I am a coffee fanatic. There is no way I am going to make it through my busy day without multiple cups of coffee. Like other areas of my life, I want to feel comfortable knowing that my coffee addiction is not going to hurt our environment. There are so many labels on coffees these days that it's not always easy to understand what they mean.
Coffee beans are actually fruits. The bean itself is found inside a cherry that is harvested. They grow on small trees or bushes and the ripe cherries offer the best tasting coffee. To find only the ripest cherries, it is necessary to pick them by hand. When you harvest with a machine, it removes all the cherries - ripe or not. Like any other fruit, it needs the proper amount of sunshine to ripen. Growing in the sun allows the fruits to ripen faster. However in order to grow in the sun, farmers must strip the are of vegetation to have an open growing area. This destroys the habitat for wildlife living in the area.
Here are a few things I look for when I shop for coffee:
Organic - Grown without adding anything harmful including chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers. Chemicals run off into the streams and water sheds and that affects the people who live there as well as the animals and birds.
Shade Grown or Bird Friendly - Grown in the shade allowing for a slower ripening time and less damage to the surrounding eco-structure including the birds, bats, insects and small mammals who nest in the trees and bushes.
Fair Trade - An agreement exists between the suppliers and buyers to pay a fair wage. This allows the growers to clear less land to grow the coffee which makes for a more eco-friendly product.
All of these things are more labor intensive and cost more than growing coffee in the traditional manner. That means the coffee you buy in the store will cost more than coffee grown in a less eco-friendly manner. I think the trade off is worth it to make sure that my love of coffee isn't hurting anyone. What do you think?