly pruning and fertilizing your coffee plants with temporarily visits from ruminants? They are mother nature’s original composters, macro biology is part of the her design.
    ———
    Purity Coffee replied:
    Hi Loren! Thanks for your feedback. We will check out her work. Soil microbiome is a major part of our converting the farm from conventional to regenerative organic. In the past, when I worked on a coffee farm in Africa, we had cows, but they did a lot of damage to the coffee plants as they went through. But animals are one of the pillars of regenerative agriculture, and we’re looking into possibilities. Let me know if you have additional thoughts or questions!

    Loren on
  • Love reading the updates on the farm. So interesting and makes me excited for future coffee! Enjoying my EASE coffee every day!

    Marshall on
  • Great article! Was wondering about the importance of intercropping bananas with the coffee. Is it a pest deterrent or is there some other symbiotic relationship with the coffee plant?
    ———
    Purity Coffee replied:
    Thanks for your feedback and question! Intercropping with bananas adds value in a number of ways, aside from the benefit of employees enjoying the fruit! Banana plants encourage biodiversity (especially birds), which is an important part of regenerative farming. And YES, banana plants help reduce some pests and diseases: Banana-shaded coffee plants have a lower incidence of coffee leaf rust (fungus) and coffee twig borer (larva of a beetle eat through the branches— photo attached) compared to shade from some other trees. Shade is desirable because it lowers the temperature in the coffee canopy by about 4°F, which allows the coffee fruits to ripen more slowly, which generally means higher quality coffee.

    JV on

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