A girl I used to know in New York City was so fanatical about recycling that she would literally take empty bottles home from bars because she feared that they would be tossed in the garbage.
I’ll never forget the time when we were out one night and she started filling up her designer handbag with empty beer bottles, which weren’t even hers! She was that committed to the environment.
Yet, when she drank her coffee each morning, organic coffee was never even a consideration.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this didn’t make much sense. Why?
Because conventionally-grown coffee is incredibly unhealthy for people and the planet.
* In terms of chemicals, coffee is one of the most heavily treated crops of any agricultural commodity.
* In order to mass produce coffee, traditional growers often clear wide swaths of land, predominantly in the rainforest, where the crops receive direct sunlight all-day. This all-day exposure to the sun weakens the immune system of the coffee crops and makes them more vulnerable to pests and insects.
Hence, it is one of the reasons that coffee requires such large amounts of pesticides and insecticides. This also explains why shade is very important.
* Many of these pesticides and insecticides sprayed directly on the crops end up in the coffee that people drink on a daily basis and therefore harm our bodies. These chemicals also cause damage to the soil and pollute the local water supply.
Furthermore, workers who have tremendous exposure to these chemicals suffer greatly. Flower growers in Ecuador are a prime example of this.
* When the beans are harvested, they are washed with water. This water, which now contains many different toxic chemicals, is released back into streams, rivers or whatever source it came from, possibly the soil.
* The clearing of fragile rainforests, where coffee is grown, represents an incredibly serious threat to global warming. Read what Tom Friedman of the New York Times has to say about this.
Over the last forty years or so, approximately 2/3rds of the rainforest in Central America and Mexico has disappeared.
My apologies for all the bad news…..but here’s the good news.
* Organic farmers do not use harmful or super-toxic chemicals on their coffee crops. The coffee that you drink is as “clean” as possible. This means you are not putting dangerous pesticides or insecticides into your body each morning.
* The lack of pesticides do not destroy the soil, a critical factor in the nutritional value of all organic food.
* Most organic coffee is shade-grown and this directly impacts taste. According to Silvia Covelli, CEO of True Origin Organics and a member of the Organic Coffee Collaboration, “the best tasting coffees are the ones that are shade-grown. This is because coffee is a very aromatic plant and absorbs all the flavors and aromas from surrounding trees, such as plantains, cacao and fruits. The exotic aromas come out when not exposed to chemicals.”
* Organic farmers nurture the environment and minimize soil erosion through re-forestation, the use of ecological methods to control pests, the recirculation of water whenever possible and the propagation of different species of native trees, which also provides important refuge for migratory birds.
* When you buy organic coffee, you are supporting farmers in many third world countries who are committed to the environment and are helping to promote biodiversity.
Just as recycling glass bottles is important, so is the choice you make each morning at the coffee counter. For you and the planet.
While there are many, many brands of organic coffee and each person is partial to a specific flavor profile, one excellent company is Equal Exchange.
Click HERE for their fair trade, certified organic, whole bean breakfast blend.