I personally credit Stok Cold Brew Coffee for helping me survive college. Instead of splurging on multiple $5 coffees each week, I usually buy the 48oz container of cold brew for just under $6. As I’ve consistently purchased this coffee for over a year, it came time to determine whether this beverage had benefits beyond helping my bank account. Wouldn’t it be ironic to credit a degree in environmental science to a coffee detrimental to the environment? Though I was first concerned that the packaging lacks any certification labels, Stok’s website offers a large and accessible variety of information to support their goals in sustainability.
Stok sources Arabica coffee beans from Columbia primarily, as well as Nicaragua and Brazil. Arabica beans account for 60% of global coffee production. They are typically grown south of the equator at high altitudes. Stok coffee is UTZ certified, which is now part of the Rainforest Alliance. This certification began in 2002, striving to develop more sustainable farming practices for growing coffee, but later expanded to work with other organizations to focus on child labor, climate change, and farmer incomes as well. The focus on climate change is especially important, as many wild coffee species are expected to disappear because of deforestation and the spread of pathogens. UTZ certification ensures that the workers growing the coffee beans have healthy and safe working conditions, as well as having an improved standard of living for workers. Additionally, this certification maintains a growing process in which water contamination is prevented, and natural habitats are protected and restored. For compliance with all requirements of UTZ Certification, which is not easy to achieve, Stok receives a 2.2 on how it is made. The remaining 0.8 points are lost because there is only information available on the region in which the coffee beans are sourced from, but a buyer is unable to identify the specific farm. Additionally, the coffee comes in a large plastic container. It is recyclable, but Stok has no plans to change this, only instructing buyers how to properly recycle the bottle on the FAQ portion of their website.
Stok offers no information on how their coffee beans are roasted. The general process of coffee bean roasting puts these beans in a rotating drum at 240 degrees for 15 minutes. I’d assume this is the most energy intensive part of Stok’s process, but given the limited availability of information we really don’t know. We also don’t know if the coffee bean roasting is done within the growing region. When exploring the “How We Do Cold Brew'' section of Stok’s website, they leave a lot to be desired. While beginning with the statement “we get all fired up on method and process,” I could not find many details about their method or process aside from that the coffee is steeped for at least 10 hours. There are some additionally vague points about lower temperatures, a filtering process, and a higher ratio of coffee beans to water. What is the final filtering process they are referring to? How does the production of a cold brew coffee change the overall water and energy usage? A consumer needs to know what happens after the coffee beans are grown and roasted. This company is also headquartered in Colorado, so lots of greenhouse gasses are produced in shipping the coffee beans there, then products to other regions. Stok has no apparent plans to offset their emissions. Though they do great in other aspects, how Stok cold brew is made only receives a 0.5 because of the lack of information provided about the roasting and brewing process.
Stok seems to have genuine interaction with and care for the individuals that produce their coffee beans. As shown with their commitment to UTZ certification, Stok strives to trace the coffee through each part of the journey, from the region to the roaster to the consumer. This goal has led Stok to prioritize additional efforts in helping coffee farmers in Columbia, Nicaragua, and Brazil. Stok has helped to plant over 2,500 trees and 4,000 native plants in the farming regions to provide shade for coffee plants and prevent soil erosion. Additionally, Stok holds workshops to teach farmers more sustainable farming methods, like how to reuse the water for processing coffee beans and to leave cut brush around plants to increase soil moisture. I would like to see more details on how Stok is able to uphold UTZ’s standards through improving standards of living for workers, so they receive a 2 in this area.