Five minutes with: Nespresso Coffee Ambassador, Mitch Monaghan

Think you know coffee? Think again. Good talks to Nespresso Coffee Ambassador, Mitch Monaghan on sustainability and sourcing the best quality coffee in the world. 

Tell us a little about the history of Nespresso?
Nespresso was established 30 years ago with just five employees. It all started with a simple but revolutionary idea – enable anyone to create a great cup of coffee, just like a skilled barista. Since then Nespresso has grown into a worldwide brand with a singular focus on delivering the ultimate coffee experience to consumers, cup after cup. Although coffee is at the heart of all we do, consumer pleasure is why we do it. Nespresso was launched in NZ in 2011 and since then we’ve opened five boutiques where coffee lovers are welcomed to experience all our Grands Crus coffees, ably assisted by our knowledgeable and passionate Coffee Specialists to find a favourite.​

Coffee beans drying in Costa Rica

How does Nespresso go about sourcing the coffee that make up its Grands Crus?
Nespresso has a singular focus on quality. In fact, only about one to two per cent of the coffee grown globally meets our specific quality, taste and aroma standards. To ensure these high standards remain consistent we don’t buy our coffee on the open market. Instead we work incredibly close with farmers from more than 11 different countries right along the equatorial line otherwise known as the bean belt. More than 80 per cent of these farmers are part of Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality Programme.​ 

Ethiopian coffee farmers

Tell us more about the Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality Programme
The AAA Sustainable Quality Programme started in 2003 and is something we’re incredibly proud of. Sustainability is a business imperative for Nespresso, a company that relies on a natural resource to deliver quality and consistency to consumers.The programme combines Nespresso coffee expertise and quality criteria with the sustainable farming expertise of the Rainforest Alliance. It’s about more than just paying a premium price for high quality coffee. It’s about building long term partnerships with farmers and providing them and their communities with the support – socially, economically and environmentally to increase their productivity. It has helped to secure the supply of the highest quality coffee beans required for Nespresso consumers and help improve the livelihoods of the farmers that grow them, all while protecting the environment.

How does this work in practice?
To become a AAA farm and be paid a premium, there are 296 criteria that the farm has to meet as defined by the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), as well as additional country specific criteria set by Nespresso addressing local agricultural practices, coffee processing and harvesting. This covers things like financial management, protection of the natural eco-system,  water management, health and safety and discrimination. To help farmers meet these criteria, together with our partners, we provide training and technical assistance through a network of over 300 agronomists. 

Tell us about the work Nespresso has been doing in South Sudan, must be an interesting place to do business?
It certainly is. South Sudan only came into existence as a country in 2011 after 30 years of conflict. Nespresso is the first coffee company to enter into the country. Along with Technoserve, the development non-profit organisation, we are building an innovative program that will enable farmers to set up cooperatives, raise finance, invest in infrastructure, and commercialise their coffee for export. After only 18 months, Nespresso has already facilitated the creation of three coffee exporting cooperatives in the south of the country, exporting the first commercial coffee to leave South Sudan in over 30 years. It’s a project George Clooney, our brand ambassador since 2006, has been heaviliy involved in. The amount of coffee being produced is still relatively low but working with local farmers we have big ambitions, including reducing poverty levels among 2,000 smallholder coffee farmers.

What are Nespresso’s aims for the future?
Our 2020 sustainability vision is called The Positive Cup. One pillar of this is that we’re working to have 100 per cent of our permanent range of Grand Cru coffees sourced through AAA farms. To achieve this we’re significantly expanding the AAA Program in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan and investing approximately $22.5million NZD in these countries over the next six years.

Why does Nespresso put so much effort in to sourcing coffee from so many different countries? Doesn’t coffee taste the same no matter where it’s from?
Growing great crops to produce coffee has a lot in common with growing great grapes to produce wine. The different environmental conditions the coffee crop is grown in heavily influences the final taste of the coffee. The conditions, called terroirs, are usually related to altitude, climate and the soil of a specific region. For instance, Indryia from India is a pure origin Grand Cru coffee combining robusta and arabica beans grown on the South West coast of India. The coffee trees are  grown at a high altitude surrounded by black pepper, cloves and nutmeg. When roasted, this results in a full-bodied coffee with notes of these spices. Rosabaya de Colombia, on the other hand, is a pure arabica coffee grown in Colombia that’s then handpicked and transported to Paramo de Letras 3,600 metres above sea level. The climate is much cooler here so acts as a natural refrigerator that allows the bean to develop red fruit and wine notes. 

Does this explain why Nespresso has so many different coffees?
Yes. There are 23 permanent coffees, that we call Grands Crus, in the Nespresso range. Our selection – both blended and pure origin coffees – are specially developed to suit every taste preference. The 23 Grands Crus consist of nine Espresso blends, three Lungo blends, four Decaffeinated blends, four Pure Origins each sourced exclusivly from a single country and three Variations, which are flavoured espressos. As well as this, Nespresso typically introduces a number of limited editions each year. These limited edition Grands Crus aim to give our Club Members new and unexpected coffee tasting experiences and are a showcase of our expertise and dedication. 

For more information on the Grand Crus, sustainability, recycling and the source of Nespresso’s coffee, visit nespresso.com

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