16 Apr Understanding ethical coffee with Coromandel Coast
This week is UK Coffee Week and we’re delighted to be joined for #EthicalHour by Coromandel Coast, who will be teaching us all about the complex ethical and sustainable issues in growing, producing and serving up a hot cup of coffee…
The UK coffee industry is growing rapidly with 1 in 5 of us visiting a coffee shop every day.
In the UK alone, we throw away an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, but a lack of sufficient waste management infrastructure means even the most environment-friendly cups will not be disposed of adequately.
Thankfully, it is an avoidable waste, and we as conscious consumers can make our coffee habits sustainable by switching to reusable cups for a start.
We are Coromandel Coast, a small-batch coffee roasting company, and we are passionate about ‘greening’ consumers’ coffee habits – from farm to cup.
We ethically source our green beans from smallholder farms in India that use the traditional multi-tiered coffee agro-forestry system. Such coffee is termed shade-grown as the coffee grows under the lush forest canopy of fruit and spice trees.
What are the benefits of shade-grown coffee?
Socio-environmental – Shade trees prevent soil erosion on a sloping terrain; they enrich the soil by recycling nutrients from deeper layers, protect the coffee plant from seasonal fluctuations in temperature, and play host to diverse flora and fauna. They help provide sustainable livelihood to farmers when they are hit by coffee price volatility.
Taste – Coffee beans that grow under shade trees mature slowly, and as a result are not very acidic. Shade-grown coffee has an exotic full-bodied taste and a fine aroma.
Coffee is one of many food crops with a big water footprint (140 litres for a 125ml cup).
In India, coffee benefits from growing in monsoon-rich regions utilising far less water compared to other coffee growing regions that rely on irrigation. However, coffee processing, that is, washing the fruit and separating the pulp from the bean can use up several gallons of water.
We, at Coromandel Coast specialise in naturally processed coffees. Processing coffee using the dry (natural) process is one of the oldest methods where the handpicked cherries are sun-dried in patios until the cherry shrinks. Following this drying process, the beans are allowed to rest anywhere from 2 to 3 months for the taste to mature.
What are the benefits of naturally processed coffees?
Socio-environmental – naturally (dry) processed coffee uses little or no water, therefore have a smaller water footprint to wet processed (washed) coffees. Dry process is also labour intensive and so generates employment, especially for women.
Taste – natural processing accentuates the sugar profiles in coffee giving it rich fruity, nutty flavours.
We, at Coromandel Coast, are advocates of home-brewing.
If your coffee is good, that is, delectable and sustainable, you could make your coffee habit a tad ‘greener’ by using a brewing method that produces minimal waste, using minimal energy. Coffee shops can be wonderful places to meet friends, network or work towards meeting those project deadlines, but they aren’t necessarily the most efficient in managing waste.
Coffee to us is about slowing down, taking a moment to sit and reflect, something we often crave for in today’s fast-paced world. And there’s no place like home when it comes to savouring the simple things in life. The humble cafetiere or a pour-over filter can produce the best tasting brew. They are low-impact and zero waste options. And when you’re done, you can sprinkle those used coffee grounds in your garden as a slow-release fertiliser.
We sincerely hope we’ve given you reasons to look beyond the ubiquitous Fairtrade, UTZ certified labels one finds on most coffee bags and café menus these days, and start questioning their coffee origins, brew methods and how they dispose of used coffee grounds. Coffee cups are only the tip of an iceberg of issues around coffee.
We are a Lilliputian start-up, only a few months old, weaving sustainability and ethics into the fabric of our business as we go along. While we refrain from using plastic in our back-end processes using heirloom brass containers for storage and cooling, we haven’t figured it all yet when it comes to our retail packaging. We want to change the way the world views and consumes coffee, and to get there we’ve set ourselves some tough goals for the upcoming years. We want to be plastic-free by the end of 2018. Strategic reforestation, protecting riverbeds and measuring impact are some of the other areas we’re working on.
As a thank you to the EthicalHour community, we are extending a 50% discount on our entire range of coffees (shipping to the UK only). Visit our site www.coromandelcoast.co.uk , and enter the voucher code ETHICALHOUR50 on check-out. A big part of all our sales proceeds this week will be donated to Project Waterfall.