The Truth About Coffee

El Toledo Coffee Farm and Vega Coffee Practice Sustainable Production

During a January-term trip to Costa Rica, Gabriel Calderon Vargas taught Lynn University students about the process of making coffee and the harmful effects traditional coffee production has on the environment.  

El Toledo Coffee Farm in the San Jose providence of Costa Rica has been operated by the Vargas family for the past 80 years. Vargas began his presentation with a statement no one would expect a coffee farmer to make.  

“[Coffee] is actually very harmful to the environment and not nutritious at all,” said Vargas. 

Vargas went on to explain how coffee is extremely damaging and wasteful to produce since the coffee fruit is typically discard after the coffee bean is extracted. 

“The most nutritious part of the coffee plant is wasted to get to the coffee bean in order to produce a drink that has no real health benefits,” said Vargas. 

When discarded, the coffee fruit and the water used to extract the coffee bean can create red algae on the tops of rivers and lakes that prevents green algae from growing and consequently destroys underwater ecosystems. To conserve the rivers in Costa Rica, a decree was implemented in 1936 to prohibit the dumping of coffee residue discharge into rivers. 

Water waste becomes an issue when producing coffee because water used to clean the coffee fruit ferments, meaning it cannot be reused. In an effort to reduce water waste, Vargas acquired a machine that processes coffee with only one liter of water. 

“This machine makes it more efficient for the farmer because it allows us to also make tea, flour and wine out of the coffee fruit,” said Vargas. 

Knowledge of the harmful effects of coffee production made its way to Lynn and prompted the University to switch to a sustainable coffee supply chain: Vega Coffee. Vega is a fair-trade coffee company that gets all of its products directly from sustainable farmers in Nicaragua instead of big corporations that leave the original coffee farmers unfairly compensated. Like El Toledo Coffee farm, Vega Coffee practices sustainability and putting profits back in the hands of the farmers. 

To learn more about sustainable coffee practices, visit 

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