We’ve been talking a lot recently about the sustainable and environmentally-minded coffee cultivation in different parts of the world and here’s another dimension to add to that discussion: The Peruvian co-op CECOVASA recently received a national award for the positive impact their work has had on preserving and promoting biodiversity in the region.
CECOVASA is probably like many coffee co-ops around the world: A collection of small farmers who have banded together in order to take advantage of the economic opportunities of Fair Trade. But like so many labels, the real faces and people behind them can get lost in the shuffle, and we found this great article on a visit to the remote Andean farms that comprise CECOVASA incredibly informative.
This is another example of how choices we make in our daily lives — for example, purchasing coffee imported by Equal Exchange — can have a positive impact on both the ability of small indigenous farmers to put food on their table and to keep the ecological balance intact around them. These are market factors that can help define what kind of world we live in — not just in 50 years, but in even 2 years from now.
Maybe your days of rocking knatty dreads are over, but you can give a little shout-out to your quasi-Rastafari roots by imbibing in Rohan Marley’s new papa-inspired coffee beans.
According to this interview in the Jamaica Observer, “My father came from farmland of Nine Miles,” Rohan recalls, “There, he learned a deep respect for nature and humanity – respect that helped guide his life and ours. He said he would return to the farm one day. That was his dream.”
Incorporating the Rastafari ideal of ITAL (pure, vital foods), Rohan and his business partner Shane Whittle work to partner with farms around the globe that are engaging in ecologically and socially sustainable cultivation practices — organic, shade-grown, ethically-treated workers and environtmal balance are some of the attributes they look for when sourcing their beans. Their own beans, cultivated in the world-renowned coffee growing region of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, are similarly produced and they firmly believe that coffee grown in this manner just plain tastes better. From Rohan’s own experience, he draws on early memories of his grandmother hand-hulling and roasting wild coffee cherries for her daily cup of coffee and he seeks to embody this rich, handcrafted and smooth flavor in all of his coffees.
Marley Coffee has five different blends on offer, each name inspired by one of Bob Marley’s songs:
- Simmer Down – Swiss water decaf
- Lively Up! – 5 bean espresso blend
- One Love – Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
- Mystic Morning – Wake up coffee
- Jammin Java – Bold full city roast
As the second highest traded commodity on the planet, coffee forms a complex and interconnected web that envelopes the globe. Whether we’re connoisseurs, roasters, casual sippers, baristas, equipment designers or growers, we’re all part of a wonderfully intricate chain that allows us to impact each other and the world around us. It’s one of the things we love most about coffee, actually — we dig being a tiny part of an enormous and diverse portrait.
While coffee cultivation in India has been around for a few hundred years, the infamous coffee rust blight that hit the region in the mid 1800′s definitely took a toll on the cultivation of coffee plants — the British colonialists eventually switched to cultivating tea instead, making that drink nearly synonymous with the UK. But coffee cultivation in specific regions of India has made a comeback, and this fabulous article talks about its history in the region and the present day practices of highly-integrated, forested coffee plantations that accentuate coffee’s relationship to the natural world.
From serving as the protected home to hundreds of different species of wildlife — birds, cats, lizards, monkeys — to growing coffee next to fragrant crops such as pepper or cardamom, these plantations take their committment to preserving the ecosystem that supports the production of specialty-grade coffee very seriously and it’s is more than just laudable, it’s worthy of your support. After all, the cause of the aforementioned coffee rust fungus was eventually sourced to the imbalance caused by excessive razing of the land in order to support more coffee tree planting. So why not take the time to explore specialty coffee from India? Sipping your delicious cup just may be contributing to the future sustainability of balanced agriculture.
In this episode of coffee blog love, we’d like to introduce you to Coffee & Conservation: Are Your Beans For The Birds?
This excellent coffee and ecological blog discusses a variety of topics that pertain to how coffee agriculture affects the environment. Assessing plantation growing practices and how they affect birds, reviewing different types of coffee (including the highly sought after civet-processed coffee) and information on how drinking different brands impacts our little winged friends are just a few of the subjects addressed in this blog.
If you’re interested in keeping track of the ever evolving relationship between coffee and the environment, this blog is an awesome place to start.
Sure, our espresso machines give us energy, but how much are they taking from the planet? We ran a test on a few of our favorites to show examples of the electricity draw and cost involved with running these machines each year. Our cost estimates are based on a national US average of $.11/kWh — you can find more accurate data for your specific area here.
|Machine Name & Type||kWh Used||Estimated Annual Cost|
Semi-Automatic w/Single Boiler
Semi-Automatic w/Heat Exchange
Incidentally, we measured how much kWh it took to make a one-touch cappuccino on the Jura Z5 and found that it was .02kWh — at $.11/kWh, that means you’d need to make about 5 cappuccinos to rack up 1 cent in energy costs!
The first, written about a biologist’s plea for people to purchase shade-grown coffee, talks about the effects that growing coffee in full sun (for increased production) have had on the migratory bird population in Vermont. The plantations they’re referencing are specifically in Central America, where historically coffee was grown under a tree canopy to help protect it from winds and pests. These older growth forests and complex ecosystems were inhabited by birds from North America as part of their migration pattern, but as the birds continue to fly south for the winter, their previous hospitable digs are being systematically cleared in favor of larger plantations. The use of heartier (more Robusta?) strains of coffee plants and pesticides are eliminating the need for the protection of a towering forest and increasing output, which farmers understandably love.
On the other side of the Atlantic, however, the story is quite different: Recent research reveals that the shade-grown coffee may be adversely affecting the bird populations of Ethiopia. The study researchers suggest that moving farming to open farmland and leaving the forest canopies alone for awhile may actually increase the bird populations in this area. One major benefit of shade-grown coffee is that the birds assist in pest control, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides. It would be a shame to move coffee agriculture to an open prairie that would require chemical pest control, so we love the suggestion that tree planting should be part of this process. Instead of just plowing down the forest, plant coffee and trees elsewhere and, perhaps, significantly increase the habitable footprint available to more birds.
What these two articles demonstrate is the need for regionally-based agricultural and environmental impact studies that enable us to keep our world filled with all of the vibrant and lovely animals that keep it balanced. It’s a difficult prospect, however, given that coffee cultivation often takes place in some of the poorest countries in the world — and starving families understandably don’t really care about how their ability to feed themselves will reduce the number of woodthrush in Vermont.