We may not be able to grow coffee here, but you could still support local artisan roasters. These companies tend to be more eco-friendly and you help to keep money circulating in the community. Coffee can only grow in cloud cover, so if you ever see sun-grown coffee, don’t buy it. This means that it would be using chemicals to grow it, which would also be harming native wildlife. It’s best to avoid coffee, if pregnant or nursing.
Like chocolate, coffee is usually grown in the poorest areas on earth, so always choose Fair Trade. Go for small artisan brands as you know these buy direct from the coffee farmers, rather than the big brands that give a lot of marketing speak, but usually don’t buy direct from farmers. Local farmers who grow organic can also make money from selling other items grown under the shade of the coffee berries.
- Durham Coffee Co names coffees after local saints, like St Cuthbert.
- Coldblow Coffee (Kent) is from the tropics of south east England!
- Union Coffee (London) has a subscription coffee club.
- Horsham Coffee Roaster uses a low-emission roasting process.
Biodegradable packaging for coffee is a difficult one, as you need airtight packaging to keep the coffee fresh, and to keep oxygen out, to stop the packs exploding! Eucalyptus packaging (like for chocolate) is controversial, because these trees are very flammable. So if grown in excess to supply billions of products, it can cause forest fires, which again harms wildlife. For now, choose coffee beans from zero waste stores to roast yourself at home, or brands sold in packaging that you can recycle with household waste.
Is Costa Coffee Locally Roasted?
If you call a massive factory in Essex a roastery, then yes. But it’s ‘not just content with being the biggest’, it also boasts a sustainable building using rainforest-alliance-certified farmed beans. Sounds good, right?
It is one of the more ethical chains, but the problem is that it still has that mentality of ‘bigger being better’. It’s far better to just support your local indie coffee shop, and buy local brews. Ethical Consumer rankings put Costa Coffee near the bottom, rather than top. Their scores are ranked on everything from whether they use organic milk, to who pays all their taxes. Costa Coffee is also owned by Coca-Cola, a brand which many people boycott due to its sponsoring of cruel rodeos in the USA.
Years ago, most people just had a simple tea or coffee, when out. But today coffee bars offer heaps of choices, and one of the most popular is latte. Enjoyed in Italy since the 17th century, the term was first used by William Dean Howells for his essay ‘Italian Journeys’. However a group of English women in the 1600s noted that coffee ‘made men as unfruitful as the deserts!’
Coffee to Help Songbirds
Bird & Wild is a unique brand of coffee. Not only is it organic and Fair Trade, but it is designed specifically to help birds of all kinds. Sun-grown coffee is not bird-friendly as it does not offer shade for songbirds, but shade-grown coffee is better for all wildlife, and needs no chemicals. It also enables farmers to grow excess products, which they can also sell at local markets. This company also donates a portion of proceeds to RSPB and songbird charities. In the US, a similar company does the same: Birds & Beans Coffee.
Caffeine-Free Date Coffee
Dafé Coffee Co is a unique company based on the border of Surrey and Hampshire. It makes coffee from Dafé, which is a caffeine-free coffee alternative, made by roasting the upcycled seeds of dates. It tastes like a cross between tea and chocolate coffee.
The co-founders are keen runners and cyclists, and came across this drink, while running a few years ago in Lebanon. Now they have brought this low-carbon drink to England, and sell the coffee in compostable plant-based coffee bags with no foil or plastic, sold in cardboard boxes with paper-based tape.
Just prepare in the same way as coffee with a cafetiere, moka pot or espresso. Nice with a dash of oat milk, and good as an afternoon or evening drink, or for anyone wishing to reduce their caffeine consumption. Mixed with hot frothy plant milk, you also get a nice hot chocolate alternative. May contain traces of nuts.
A Cup of Coffee, to Help Others
For everyday coffee, one of the better brands is Clipper Organic Instant Coffee which you can find in most shops. It’s made from organically-grown Arabica coffee, and comes in a de-caff version (decaffeinated using CO2 and spring water). This was one of the first Fair Trade drinks brands in the UK. Brands that use eucalyptus compostable bags have concerns, as these trees planted en-masse for packaging are extremely flammable, and have caused huge wildfires in Portugal.
- Change Please employs homeless people to become trained baristas. Or buy someone a Billy Chip (this can be used at cafes for homeless people to get a hot drink). Worldwide, Suspended Coffees signs up coffee shops to pre-pay a homeless person a cup of coffee.
- Redemption Roasters (London) employs prisoners as roasters and baristas, to train them up in skills, and others work in their coffee shops.
- Frontline Coffee helps emergency crews (fire, lifeboat, ambulance) and a carer’s charity. Sold in biodegradable coffee pouches.
- Grumpy Mule is an ethical coffee brand, available in several varieties, including decaff. Sold them by coffee co-ops, this company cares about its farmers, growers and customers, and always sources sustainability, giving the prices and respect that the farmers deserve.
- New Ground Coffee blends crafted coffee with social responsibility, by giving a second chance to ex-offenders. Based in Oxford, training up people who have just been released from prison, helps training and jobs, and prevent re-offending.
- Old Spike Roastery is the first social enterprise coffee company in the UK, with 65% of profits directly supporting people who are experiencing homelessness.
Plant-Based Lattes & Cappuccinos
Cashew Milk Vegan Lattes (Crowded Kitchen) are made with homemade cashew milk and nourishing spices. And coloured 9 ways with natural superfood powders!
Of course a coffee cannot be ethical, if it uses factory-farmed milk or refined white sugar. So choose a good brand and make it a really special occasion. One or two cups of good coffee in the mornings, rather than 10 plastic mugs of yukky coffee throughout the day!
There’s no point choosing ethical coffee, if you add factory-farmed milk and refined sugar. Choose organic plant milks and natural sugars. Vegan Classic Cappuccino Mix does have glucose syrup, but it’s a choice for vegans, made with coconut oil. Place a few teaspoons in a cup with 180ml hot (not boiling) water, and stir well. Also in hazelnut and karamell.
Alpaca Coffee sings to a more sustainable tune. It has removed fossil fuels from the roasting process (uses biofuels) and is sold in plastic-free packaging. You can also follow the ‘coffee story’ of every type, and a tree is planted for every 10 packs sold.
This easy plant milk coffee creamer (Full of Plants) is ideal for people who like iced lattes and creamy coffees, without the animal ingredients, cholesterol or plastic packaging. Made with raw almonds or cashews alongside coconut cream (chill a can of Biona or Nature’s Charm coconut milk and skim off the solid part), you can sweeten if wished with sugar, maple syrup or agave.
Use coffee creamer in hot or iced coffee (use 2 tablespoons per 1/2 cup). You can also add 1/4 cup of this creamer to matcha tea. It keeps for up to a few days in the fridge, just give it a shake if it settles.
This date-sweetened almond butter latte (Rainbow Plant Life) is far better than anything from chain store coffee shops. Almond butter is found in health shops and some supermarkets, and is rich in calcium and protein (choose a good organic brand, to avoid brands that use migratory beekeeping). Flavoured with orange peel and cayenne pepper, this is an ideal winter drink.
This drink is sweetened with dates, one of nature’s best natural sugars. Good for your tummy, dates are also rich in calcium. They are a bit more expensive, but try Medjool dates for best flavour, although smaller Deglet dates are also good. We are not talking about those awful dates in the plastic tub with the stick – apples and orange!
This dairy-free protein mocha latte (Rainbow Plant Latte) is as tasty as a protein drink gets! Far nicer than an expensive chain store coffee with measly plant milk, this is a much richer and creamier homemade drink. It’s made with soymilk, but you can use a lower-protein alternative, if wished. The other protein comes from hemp seeds and cacao powder.
This latte is sweetened with maple syrup (choose an organic brand free from bone char filtering) and then finished with warming spices of ginger and cinnamon. You won’t find anything as good as this in Costa Coffee or Starbucks, so treat yourself!