Updated: Oct 12, 2020

I always say: I love my coffee beans, but the little bean is actually a seed..

I treasure my morning cappuccino!!

The more I began to brew my delectable cup as a ceremony, it dawned on me the importance of looking into my favourite roasters. Are they eco-friendly? How do they source? Are they supporting the right cause?

This led me into research about coffee's impact on the planet and our health. I also had an opportunity to tour a coffee plantation in Guatemala that taught me all about the crop.

The crop

The plant originated in Ethiopia, it is sacred and commonly used in ceremonies.

Coffee plant is like a tree, it can grow 9 feet in height, however is normally kept shorter to make harvesting easier.

After 4 years of settling into the land the plant will flower, after it is pollinated it will grow cherries and inside these are the seeds, or as we like to call them beans.

From here they are harvested, separated, washed, dried and then roasted.

Environmental concerns:

  • CLIMATE CHANGE. Rain patterns are changing, temperature and humidity is rising- this is impacting agriculture. Over the past 10 years there have been fluctuations each year making it hard for farmer's to know when to do what + schedule the labour needed to get all the work done in time if something suddenly changes. The upcoming years will be interesting for many mass agricultural industries- so all the better to support fair-trade, small, organic companies versus the commercial conglomerates.

  • PESTICIDES & CHEMICAL USAGE. Since coffee is optimally a shade-grown crop, it is more susceptible to disease, fungi and pests. The use of chemicals is commonly used on commercial farms- and residue can be found in our cup. Opt for organically grown brands to avoid chemical residues.

  • WORKING ENVIRONMENT. Farmer's are sometimes not paid according to their efforts. Unfortunately due to lack of resources they have no way to fight for a fair wage- this is also causing an aging farmer population as many young people are afraid to enter the business after seeing the struggles their family has gone through. Support fair-trade and keep tradition alive!

Fair/direct-trade coffee sold at Ten Thousand Villages in Hamilton.

Coffee certifications to look for to support positive change:

You can also spot these certifications on other products!

  • FAIR-TRADE. An international organization (not just used for coffee), signifying that the goods produced were complying to the fair-wage standards.

  • DIRECT-TRADE. Claims to have growers paid 25% higher than just fair-trade. This statement means a company is directly working with farmer's, cutting out the middleman and therefore increasing profitability all around.

  • BIRD-FRIENDLY/SHADE GROWN. This is a certification that requires a minimum of 40% of the canopy of trees shading the coffee crop to be biologically diverse. They monitor the size and variety of the tree, plus the wildlife that lives within them- focusing on migratory birds.

  • SINGLE ORIGIN. Versus multi-origin. This is growing in popularity and seen as a sign of increased quality. It is easier to combine a whole bunch of crops from different countries with different flavour notes and slip in some crops that were lower standard. Single origin proves its quality.

  • RAINFOREST ALLIANCE. This certification is non-profit and based out of New York. It certifies based-off of standards to improve biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, forestry, agriculture and local businesses. They aim to protect the environment and the rights of workers.

  • ORGANIC. Producers cannot use synthetic substances (there is a list on their website of permitted substances, but they must be organically derived). If coffee is labeled "organic," at least 95 percent of the beans must have been grown under organic conditions -still not 100%, isn't that nuts!?!?

  • CARBON-NEUTRAL. A carbon-neutral business is one that, through the sum of its activities, does not add to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is growing in popularity in other industries too- a powerful movement for the future!