Sustainability consultant Saurin Nanavati shares how he started working in coffee and what is gratifying to him about working in the industry.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo courtesy of Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers
For Saurin Nanavati, long journeys are part of everyday life. Based in Philadelphia, Saurin is constantly on the road, and his destination is most often coffee-producing countries around the world. There he works to develop sustainability programs that positively impact coffee producers and help promote a sustainable coffee sector. Saurin talked to us about his start in coffee, his areas of focus, and the satisfaction he gets from working in coffee.
Chris Ryan: What are your earliest memories of coffee? What was your relationship with coffee before you started working in it?
Saurin Nanavati: My relationship with coffee began through my father. I grew up drinking chai, but I made coffee for my pops in the morning. Occasionally I would take a sip, and over time I began to like it. The frequency of these sips grew as I got older, but while living in South India in my early 30s, I began drinking more coffee than tea. I’m not a purist—I actually love milk, so coffee and tea are really just the flavoring. 😉
CR: When did you start working in coffee? How did that happen? What industry did you think you’d work in before coffee happened?
SN: In 2006, I began working on models that integrate rural finance, agriculture extension systems, and smallholder cooperatives. I started with milk producers in Armenia, then cotton in India, then bananas in East Africa. While in East Africa, I became interested in coffee as a cash crop within a mixed farming system (with bananas, corn, and beans) targeting income stabilization and food security for smallholders. In 2010, I was hired by a social lender to develop a management training program targeting coffee and cocoa cooperatives in Latin America and Africa. This opportunity allowed me to learn about direct trade, supply chain finance, and public-private partnership models
CR: What does your day-to-day work look like now? What are your areas of focus?
SN: I now design and develop sustainability programs for coffee companies and development agencies. A lot of my focus is in the coordination of development, research, and private partners to utilize a shared framework for measurement in order to understand, address, and monitor environmental, social, and economic characteristics associated with coffee-producing regions. I am now using lessons learned in coffee as a blueprint for sustainability that can be applied to other tropical agriculture products (such as cocoa, tea, cotton, and sugar).
CR: What is gratifying to you about working in coffee?
SN: I find drinking coffee especially gratifying when I know the supply chain. I’m currently working on several specialty-coffee projects with supply chain partners committed to the long-term viability of the farmers and their communities. Beyond, acidity, body, taste, and aroma, I find flavors of sustainability especially delicious—I like to start my day with a cup of coffee that empowers people, protects the environment, and provides a viable economic opportunity for coffee communities.