Coffee is an essential part of the menu at hotels and restaurants as well as cafes. Unlike food menus, which may change with the seasons, coffee, which is served year-round, is an important factor that customers consider when choosing a restaurant.

According to the Japan Coffee Association, coffee consumption in Japan in 2018 was 470,213 tons, an increase of 10% from 10 years ago and 30% from 20 years ago. While demand is expected to increase further in the future, did you know that the survival of “good coffee” is in jeopardy?

In this column, we would like to consider what we can do as restaurants to solve the “coffee 2050 problem,” which has been a factor in the recent surge in international coffee prices.

Table of Contents

What is the Coffee 2050 Problem?

The “Coffee 2050 Problem” refers to the possibility that, due to climate change caused by global warming, the amount of land suitable for coffee cultivation will be reduced by half, making the existing production activities unsustainable by 2050.

There are two main types of coffee: “Robusta” and “Arabica”. Robusta is an industrial variety used mainly for canned coffee. Arabica, on the other hand, is popular for its “delicious coffee,” such as “Blue Mountain” and “Geisha”, and is often served in restaurants and hotels.

The Arabica variety, which can only be grown in mountainous areas at elevations of about 1,000 meters, is limited in the areas where it can be grown compared to the Robusta variety, which can be grown in lowlands at elevations of 300 to 800 meters. It is said that the amount of land suitable for cultivation of this Arabica variety will decrease by nearly 50% by 2050, and it is possible that it will become more difficult to obtain this variety in the future. In Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, the amount of land suitable for coffee cultivation is estimated to decrease by about 60% by 2050, and there are fears of a decline in coffee production.

Current situation and possible future problems surrounding coffee

Decline in coffee production and quality

Coffee is a very difficult plant to grow, and can only be grown in areas where all four of the following conditions are met: rain, sunlight, temperature, and soil quality. As a result, it is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change among many agricultural crops.

The decrease in precipitation and increase in temperature and humidity caused by global warming have a variety of adverse effects on the growing environment. Coffee cultivation requires an “environment with wet and dry seasons,” but if precipitation decreases due to global warming, the boundary between the wet and dry seasons will disappear, making coffee cultivation difficult. In addition, increased humidity can cause “common rust”, one of the most feared and serious diseases in coffee cultivation, which can lead to a decrease in yield and quality.

Soaring coffee prices

International coffee prices have continued to soar in recent years. Major industry players have also been forced to raise prices, and on July 20, 2022, Key Coffee Inc. announced an increase in manufacturer shipping prices, raising reference retail prices by approximately 5-20%.

The main reason for the current situation is the decline in production due to the deterioration of the growing environment. If production declines in contrast to demand, which is increasing year by year, there is a risk that prices will soar even higher in the future.

Poverty and deteriorating working conditions for coffee growers

The majority of coffee producers are small-scale farmers in developing countries with poverty issues such as Latin America and Africa. Decreased production directly leads to decreased income and accelerates poverty. As a result, the situation develops into various problems such as starvation and loss of learning opportunities for children due to child labor.

In addition, according to a report by the “Transcide Group, a general incorporated association” that sells fair trade coffee, coffee farmers in Ethiopia, the world’s fifth largest coffee producer, receive only about one-twelfth of the market price of coffee in New York City. The fact that raw materials are bought cheaply by middlemen also contributes to the poverty of coffee producers.

The Sustainable Development Goals, or “SDGs”, adopted at the UN Summit in September 2015, include “End Poverty” as the first goal, “Zero Hunger” as the second, and “Quality Education for All” as the fourth. The issue of poverty, in particular, is a serious problem that is deeply related to the other SDG items.

What we can do as restaurants to solve the coffee 2050 problem

We would like to consider in detail what we can do as restaurants to solve the “coffee 2050 problem,” along with some case studies.

1. Sourcing sustainable coffee

Consideration of “sourcing” is essential for restaurants to address sustainability. There are three main types of sustainable coffee: organic coffee, fair trade coffee, and shade tree coffee (also known as “shade-grown coffee”). According to a report by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, sustainable coffee is defined as follows.

Organic Coffee
It is produced using methods that preserve the soil and prohibit the use of chemicals.
Fair Trade Coffee
It is supplied through an agricultural cooperative consisting of small farmers with a guaranteed minimum sales price.
■Shade Tree Coffee
It is produced in forested lands with consideration for the preservation of diverse ecosystems and the protection of migratory birds.

The definition of “specialty coffee,” which is coffee of the highest quality and strictly controlled from production to extraction, states that “Specialty coffee shall contribute to the sustainable development of the entire coffee industry from the producing country to the consuming country, and that the concepts of sustainability and traceability are important requirements for specialty coffee”. In addition to taste, environmentally friendly cultivation methods are also essential for “top quality coffee”.

2. Sourcing certified coffee beans

If you are unsure whether the coffee beans you choose are sustainable, one option is to choose coffee beans that are “certified” to guarantee sustainable cultivation and trade.

[Certification-1] International Fair Trade Certification

The “International Fair Trade Certification” aims to promote sustainable development of small-scale producers and workers in developing countries.
It indicates that the product meets the “International Fairtrade Standards” established by the International Fairtrade Labeling Organization in the process from production of raw materials for the product to import/export, processing, and manufacturing.
These standards guarantee producers a fair price and premiums (incentives) to support regional development, prohibit discrimination, prohibit child and forced labor, encourage organic farming, and preserve soil, water resources, and biodiversity.

[Certification-2] Rainforest Alliance Certification (UTZ Certification)

The “Rainforest Alliance Certification” is awarded to farms that meet strict standards for the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, as well as for guaranteeing the human rights and working conditions of producers.

In January 2018, the company merged with “UTZ”, which promotes sustainable agriculture, and is considered a mark that confirms not only the sustainability of the producing farms, but also the traceability of the products, including how the crops are processed and distributed. With the merger, the UTZ-certified label is being phased out in favor of the Rainforest Alliance certification mark, which is marked by a green frog.

[Certification-3] Bird Friendly® Certification

The “Bird Friendly® certification certifies” that the coffee comes from forests where migratory birds rest, and is recognized by the “Bird Friendly® Coffee Program”.

The program was established to protect the habitat of migratory birds in response to a decline in the number of migratory birds that inhabit the “shady forested areas” of shade-tree coffee farms. The program prevents deforestation by purchasing coffee from certified farms at a premium price. Proceeds from coffee sales are used to protect migratory birds and ecosystems around the world.

[Certification-4] Organic JAS Standard

The “Organic JAS Mark” indicates that the food has been inspected by a registered certifying organization authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and is recognized as having been produced by the forces of nature, without relying on pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or other chemical substances. It is prohibited by law to label agricultural products, processed foods, and livestock products that do not have the Organic JAS Mark with the name “organic“.

3. Participate in the reporting and sharing of initiatives

Participating in seminars and joining organizations are other ways to make store operations more sustainable. Participating and sharing information at these opportunities can lead to improvements in individual efforts and new ideas. It can also lead to opportunities to create new business with like-minded collaborators.

For example, the “Sustainable Coffee Challenge (SCC)”, an international initiative aimed at making coffee sustainable, currently brings together 170 partners from 44 countries, ranging from producers, food and beverage industry players, major corporations, certification bodies, governments, and universities. partners from 44 countries.

The first Japanese company to join is “Mi cafate Co.,Ltd.”, which imports and sells coffee beans and operates a café business. The company provides guidance on socially and environmentally friendly coffee cultivation and farm management to solve social problems such as poverty and unemployment and to improve coffee quality at its coffee farms in Thailand, Colombia, and Rwanda. The company also supports coffee farms in each country by creating a market in Japan for the consumption of such coffee.


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“Starbucks”, which was also involved in the creation of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, has been promoting sustainable coffee farming since before its inception. In 2004, the company established the “Coffee and Farmer Equity Practice (C.A.F.E. Practice)”, an evaluation and certification program for coffee farms, which conducts third-party evaluations from the perspectives of “quality, economy, society, and environment”. The company reports that in 2015, 99% of the coffee it sells met the criteria of the C.A.F.E. Practice.

Starbucks is also involved in a variety of other initiatives as a leader in the coffee industry, such as purchasing farms for coffee research and development and distributing nearly 50 million disease-resistant coffee trees free of charge to growers.

In carrying out these various initiatives, setting specific numerical targets and timeframes and reporting progress and results on a regular basis will help increase the transparency of the activities.

4. Use the service of sales contracts with producers.

Although “direct sales contracts with producers” may sound like a hurdle, in recent years
A variety of services are offered.

One such service, “My Farm Contract,” launched by sustainable coffee producer “GOOD COFFEE FARMS Co.” My Farm Contract is a multi-year coffee bean purchase agreement between a coffee shop and a sustainable coffee producer, coffee shop, depending on the size of its purchase, The coffee shop can use a plot of land belonging to the company’s estate as a “My Farm” in proportion to the size of the purchase.

This allows producers to improve their cash flow with long-term contracts, and coffee shops to create their own customized coffees from raw materials. As a result, consumers can enjoy rare specialty coffees with guaranteed traceability. This service is beneficial to producers, coffee shops, consumers, and the environment.

“Dry Bicycle Pulping”, a bicycle threshing machine developed by GOOD COFFEE FARMS that uses no water, electricity or fuel.

5. Recycle and upcycle coffee grounds

In recent years, there have been many examples of coffee grounds recycling/upcycling products and corporate initiatives. There are a variety of things that hotels and restaurants can do, such as introducing upcycled products into their menus and amenities. When considering sustainable procurement, upcycled products should be added to the list of options.

[Case 1] As compost and insect repellant

Since June 2021, “Cross Hotel Kyoto” has been participating in “mame-eco,” a project to collect and turn coffee grounds into compost in Kyoto City. 1.8 tons of coffee grounds, equivalent to about 90,000 cups, had been collected from the hotel as of August 2022. These coffee grounds are combined with those from other facilities in Kyoto City, and are used by farmers in Kyoto and Shiga as compost material and insect repellant.

Left: Coffee bean dregs for compost and pest control / Right: “Musaka” made from Senryo eggplant from Funakoshi Farm

Cross Hotel Kyoto purchases senryo eggplants from “Funakoshi Farm”, a farm in Kyoto City that uses coffee grounds as compost to grow crops, and offers them as a menu item at the hotel’s restaurant. In the future, the hotel also plans to bring in mushrooms from “RE:ARTH”, which grows mushrooms in a bed made from coffee grounds, and use them in pasta, salads, and other dishes. This is an example of “circular economy” achieved through the coordination of the entire supply chain, and is an initiative that we would like to refer to.

[Case 2]: Ingredients for sweets

“SOI Inc” develops fermented products and offers a custom-made ethical sweets service using “upcycled food ingredients made from fermented coffee grounds”.

Products that can be made to order include assorted baked goods and chocolate-like sweets. The company is particular about not using artificial or chemically processed substances, and as for packaging materials, they avoid the use of plastic products as much as possible and use environmentally friendly materials and paper. The product is also expected to be used as a novelty at events and exhibitions and as a take-out product.

6. Use upcycled coffee products.

Even if it is difficult for them to recycle or upcycle themselves, they can indirectly contribute to solving the problem by using upcycled products for menus, amenities, novelties, etc.

[Case 1] Ethical Zine “COFFEE ÉTHIQUE”

“Ethical Spirits & Co.”, a distilling venture that produces craft gin using discarded materials, began selling “COFFEE ÉTHIQUE”, the industry’s first ethical gin made from upcycled coffee grounds, in December 2021.

COFFEE ÉTHIQUE is made from the coffee grounds generated at “The Ethical Spirits & Coffee,” a coffee and gin stand operated by the company in Otemachi, Tokyo. The dregs are usually disposed of, but the company decided to develop the new product after noticing that the aroma of the dregs remains enough to clearly detect the individual characteristics and differences of each bean.

[Case 2] “Original business cards” made of recycled paper

“Caffe Latte”, a brand of recycled paper made from coffee grounds, launched a service to create original business cards made from recycled coffee grounds on May 4, 2022.

Caffe Latte is a brand established by two baristas based on the idea that “the problem of coffee waste should be faced by baristas, who are the parties involved in coffee waste disposal”. The main raw materials for the recycled paper are milk cartons as well as coffee grounds.

In the manufacturing process, the amount of coffee grounds was adjusted many times to achieve a “finish in which the grains of grounds can be visually confirmed”. In addition to business cards, the new product could also be used for tabletop POP printed with a QR code to guide customers to the store’s social networking service or website.

[Case 3] Soap and candles

“COFFEE FREAK PRODUCTS” defines coffee grounds as a “material” and calls them “Coffee Grands,” and is developing upcycled products such as soaps and candles.

The company’s upcycled coffee grinds and beeswax soaps are made by mixing coffee grinds and other ingredients into a soap base made from a variety of natural ingredients, and each soap is handmade.
It would be good to adopt such products as hotel amenities.

[Case 4] “Cloth Mask” made from upcycled yarn

PNH co.,ltd., which operates trading and food and beverage businesses, has developed a “cloth mask” woven with yarn upcycled from coffee grounds in collaboration with its subsidiary in Vietnam.

The coffee used as the raw material is 100% organically grown. The mask has a double-right structure, consisting of a cloth mask body and an antibacterial filter, which can be washed and used repeatedly. The filter uses coffee and nano-silver (Ag +) antibacterial technology, and has been certified by “QUATEST”, a Vietnamese quality assurance testing organization, for its deodorant and antibacterial effects.


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This product has been ordered by “Starbucks” in the U.S., and as of November 2021, a total of more than 30,000 copies have been sold. These products could be used as novelties for events at hotels and restaurants.

[Case.5] Mugs and tumblers

“PNH co.,ltd.”, the company that develops the above cloth masks, has also developed cups made from upcycled coffee grounds in addition to masks. The mugs are made from a combination of biodegradable waste plastic and coffee grounds, and contain about 60% coffee grounds. The company says that the original texture of coffee is important, and the mugs are characterized by durability, heat retention, and a subtle aroma of coffee.


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The product has been ordered by the Vietnamese subsidiary of major automaker “Porsche”, which has sold a cumulative total of more than 6,000 units as of November 2021. The company also offers other coffee upcycled tumblers, cutlery, and furniture.

How to promote your initiatives to customers/examples

As hotels and restaurants tackle the “coffee 2050 issue,” many of them “may want to make their activities known to the public and their customers, but may not know what exactly they should do”.

“Starbucks” is offering a 22 yen discount per drink for bringing your own tumbler. Other services include a 22 yen discount at “DEAN & DELUCA”, a select food store originating in New York, and a 30 yen discount at “TULLY’S COFFEE”, a specialty coffee shop originating in Seattle, USA.


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In addition to environmentally friendly initiatives, it is also a good idea to use “LINE” to ensure that corporate initiatives are delivered to consumers. In addition to leading to the acquisition of repeat customers, the official LINE can also be used as a “tool for communicating corporate initiatives” afterwards.

Editor’s Note

The year 2050 is considered a “milestone year” in various climate change initiatives. The Japanese government has declared its goal of becoming ” carbon neutral,” meaning that it will reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The UK government has set a goal of limiting average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.

The “Coffee 2050 Problem” is closely related to various environmental issues. In order to solve the problem, a comprehensive approach to environmental issues in general is required. Under these circumstances, there are various things that hotels and restaurants can do.

Coffee is an indispensable accompaniment to morning and dessert menus in hotels as well as in cafes. Because it is needed in all genres of restaurants, choosing coffee from a sustainable perspective will help differentiate your restaurant from others and convey your restaurant’s attitude to customers.

[Related Article]


[Reference Site] All Japan Coffee Association, Japan Coffee Supply and Demand Chart
[Reference Site] KEY coffee Price Revisions for Certain Products
[Reference Site] What is UCC common rust?
[Reference Site] Ajinomoto AGF, Inc. how coffee is made
[Reference Site] Sustainable Coffee Survey of the North American Specialty Coffee Industry July 2001
[Reference Site] Specialty Coffee Association of Japan, Inc.
[Reference Site] fairtrade JAPAN International Fair Trade Standards
[Reference Site] New Rainforest Alliance Certification Seal
[Reference Site] Sustainable Coffee Challenge
[Reference Site] Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practice
[Reference Site] Starbucks: Working together to create a sustainable future for coffee
[Reference Site] Launched “My Farm Contract,” the world’s one and only self-made sustainable coffee service.
[Reference Site] [Cross Hotel Kyoto] New menus full of autumn fruits such as chestnuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and rennai are now available.
[Reference Site] [First in Japan] OEM service for ethical sweets using upcycled materials of coffee grounds will start on May 30, the “Zero Waste” Day. Can also be used as original novelty goods.
[Reference Site] “COFFEE ÉTHIQUE” 3rd Batch, which sells out immediately every time, is now on sale! The industry’s first ethical gin created from coffee grounds 
[Reference Site] May 4: Business Card Day Started a service to create original business cards using recycled paper from coffee grounds.
[Reference Site] Niigata Nippo, “Coffee grounds, mugs: New products to counter mass disposal, orders from overseas continue to come in.”
[Reference Site] [Hotel JAL City Haneda Tokyo] Started sales of “Special Stay to Touch Fair Trade,” an accommodation plan to enjoy a hotel stay with sustainable goods.
[Reference Site] Lipton ‘s long-awaited and highly popular Earl Grey flavor is now available! New “Lipton Earl Grey Tea” with a gorgeous aroma of bergamot spreads in a whirlwind.
[Reference Site] Contributing to the future of chocolate through the “Nestlé Cacao Plan (*1)” Adoption of the internationally certified UTZ label for all “Kit Kat” products
[Reference Site] Ogawa Coffee “Coffee Poem (Songs)” Recitation: Mari Natsuki / Poem: Yumi Fuzuki
[Reference Site] Tamanohikari Sake Brewery, Fushimi, Kyoto, founded 350 years ago, acquires organic certification for a sustainable future, and grand opening of a new sake-kasu restaurant and store, Junmai Sake Kasu Tamanohikari, on Sunday, April 3, 2022

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