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How bananas make the best coffee

It’s true, bananas make the best coffee. But don’t go putting bananas in your Bialetti just yet, the true story is more fun!

Coffee comes from a small, temperamental tree, and the best of it is made under the most precise conditions. This means that not only does the environment have to be on point, but also the manpower and tools need to be fit for purpose, and a farmer must have the will to seek out the best. That’s exactly what happens on the Brazilian farms we buy from, where the farmers are dedicated to growing the best coffee around. Hence, banana trees.

By sacrificing some of their arable land (land they can grow coffee on) to a less profitable plant, they ensure that certain key conditions for the growth of speciality coffee are met more easily.

There’s a visible different between speciality beans and beans that fall below this category. WIll, our Head of Coffee (left), inspects large batches from farms for each coffee we buy.

Firstly, shade. When a coffee tree is out of the sun for some or all of its life, its cherries (where the coffee bean is held prisoner) ripen much slower. This gives the cherries longer to absorb more nutrients from the ground, thereby increasing the likelihood of them attaining speciality status.

Secondly, the potassium in the bananas that fall to the earth help feed the coffee trees with the nutrients that the Brazilian soil, for the most part, lacks. “Potassium is important to the physiological development of fruit,” says the Speciality Coffees Association of America, and a Potassium deficiency can lead to “brown spots developing, especially on older leaves,” (a disease called Leaf Rust).The fruit, and its development, or ripening, is the bit that affects the overall taste and quality of the coffee the most.

Lastly, it provides a stable source of income to help with cash flow. Coffee is only harvestable once a year. So when times are good, they’re really good. But say a crop doesn’t turn out so well? Or perhaps a farmer wants a bit of extra cash to invest in his farm? The canny speciality coffee producer knows that he needs a backup.

Enter: the banana. Loved the world over for its silly shape, and now also a farmer’s financial buffer, they can be grown almost all year round in Brazil, and are popular all around the world.

All this to say that the best speciality coffee farmers make some apparently strange choices.But dive deep, and you find lots of stories like this. Here the banana trees help make the coffee you drink every day better by shading the coffee tree, enriching the ground it grows in, and easing the cash flow of coffee farmers in Brazil.

We encourage attention to detail like this among our new partners all over the world. This inevitably leads to more consistently high quality coffee being harvested from the farm and the forming of long term relationships between Pact Coffee and farmers through direct trade.