Success Story: Hortensia Solís, alum brews passion for sustainable coffee

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: July 4th, 2019

Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Hortensia Solís

Coffee has always been a constant in the life of Hortensia Solís (’06, Costa Rica).

Hortensia was born in one of the globe’s lushest, most renowned coffee-growing regions: Dota, Costa Rica. She arrived at EARTH University in 2002 with dreams of gaining as much knowledge as she could and using it to further integrate herself into the coffee sector. Over time, her passion for producing the world’s best cup of joe has grown into an unshakable commitment to environmental sustainability.

“Being at EARTH helped me to appreciate sustainability,” Hortensia says. “In my graduation project, I conducted an analysis of Costa Rican coffee cooperatives’ supply chains. The work included an examination of the energy, water and agricultural inputs used by farmers to grow coffee.” 

Advancing the coffee sector

Upon graduating from the University, Hortensia nurtured a connection with Coopedota, where she worked for six years. She led the cooperative’s campaign to reduce its negative environmental impacts and boost its positive ones. She even implemented an effective waste-management program in the surrounding community. In the process, she secured carbon-neutral certification – making it the first coffee company in the world to receive the distinction. The experience she accumulated at Coopedota served as the basis for her first business venture: NAMA Café. In 2012, the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture awarded her for her work of influencing the national agenda on climate change.

Hortensia at United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21).

During that same year, Hortensia became the first Central American woman to land an international fellowship and scholarship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to study climate protection. Her research into coffee yielded insights that the International Coffee Organization, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have recommended as best practices in the global cultivation of the tropical shrub.

In collaboration with the International Coffee Organization and the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Hortensia developed a guide on how to access climate funding for the coffee sector. She also contributed to the efforts to include the coffee sector in Vietnam’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) before the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21).

Coffee, beyond the mug

    The business she started, Viaje con Café (Travel with Coffee)

Since 2016, Hortensia began researching Europe’s specialty-coffee industry. She also has been working in tourism development for the sustainable-coffee sector. The business she started, Viaje con Café (Travel with Coffee), serves to organize sensory and informative expeditions in the coffee-growing countries of Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Brazil and Colombia). The trips’ itineraries include coffee-farm tours with talks about sustainable farming and bean processing as well as training in coffee tasting and appreciation. So far, people from Europe, Saudi Arabia, Japan, USA and Canada have participated in her expeditions.

“I believe that bringing people to coffee’s source must be done in a way that generates a positive impact on the local community and, at the same time, improves the sustainability of the entire value chain,” Hortensia says. “My goal is to get consumers to know coffee far beyond the mug. I want to show them all that is behind it.”

Hortensia believes that experiences make for the best education. As such, her business will help more coffee drinkers to become invested in the beverage’s sustainable production as well as assist coffee producers and communities in diversifying their incomes through her ecotourism.