Case study: Las Lajas

How the Warrior Coffee project helps the people of the Las Lajas collective in Costa Rica, who grow Warrior One coffee

Las Lajas

Producing high quality coffee sustainably is more costly than using industrial farming methods prevalent worldwide, but in the long run, there are convincing economic arguments for sustainable farming of coffee, and the environmental benefits are huge.

But it's not cheap.

When a finca's [plantation] coffee slides into mediocrity, the financials can be punishing. The tremendous increase in production is short-term thinking. Whereas a specialty coffee like the coffee from Las Lajas can command $2.00 to $3.00 per pound, the inferior commodity—or mass market—coffee may only get 35 cents a kilo, or around 16 cents per pound.

The decline in flavor profiles is directly attributable to what large scale, yield-based farming does to soil. Customers want to go, 'Wow!' when they sip great tasting coffee. However, clearing forests destroys the things that give a specialty coffee its unique qualities. The decline in taste may take 5 to 10 years, but once it happens, the result is coffee that is harsh and acidic.

In addition to the plummeting value of the crops, industrial farmers will see the value of their greatest resource—their land—follow suit as the topsoil washes away. Coffee needs a lot of rain, so soil erosion from farms that are clear cut has disasterous results. The soil becomes barren of nutrients, and the land has no asset value.

For the collective of Las Lajas, the Warrior Coffee partnership provides reliable revenues for the finca, as well as the scientific, agricultural and other intellectual capital that Lycoming brings to the table through its faculty and students. The results? Top-notch technical and consulting assistance, an improved standard of living for the people of Las Lajas, and economic benefits that echo through the region.