How Dunkin’ is Helping to Create a Better Future for Coffee Farmers

How Dunkin’ is Helping to Create a Better Future for Coffee Farmers

On coffee farms around the world, farmers are struggling with weather that, each year, seems to fluctuate more dramatically than the last. From Guatemala to Rwanda, nearly every coffee production area on Earth is experiencing new extremes in weather variability that pose major threats to both plants and people.

That’s one reason why Dunkin’ has banded together with other coffee companies to create better options for farmers, funding the development of new, climate resilient coffee varieties able to withstand 21st century conditions.

Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes look at our efforts to create a better future for coffee farmers in honor of Earth Day today.

How does climate change impact coffee farmers?

Coffee farmers depend on the success of their trees to earn a good living, and coffee plants rely on defined dry and rainy seasons. Unseasonable or extreme heat, drought or rainfall are all conditions that can dramatically lower the amount of coffee a farmer is able to produce each year.

Unlike a person, a tree can’t move to a more comfortable spot – once it’s in the ground, it’s usually there for 20-40 years. That means farmers must either work doubly hard to adapt the environment around the plant (for example, planting shade), or replace the old tree with a new, more suitable one.

Dunkin' WCR


New trees for a new future

In 2018, Dunkin’ and National DCP (NDCP), the franchisee-owned purchasing and distribution cooperative serving Dunkin’ restaurants, began supporting the nonprofit, collaborative research organization World Coffee Research (WCR) in its efforts to develop new coffee varieties that help farmers deal with increasingly unpredictable weather – for example, varieties that are more tolerant of heat or drought.

But, creating “climate resilient” coffee varieties isn’t just about how the plant responds to weather. It also means ensuring that the plant responds to the needs of the people who depend on it, like farmers and coffee drinkers. A new group of varieties being tested right now (called F1 hybrids) combine the traits that farmers need – for example, a wider tolerance to changing environmental conditions – with the trait that matters most to coffee drinkers: taste!

These new varieties represent a significant improvement over what many farmers are growing today. Because of their high performance, they have remarkable potential to transform coffee production for decades to come. 

“We need new approaches to be profitable,” says Catarina Tahai Aj Pop. Catarina’s tiny farm, Chuixaq´ol, is located in a remote part of Guatemala between the Atitlan and San Marcos regions. “In the community, we don’t have a lot of help to bring in new varieties or support the planting.” Catarina is a third-generation farmer whose small farm is part of a network of WCR research trials supported by Dunkin’ and NDCP to test different pathways to profitability for farmers.

Dunkin' WCR 2


In it for the long haul

In the fall of 2019, 36 varieties-in-testing were harvested for the first time and will be tasted by expert coffee tasters later this year to determine which are good enough to continue on. The best of the group will eventually make it into farmers’ hands – a journey that from start to finish can take as long as 10 years.

For Dunkin’ and NDCP, working to support coffee farmers through agricultural research is a long-term investment to make coffee more sustainable for you, our guests, and the planet. For more information on how Dunkin’ is helping ensure the future of coffee, check out this blog post.

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