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As Boston hosts the 25th Annual Specialty Coffee Association of America Exposition, Massachusetts companies can claim to be at the forefront of redefining the concept of sustainable coffee production and processing through Café Solar.

Café Solar® is an innovation of the Mesoamerican Development Institute (MDI), a Non-Governmental Organization based on campus at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

MDI is partnering with Fair Trade Cooperative COMISUYL in Honduras in the operation of the world’s first solar/biofuel-powered coffee processing center, which features clean technology manufactured largely in Massachusetts. The off-the-electrical-grid processing center generates its own electricity, and allows local farmers to process and export their harvest directly to the global specialty coffee market, a first in 100 years of coffee production in Yoro, Honduras.

The center is also the only facility able to industrially dry coffee without burning wood from threatened tropical forests, the fuel source for conventional dryers. The facility is operated by local youth of the community of Subirana trained in the use of renewable energy technology and quality control and coffee preparation and export.

Another significant aspect of Café Solar® is that the cooperative and the processing center, in Subirana, Yoro, Honduras, are managed by women.

A farmer-owned company will provide oil for the generation of electricity from an indigenous tree (Jatropha Curcas), bringing additional benefits for the local economy.

A critical environmental aspect of the Café Solar® story is that Cooperative COMISUYL is preparing to transition coffee farms to a forest-friendly land management system called Integrated Open Canopy (IOC), which MDI has been studying with graduate and doctoral students from the University of Massachusetts and the US Forest Service for the past eight years.

In addition to increasing coffee crop yields, the IOC agroforestry system has been documented to provide habitat for a multitude of migratory and resident bird species, including forest-dependent species not supported by other coffee production methods.

Coffee from Cooperative COMISUYL ends up in Upton, Massachusetts, where it is roasted by roast master William Trull and distributed to Red Barn Cafes, internet sales and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Café Solar, the official sustainable coffee of UMass Lowell, is providing many educational projects to examine sustainability from multidisciplinary perspectives, including engineering for green coffee processing mills, to the business and social issues of the world coffee trade, as well as, consumer country branding and marketing.

The working relationship between Red Barn Coffee Roasters the MDI, and Cooperative COMISUYL is one of the innovative ways consumer country coffee roasters are participating in “Direct Trade,” a growing model for the global coffee trade.

To learn more about Café Solar® and to sample Strictly High Grown (SHG), certified Organic and Fair Trade coffee from Cooperative COMISUYL, visit the Red Barn Faneuil Hall Café, on Saturday, April 13th, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.