Ella Takalainen //
// 8.2.2019

Choices of Sustainable Barista

Sustainability is one of our core values here at Barista Institute, we want coffee to both taste good but also be good for people and environment. Baristas are there to represent the whole value chain and we have an important role in communicating and executing the product in the best possible way.

But to be honest it’s not easy to be 100% responsible because there are so many things to take into consideration. The TNS Mind research statistics show that 53% of consumer’s think responsibility is a somewhat important factor for them when buying coffee, so it’s definitely something every barista and a cafe owner should consider. Here are some things I have found to be useful to bear in mind when choosing products and working in the coffee business.

As a barista I want to know where the coffee comes from and also communicate that to the consumer so they can choose for themselves what kind of coffee they want to use. All Paulig coffees are sourced from certified sources or through sustainable partnership programs. Paulig uses different certificates and co-op programs to make sure all the aspects in the coffee is up to the code of conduct and high quality. 

Talking about future of coffee, did you know Paulig had an eye-opening campaign called Blend 2080. The idea was to create a “coffee blend” without any coffee in it. The name comes from a devastating calculation that if climate change will not be stopped or even slowed down, cultivating coffee will become impossible by the year 2080. The idea was to raise attention to the fact that, we all have to do our part. Here is a link to the Blend 2080 project if you want to know more and even try to make a batch of this horrible blend.

When talking about the bean, it’s easy to bring up the responsibility aspect. One can to talk about the climate and conditions where the coffee has grown. I believe it’s important to be as accurate and engaging about the sustainability aspect, when talking to the customers about coffee. For example its good to tell your customers where the coffee comes from and does it have so certificates etc.

I feel that one of the most important things baristas can influence with their personal behavior and choices is food waste. One can reduce waste by using very simple FIFO rule of thumb, the letters come from First In First Out, meaning you always use oldest products first so you don’t have to waste any. Its import to plan your selection and consumption so that you can order bigger amounts of products to have as little emissions from logistics as possible, but still only have enough not to waste any.


And this takes us to the recipes and planning. It’s super important for many reasons, not least because everybody should make their own products exactly same way each time and also know what’s in them. Meaning allergens are known and the products are coherent. Also its important to measure or weight the coffee you are using, heat only necessary amount of milk, recycle your garbage also one great idea is to offer discounts for keep cup users. 

Idea of not wasting beans has always been close to my heart, it’s not just the waste in the excess coffee that is left over in batch brewers, but also the coffee that is done wrong, so that it’s not as high quality as it could be. We all have to respect the product and do our best to make it as safe and tasty as possible even if it would mean that we have to put little extra effort into the brewing and in customer service. I believe customer service is a highly important part of the chain. 

Also all the equipment must be well maintained and safe for both user and client. If barista takes good care of their gear they last longer and have to replace them more seldom. I personally want to make sure all the detergent are toxin free to have both great tasting and safe cup of coffee. But if you use detergents that are not toxins free remember to rinse all the parts with extra care!


Then we come to the environmental sustainability that is one of my personal favorites, meaning that the barista should think about choices in everything but maybe the easiest is the life cycle of the cups, mugs and take away cups. There is statistics that shows that CO2 load (manufacturing, washing and disposal) of one regular cup or mug is about the same as 200 paper take away cups. But as the trend in restaurant scene is shifting more and more towards movable lifestyle and people are going for the single use take away options, there are luckily lots of cool options for the take away cups, which are compostable and made from ecological materials or to be used multiple times. And they are still safe and user-friendly, because let’s face it most of the people don’t go for the ecological option if it’s unpractical. When thinking about the ecological side of cafes one could bring up the heating, electricity, water, recycling and the store space but those are things baristas can’t normally influence as much as things related to coffee more directly but there are lots of green options for those as well.

One inspiring example comes from the Baltic Barista Institute: they took part in the coffee ground recycling project where the waste was turned into electricity. Both Estonian and Lithuanian team collected almost 18 tons of used coffee and it was turned into electricity for SOS children village charity project. You can read about this project in Mihkel's blog.


Another thing baristas have to start paying attention to, are veggie products such as milks. The vegan boom is still strong but even bigger thing is so called food flexing, meaning the people who are adding veggie food to their diet without going full on vegan or vegetarian. Veggie milk companies have done lots of advertisement to talk about the cow milk replacement and people seem to like them a lot either because of supposed health benefits or environmental reasons. Anyways veggie products are already a must have thing in any cafe. When working with veggie milks allergens and cross contamination is something all the baristas should know and take into consideration.

Remember these: 

  • Recycle your garbage
  • Remember FIFO
  • Don't make excess amount of anything aka minimize wastage
  • Order smart
  • Know your products and stick to recipe
  • Be clean and take care of you barista gear
  • Offer keep cups and use eco-friendly take away products

All and all, sustainability is quite a complex thing and there are many aspects to consider, but we have come to a time that also baristas have to keep it in mind, because customers are more and more interested in the matter. Also it’s a great way to influence things and make world little bit better place, one cup at a time.