Our Ethics

Coffee farmers at Coffea Diversa farm in Costa Rica, holding coffee cherries in a circle


At the forefront of our business is the way in which we source all our coffee varieties. We source all our coffees directly from their origin, typically from a specific estate with whom we have maintained a personal relationship for years. Sourcing from single origin ensures that as much of the value of the coffee goes directly to the farmers who own, run, and work year-round on these coffee farms. We work closely with all our estates to ensure that the farming and processing methods used are environmentally and socially friendly, and that their treatment of all staff is fair and ethical.

For over two decades now, we have been visiting origins and forging long term personal relationships with the coffee farmers; in the case of Jamaica and St Helena, we have even invested directly in the estates we buy from, such is our belief in their coffees. By visiting estates in person, it not only ensures we know exactly where our coffees are coming from and what practices are being used, but it is often remarkable and highly rewarding to return to an origin and see how these farms have developed over the years. All of the photos you see on product pages come from that specific origin, many of which were taken by us on our visits.

With all the growers we work with, we require evidence that the agricultural methods employed are built on a long-term commitment to sustainable and ethical production. Many of the single estates and co-operatives from which we source are organic and fair trade certified whilst others are working with RFA and Utz. However, fair trade is often not an appropriate certification to attribute to speciality coffee. Many of the farms we source coffee from are too small and niche to benefit from the fair trade label, and the raw prices of these rare coffees are many times higher than fair-trade standards require. Through direct trade, the prices paid to farmers, pickers, and processes are much higher than fair trade standards in almost all instances, provided buyers continue to work with these farms to maintain and develop their practices.

Coffee farmers smiling while hand sorting dried green coffee beans


We are committed to reducing waste and minimising our impact upon the environment. Sea Island uses recyclable packaging for our products wherever this is possible. For the discerning drinker who hates waste as much as we do, our bags for green (unroasted) coffee beans, our Nespresso compatible pods, coffee sachets, gift boxes, and tins are all 100% recyclable.

Unfortunately, for some products, it is not always viable for us to use eco-friendly packaging. Our roasted coffee and coffee sachets come inside special plastic packaging designed to keep the coffee fresh for as long as possible. These high-quality resealable bags have an exceptionally strong oxygen barrier which preserves the freshness of the coffee impeccably. A one-way valve allows the Co2 produced from roasting to 'gas off' slowly, enabling the coffee to be packaged shortly thereafter, capturing and preserving its unique flavours for many weeks.

Fresh roasted coffee bags from Sea Island Coffee containing St Helena coffee beans, sitting on a wooden tray next to some flowers and a french press

Wild Animal Coffee

Kopi Luwak, the most famous example of foraged wild animal coffee, has been part of the cultural heritage of Sumatran coffee farmers for centuries. This naturally occurring gastronomic phenomenon sees a synergy of man, animal, and ecosystem that elevates what are already very good coffee beans into something exceptional. 

The wild luwak, or 'civet cat' sniffs out only the very ripest coffee cherries, which it eats as part of a natural mixed diet.  After chewing the fruity exterior of the coffee cherry, the civet swallows the bean whole. Enzymes within the animal’s stomach massage the beans, changing their overall protein structure, and enhancing the sweetness and brightness. The beans are passed undigested by the luwaks and left for the keen-eyed collector to find. Most of the people who collect and clean these ‘dropped’ beans are landless rural workers, who exist in harmony with the animals and ecosystem, and for whom these foraged beans represent a significant part of their livelihood. In other parts of the world, jacu birds, bats, and toucans produce similar examples of wild animal coffee.

Driven by a fascination with this unusual story, media attention has seen demand for Kopi Luwak soar in recent years. The collection of Wild animal coffee is a labour-intensive process and the price commanded by the beans reflects that. However, given the high price that Kopi Luwak commands, unscrupulous individuals and companies have sought to capitalise on it by unethical means. These unethical producers capture and cage the civets and feed them coffee cherries that are often unripe or spoiled - the antithesis of the high-quality beans selected by the animals in the wild. As the coffee cherries are the caged civets' only nutrition, the animal’s digestive system soon becomes unbalanced and unable to cause the metamorphosis required for Kopi Luwak beans. This practice is not only cruel, but it is also a counterproductive gastronomic fraud. The caged animals cannot produce coffee that in anyway replicates the highly quality complex flavour profile associated with wild animal coffee.

Sea Island Coffee has never and never will endorse or support the capture and caging of animals for coffee production.  We source our wild animal coffee only from farmers who have evidence and documentation assuring that the provenance is 100% wild. The farmers that we buy our Kopi Luwak from are from well-known estates who are recognised by their government as producing only ethical, wild foraged animal coffee.

We believe that the practice of capturing and caging civets, or any other animal, for coffee production is an egregious infringement upon animal rights.  We understand the call from some organisations for a blanket ban on all Kopi Luwak production, however, we have always believed that wild foraged Kopi Luwak should not be tarnished with the same brush as the cheaper Kopi Luwak found on the market, sourced from caged and abused civet cats. The concept of Kopi Luwak has been a part of these farmers' cultural heritage for hundreds of years, and given our longstanding relationships with these ethical collectors, who live in harmony with the animals and forests, we hope to continue raising awareness surrounding the unethical caging of animals for coffee production and the damage it does to the reputation of wild Kopi Luwak.

A wild kopi luwak (civet cat) eating coffee cherries in a tree