Latest research suggests to just bin tea leaves and coffee grounds to break down naturally, as caffeine could harm compost creatures.
NHS recommends to avoid caffeine during pregnancy/nursing or limit to 200mg daily (to avoid risk of miscarriage or low birth weight). This is 1 mug of mild coffee (most high-street coffee is higher in caffeine), 2 cups of mild tea or a can of coke. Avoid coffee for gout, acid reflux or diabetes, and people prone to anxiety, depression or insomnia.
It’s difficult to find zero waste packaging for coffee, as air in the bags would cause them to explode. But ‘biodegradable’ packaging often comes from flammable eucalytpus trees (Spain and Portugal have banned new plantations, due to wildfires). So if you can’t buy loose beans, opt for easy-to-recycle packaging instead. Choose shade-grown coffee (grown without chemicals to protect songbird habitats and farmers). And choose Fair Trade (coffee is responsible for the income of 25 million). For decaff, choose brands using Swiss Water process.
Before the 16th century, everyone in England drank tea (or herbal teas from apothecary shops). After the first coffee shop opened in Oxford, soon there were 3000 coffeehouses. Though women were banned as they were considered ‘places to be merry’ (one King even tried to ban coffee, believing the excitement would cause him to be dethroned!)
The big coffee shops don’t promote that their dairy milks are from free-range organic farms, so they probably aren’t. Most coffee shops (and all groceries) sell plant milks, though few sell in glass bottles. Learn about the different kinds of sustainable plant milks. Sweeten coffee naturally with a little sugar (ideally from a zero waste shop). Avoid artificial sweeteners (dodgy, tested on animals and leave a weird aftertaste – most are also in plastic packaging). Avoid xylitol near pets, it’s lethal if licked up.
recommended coffee brands
- Sanctuary Coffee shares profits from its coffee (in easy-to-recycle box packaging) with animal sanctuaries. So you can enjoy a morning java and donate to good causes, at the same time. You can also buy pods that break down naturally in the bin.
- Bird & Wild offers truly song-bird friendly coffee, with profits helping to preserve the habitats of songbirds both here and abroad.
- The Little Coffee Company is a woman-owned company that sells beans grown by women, paying female farmers up to 125% more than the Fair Trade minimum. A portion of profits is used to provide solar power, to avoid dangerous kerosene lamps to work and study.
- Change Please offers ground or bean coffee, with profits helping to fund their projects that give barista-training to homeless people, so you can buy direct from them in several London locations.
switch to reusable coffee pods
Evergreen Reusable Coffee Capsules (coupon code englandnaturally for 15% discount) last a lifetime, saving the average household thousands of pounds. Just fill, tamp (include a tamper on your first order) and close. Takes just 20 seconds, easy-to-use and dishwasher-safe. Shipped from the USA but as it’s only a one-time purchase.
Disposable coffee pods are used in their billions, and cause immense waste and expense. They are difficult to recycle as they are blended with aluminium. Heating a combination of plastic and aluminium may also release chemicals of concern to health.
switch to a reusable coffee filter
Disposable paper coffee filters are not just wasteful, but are usually bleached with chlorine (which poisons absolutely everything) and can’t be recycled, once used. If You Care makes chlorine-free disposable filters (in cardboard packaging) if you need them say for hair salons or car showrooms. But for everyone else, a reusable coffee filter is best and more cost-effective. Just rinse and use again.
This reusable coffee filter is ideal to replace chlorine-bleached disposable paper coffee filters. Made from stainless steel, this is easy-to-clean with fine mesh filters, designed for decades of use. Wash and dry after each use, and scrub stains with baking soda dissolved in warm water. An alternative is an organic cotton Coffee Sock that needs boiling every few weeks to remove oil build-up (you can also use it to filter tea leaves and nut milk).
simple human-powered coffee machines
If you drink coffee alone, you don’t always have to buy instant coffee. There are good little gadgets around that let you brew a proper cup of coffee with beans from the zero waste shop. So you can sit down at home to enjoy your coffee, rather than spend a fortune at chain coffee houses. This 6-cup ceramic French Press (can also be used for tea) is Spanish-inspired with a cool grey and white design, and a reuseable stainless steel filter, that’s easy to use.
This porcelain coffee drip filter is a simpler and cheaper alternative to French press machines. Just pop on top of your mug, add an unbleached or reusable coffee filter and pour water in the top. In 2 sizes, this produces sediment-free coffee and is dishwasher-safe.
This stovetop espresso maker is suitable for all hobs, makes super-tasty coffee and needs no detergents to clean it. Designed to last 10 years, it’s then easily recycled. Or use a traditional moka pot.
This ceramic French Press is inspired by Vienna coffee houses. The clean modern Art-Deco finish is ideal for minimalist kitchens. Push the plunger down to let the stainless steel filter trap the grounds. Hand-wash only, not suitable for microwaves.
proper coffee for indie coffee bars
ROK makes a manual coffee grinder that small indie shops can use to save energy bills and carbon. Expensive, but it carries a 10-year warranty on metal parts (and 2-year warranty on non-metal parts) and produces grounds to the quality of the top coffee shops. Made from aluminium alloy and glass composite, with hardened steel conical burrs. Choose your grind fine to coarse, before using the long handle to easily grind your beans. The Espresso maker kit includes a tamp/spoon. Just pour freshly boiled water in the top, slowly pull up the arms and press down.
a caffeine-free organic coffee alternative
Ötzibrew is an innovative coffee alternative, here to change your routine with our organic beanless brews, sustainably crafted for a healthier you and a greener planet. It’s made from chicory root (similar to dandelion) and reviewers say it tastes just the same as good coffee, but is ideal for people who can’t sleep or have been advised not to drink it. Made with organic ingredients in sustainable packaging, this contains mushrooms so do check ingredients in case of allergies. Above is a recipe for a chai latte made with their chaga powder with nutmeg (keep away from pets).
First used in ancient Egypt for its health benefits, chicory root is good for you but does not taste nice, so other ingredients are mixed in to make this a nice-tasting coffee alternative. It’s also caffeine-free. The brand is named after ötzi, man discovered (naturally preserved in ice) on a journey in the alps in 1991. He was carrying a pouch containing rare pollen and roots, showing that even back then, he had knowledge of remedies to apply to his ailments.
The Dark Roast is blended with cordyceps, add 1 to 2 teaspoons to a cup in a cafetiere, French press or filter, and drink up to 5 cups daily. The Medium Roast is made with burdock root and organic dandelion and again is sold in a paper tub casing. Serve with their organic coconut coffee creamer.