63 percent of US people drink coffee every day, making it one of the most popular drinks in the country. Every day, 400 million cups of coffee are poured, so it’s clear that people love coffee and lattes. But how can we drink coffee in a more eco-friendly way?
Every year, we spend about $225 billion on coffee beans. That means that if only one out of every four bags of coffee was made in an ethical and sustainable way, we could use 56 billion dollars to improve supply lines, plant trees, and do other good things.
International Coffee Day is on September 29, so now is a great time to think about how you can drink coffee in a way that is good for the environment.
How Did Coffee Get There?
Most coffee that is sold in the U.S. comes from somewhere else. Brazil, which makes 22,000 60-kilo bags of coffee beans each year, is by far the biggest supplier. They sell at least four times as much coffee as the other 20 or so countries that sell coffee.
In southern and equatorial parts of the world, coffee bushes grow well. Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala are known for their coffee because of this. Indonesia, Ethiopia, the Philippines, India, and Vietnam are also countries that grow and sell coffee.
Getting the Beans Ready for Brewing
The seeds of coffee cherries are what we use to make coffee. These bright, sour fruits aren’t very tasty on their own, but the seeds are used to make coffee, which is a long, labour-intensive process.
Coffee cherries can be picked by hand or by machine, based on what each farm wants and what quality of coffee they want to make. The best beans come from ripe cherries, so most specialty coffees are often hand-picked to make sure that only the ripest fruit is used.
The cherries are then put through a process called “milling.” This process gets rid of any parts of the coffee cherry that aren’t needed, like the pulp, skin, and husk that are around the bean. Before beans are sent to other countries, they are rated and sorted. The last step is to grade, roast, and sell the coffee.
Types of Coffee That Are Common
Arabic, Robusta, Liberica, and Exelcelsa are the four types of coffee beans.
If you’ve had a cup of coffee from Starbucks, you’ve had the most famous of these beans. Since all of Starbucks’ beans are Arabica, it is the most popular coffee shop in the United States. These beans are sweeter than the others, with a more delicate flavour and less acidity overall.
Robusta is the second most famous bean type. It tastes stronger and has more caffeine than Arabica. Also, it’s easier to grow in places with different temperatures, like Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Last, Liberica and Exelcelsa are less common bean types that are generally used to make specialty coffee or to give Arabica brews a more rounded flavour. Almost all of these are grown in Southeast Asia.
How COVID has changed the trade of coffee
No matter how popular coffee is, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a problem in how much coffee costs.
When COVID first started to spread, many people stocked up on coffee in case there were lockdowns. This caused the price of coffee to go up. Then, as coffee places around the world shut down, the price of coffee fell below what it cost to make.
Also, there aren’t enough people to work on coffee farms because people are staying home to stay safe. With the lower demand, it’s hard for coffee farmers to know how much coffee they should grow, how much their beans will sell for, and how much money they can make to cover their costs.
What to Look for in Sustainable Coffee Certifications
When buying coffee, there are many different standards to look for, and all of them are good for the environment.
Fair Trade USA
If your coffee is certified by Fair Trade USA, it means that it was bought for at least the lowest base price. With the base price, coffee farmers can plan for their costs and earnings. Producers who are certified as Fair Trade also get extra money to put back into their worker groups.
Fair Trade isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good. Some people say that the base price is too low, especially when it comes to high-quality coffee. Fair Trade USA demands that all business records be written in English and follow strict rules. These are huge problems for coffee farmers who don’t know much or any English.
Certified as organic
The goal of this certification is to disturb the earth as little as possible while plants are being grown. There are no man-made poisons on the coffee bushes or in the baskets used to gather the beans. Farmers who want to be recognised as organic must also clean up their water and recycle their trash.
Certified to be safe for birds
Shade-grown coffee is good for birds. This stops trees from being cut down and keeps migratory birds’ homes in the jungle. Because the coffee cherries have more time to mature, shade-grown coffee also tastes better. With more growth time, the beans get more natural sugars and a better taste.
Bird-friendly coffee is also organic, so this label is like getting two approvals for the price of one.
We love and recommend these eco-friendly coffee brands
Level Ground Coffee: Their farmers’ faces are right on the package, and it’s easy to feel connected to them and happy about how much they were paid for their hard work. Liza likes Level Ground a lot.
Ampersand Coffee: This brand of coffee is certified Bird-Friendly, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance. It also works with Cafe Femenino and the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.
Birds & Beans: This brand is also certified organic, fair trade, and friendly to birds. Laura loves how their coffee tastes!
Starbucks: Even though they don’t have any of the above certifications, 99% of their coffee is still bought in an ethical way. (independently-verified by Conservation International)
Five Simple Ways to Drink Coffee in a Green Way
Ask your server where your coffee comes from and if it has any seals of approval.
When having iced coffee, don’t use straws that you only use once.
Invest in a used espresso machine, coffee maker, or milk frother so you can make great coffee at home that won’t break the bank.
Buy coffee that is Fair Trade, friendly to birds, or certified organic.
Make sure you can recycle your Nespresso or Keurig pods, or buy a reused pod that you can fill with your own coffee.