One more cup of coffee…

After the slightly icky post yesterday about the colonic irrigation of chickens (apologies to any new readers, it’s usually much more tasteful here… actually, you probably won’t be reading this as you were so appalled by yesterday’s ruminations) I thought I’d turn my mind to something much more palatable… my morning cup of coffee…

I have mentioned coffee in earlier posts, but I like it so much that I think it deserves to be the subject of a post in its own right and I read an interesting post yesterday about making coffee drinking more green, which inspired me to write something myself.

When I went out to work, I used to take a big flask of homemade coffee with me every day because otherwise I would have spent all the money I earned on buying coffee… some people say something similar about child care; I don’t have any offspring, but I do have a coffee habit (and a sick chicken) to support. Now that I work from home, in a sedentary job, it would be easy to OD on coffee because I could have a constant supply if I wanted. What’s worse is that I drink it black (I’m lactose intolerant) so it’s just me and the coffee. In fact I was never keen on cappuccino even in my milk-drinking days – it always looks like somebody hasn’t rinsed the washing up liquid out of the cup properly! But to avoid sitting around vibrating, I stick to one large mug of coffee with Mr Snail-of-happiness mid-morning.

We choose to drink Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance coffee at least and preferably something that is grown organically or as part of a community-centred project. There are projects that grow shade coffee, social projects such as those on Mount Kilimanjaro,  co-operatives in many places like Guatemala… I could go on, but just search for ‘ethical coffee’ on the internet and you’ll find lots of information. There’s loads of choice now and you can support great projects around the world through your purchasing . I acknowledge that coffee has to be transported a long way, but generally it comes by boat and without its sale there would be communities with no source of income from outside their local area. I like to support small projects where I know the growers are not being coerced and where they get the money directly… I hope that I am doing the right thing.

Sometimes I order coffee on-line and sometimes I buy from a little local shop that sells the beans (or ground coffee) loose. If the latter, I take my own container for the beans to be put in after weighing to minimise packaging. This way I’m also supporting a business in our area. If I do buy on-line it’s from a small company supporting specific projects.

Anyway, once the coffee beans have arrived we like to grind them either using solar-generated electricity (if it’s a sunny day) or in a little hand-grinder if not. Actually, we have got a bit lazy recently and grind more than required on sunny days to avoid using person-power when it’s dull (we need to keep our energy for the radio on dull days!).

The grounds are then transferred to the most low-tech coffee maker possible: a plastic cone (over fifteen years old) lined with a thick piece of cotton fabric. The water, boiled in our Kelly Kettle (powered by wood from our willow hedge),  is poured onto the coffee and collected in a jug below. After use, we collect the grounds and they go on the garden and the cloth is rinsed out for re-use.

The best location to drink this ethical-as possible (I hope) coffee is in the garden, where we can ponder the vegetables growing around us and discuss future plans for the garden, house, chickens, sustainability, Mr S-o-h’s next book… all powered by coffee.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m a coffee lover myself, and work at a not-for-profit coffee shop at our church. I like hearing about your coffee making techniques. I just enjoy coffee related posts.

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  2. The Kelly Kettle is my favorite part of this. 🙂 I don’t know anyone who uses wood burning anything anymore, but I love the idea. I think all the effort that that would take would make the coffee taste even better.

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    • I bought it thinking it would be a bit of a fad, but we have used it pretty much everyday for two and a half years now… perhaps I’m just a bit of a pyromaniac at heart!

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  3. I’m also crazy about coffee! Hardly a day goes by without at least 2 double espressos…

    You might be interested in roasting your own coffee. This is what I do. Yes, I know it’s one more kitchen appliance that runs on electricity. One more thing to buy that gets imported from China. One more appliance to throw away when you’re done with it. These things are very true.

    100 years ago all coffee was mostly grown organically, by small plantations, and were important sources of income for the communities. Older varieties of coffee couldn’t tolerate sun, and so were grown in the shade, mostly co-habitating with nearby rainforests in environmentally sound ways.

    That all changed in the 1970s when they developed varieties of coffee that could tolerate sun and also needed chemicals. What this mean was, unlike previously where growing coffee didn’t have many costs for the farmer, now farmers needed to buy their seeds, chemicals and fertilizers. These were very high yield varieties, F1s, and the market was flooded with cheap coffee. Coffee roasting companies were also consolidated and licensed. Large buyers like supermarkets will only buy from licensed roasters, and roasters will only buy from larger plantations with which they have agreements with. Fairtrade, Birdsong and so on are all part of these cartels, and the roasting gets licensed through them.

    Is it bad to buy Birdsong or Fairtrade? No, of course not. The problem is these programs are notoriously inefficient in terms of getting money in the hands of farmers. If you pay an extra £2, the farmer probably gets 10p. Birdsong — why do you need to pay extra first for the large coffee companies to destroy small plantations, then buy from them at below market prices?

    On the other hand, if you roast your own coffee, you can bypass these cartels completely and buy pretty direct from the plantation. http://ongebrand.nl is an example of a company that buys direct from plantations. A few of their coffees are certified organic if that interests you. You do need to be a little careful what you buy, as some of the coffees come from ‘evil’ plantations, some of whom grow full-sun/full-chemical coffee. On the other hand, many of the coffees do come from small plantations where communities benefit significantly from purchases. If you consider that shade grown coffee is mostly organic and environmentally friendly, maybe various certifications aren’t very important when all is said and done.

    Another choice you have when buying raw coffee is you can choose ‘unwashed’. This means no water is used in the processing of the beans. While all coffee requires a lot of water to produce, this coffee needs less. Unwashed coffee also has a more complex flavor, that I find nicer. Unwashed is not usually practical for mass marketed coffees, because the process is very labor intensive.

    Ah, politics, politics… I’ve made some posts about this over the years…

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  4. I forgot to say too that roasted coffee is only fresh for at most a week. It doesn’t matter if you freeze or vacuum pack it, and it doesn’t matter how it’s packaged. After a week it’s no longer fresh. Ground coffee will only stay fresh one day.

    When you consider it’s almost impossible to get pre-roasted coffee this fast, you’ve probably never had a fresh cup of coffee before. Coffee tastes really good when you roast it yourself!

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  1. Small steps | The Snail of Happiness

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