Monday, February 8, 2010

How to Green your Beans... Yoga and Coffee

It seems fitting to begin this week with yet another coffee post. Tonight I'll be meeting with a local Anusara teacher to discuss ideas of a student centered-yoga group. We'll be meeting at a local coffee shop and my hope is to get a 'Yoga and Coffee' group going (Andrew shot down my 'Yoga Latté' idea...sigh). I'll keep you posted :)

We North Americans drink a LOT of coffee. Non-fair trade equals supporting slave and child labour, we could just as easily label those coffee beans 'blood beans'... Check out my post on ethics for more info. I've also mentioned how we use 23 BILLION cups a year, all to be thrown in the landfill. You think that little 'biodegradable' symbol on your cup means anything? Think again, most municipalities are not equipped to deal with 'compostable' coffee cups, so out to your neighbourhood garbage pile (aka landfill)  (Haligonians, read here for our own personal greenwashing- JustUs!).

Think your personal change won't make a difference? Read this little article over at the Onion, seriously, it's awesome.

So how do we green our coffee? (N.B. same ideas could apply to tea...)

My Coffee Arsenal....

Step One: Bring Your Own Mug (BYOM). And invest in a good one that will last a few years. Preferably stainless steel as it won't leach icky plastic and phtalates into your coffee and something you'll LOVE to carry around. Even though I had serious buyers remorse after spending 27$ on mine, it has lasted 5 years and despite dents and scratches, keeps my coffee hot the entire morning.
Tips: remember to wash out your mug the night before (I put mine in the 'to wash' dishes space)... rotten milk doesn't smell too great....

Step Two: Make your own coffee. This step actually has phases. What I've discovered is that coffee tastes are a personal preference. I like medium roasted, Cafe Femenino Peru (sadly not carried in Halifax anymore). You might like a darker or lighter roast.

2 a) buy fair trade organic coffee whenever possible. Although a few dollars more per pound, if you can spare two dollars per bag there is no other way. Non-fair trade coffee means slave labour, minimal women and child rights and overall abuse on entire societies and cultures. Just for your cup of jo.

2 b) buy a small coffee grinder, mine was under 20$. If the main reason you're not making your own coffee is because you think pre-ground tastes like crap... it's because you're right. Grinding your own fresh each morning takes 5 extra seconds, is fun and tastes a zillion times better.

2 c) Get a reusable coffee filter. Seriously made for us lazies in the world, reusable coffee filters are awesome. You just rinse them out like any screen-type dealy and the grinds that filter through are negligible. Unless you are the ultimate coffee bean snob, you won't notice.

2 d) Invest in a French Press. This was the final step for coffee making chez nous. The perfect solution for all you counter space deficient apartment dwellers. It takes a few extra steps (boil the water, making sure the French Press is actually cleaned the night before, sitting for exactly 4 minutes...), but the coffee tastes YUMMY.

Step Three: Whenever possible, ask for your coffee 'for here' in a mug. If I'm not on my way to work, this is usually what Andrew and I do. I see it this way; if I can spare 10 minutes to sit and enjoy each others company, then why add another throw-away cup to the pile? I'm gonna suck back the coffee in about that time anyway.

Step Four: customize your coffee at home so that you LIKE drinking coffee made at home. If you're anything like me, my ultimate coffee experience isn't coffee at all... but espresso drenched in chocolate. In order to replicate this I have come up with a system. Here are some of my favs:
- use honey instead of sugar. Local honey adds a whole other flavour, is better for you and tastes great!
- use fair trade organic dark brown sugar
- use fair trade organic chocolate (Haligonians, JustUs! carries a spicy chocolate powder- YUM).
- use chocolate milk (this is for emergencies only...)
- sprinkle in some cinnamon, nutmeg or other spice that you like.

Step Five: Start supporting small, local roasters. Let them know what you like about their company (i.e. selling fair trade organic, composting and recycling at their shops) and what you'd like to see more of (more aggressive BYOM campaigns, stop claiming that their cups are compostable, bringing back café femenino- ok those are mine... but you know what I mean). Simple, intelligent and rationally written emails can do the trick.

Step Six: Buy locally roasted, fair trade organic coffee beans in bulk. This one is our recent phases, for some reason I had this impression that although from the same company, the beans at the bulk section of our local organic grocery store were ick. I have no idea why. Recently, I bought a whole bunch, asked for a paper bag to put them in (had forgotten my cloth produce bag at home) and they now reside in a glass container. The paper bag is currently being used to hold our frozen blueberries.

How do you green your coffee?

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Great post! I love french press coffee. So good! I end up with a huge pile of mugs on my desk by the end of the week! Every once in awhile I splurge on an earl grey tea latte from Starbuckles but I can make the same thing at home.

    I would love to have a yoga studio with a little space to make tea for my students so we could enjoy it together after class...ah, dreams ;)

  2. Wow...I think I'm already following all of those--buy fair trade organic (usually) coffee which I think is locally ground at my local food co-op, grind it at home, and, as coffee shops are essential to working from home (I mean, sure coffee shop coffee's expensive, but what other public places are there where can you hang out for as long as you want, working and socializing, for the price of a $2 cup of coffee), drink out of ceramic cups at my very socially conscious local coffee shop (across the street from the food co-op...I live in a VERY crunchy neighborhood)...hmmm...this comment's starting to feel, as an exercise in humility, I should probably mention my Chinese take-out habit...styrofoam, msg, and factory farmed, humility can be ugly...but, actually, I haven't done that out since, November or so, when, at a doctor's appointment following a week in which I ate $4.50 plates of General Tso's almost every night, I was told my blood pressure was rising...

    Anyway, you and Andrew might both be amused to see the name of the M-F 9:15 class at this local (to me) yoga studio...

    Love the Onion article!

  3. hahaha- well there, I guess the name is officially OUT, since it's been taken for an actual class. lol, I am so showing Andrew this tonight!! Thanks Dr. Jay. (wow, LUCKY on living in a crunchy neighbourhood!)

    Babs: ouuu what a beautiful image- a studio with tea and coffee after class.... awesome. :)

  4. I love this post! Mainly because I was happy to discover that my coffee is already pretty green. =) Thanks for visiting me, I can't wait to spend more time here on your site...

  5. I love these tips! I do have a french press, which I love. But, I've gone through two coffee grinders. Do you have one that's worked well for you?

    Oh, and BTW, my husband just informed me last night that he's buying me a cast iron skillet! I casually mentioned your post last week.

  6. I don't drink coffee. Sometimes I wish I did, because this time of year it would be SO nice to have something warm to carry around, but I don't like the way it tastes. Do you guys really like it or are you just pretending? ; )

  7. Great post! The thought of all those coffee cups makes me want to cry.

    It's funny because when I'm in Canada, I always bring my own cup or stay in the shop... When I went to New Zealand recently, which I thought was a pretty "green" country, people were totally taken aback when I asked for my coffee in my own take-away cup. Apparently it just hasn't caught on yet there!

    As to my own coffee, East Timor has delicious coffee! It's all organically grown and the only distributors are cooperatives. It's also the country's only export product - Starbucks buys most of that I think. It's a huge livelihood for hundreds of families here. So while I'm all for making my own coffee, know that your Starbucks, well, bucks, aren't going to waste... And if you ever see coffee from East Timor, buy it and let me know!

  8. I don't know why, but I always hated coffee. But this is great info for the large population of coffee lovers. I'm so glad you pointed out that most places can't compost or recycle those "biodegradable" cups! That drives me nuts!

  9. my boyfriend is the coffee conisseur - he does a lot of those steps. most days he grinds his own coffee, makes it and brings it to work in a big thermos. we had a french press for a little bit but i forget exactly why it is we got rid of it and why he prefers the coffeemaker. i like to put honey in my coffee but he uses fair trade organic raw sugar. another thing to think about is the milk you put in your coffee, it may only seem like a drop but it adds up week after week - we use grass fed organic milk from the farmers market. i only drink coffee on weekend mornings because it tastes best when he makes it.

  10. My dh was having a cardiac day surgery procedure done yesterday at the infirmary. Just Us on Spring Garden was just a little too far for me to want to walk all that way just to get him some coffee that I actually wanted to buy. So I prepared to compromise:( Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that I could fill his travel mug with just us coffee right there in the cafeteria at the Infirmary in Halifax:)

  11. resuable coffee filter, check, coffee grinder, check, organic fair trade coffee bought in bulk, check, non-plastic coffee maker, check!

    I use a chemex, which like a french press is a little more time-intensive b/c you have to boil the water & pour it through the filter yourself. but, even in the earliest hours, I still manage. and the coffee tastes GREAT.

  12. Love it! We realized we were wasting a lot of coffee so we invested in the stove top Italian espresso maker about a month back (my last housemate had one and the hubby was stationed in Italy before this...) and it's been great! Washable and you get one cup per making. We tend to make and go more often than not, but need to get better about taking mugs when we do get to travel to towns that actually have coffee shops for us to indulge in. But we have had a hard time w/ reusable coffee mugs (the hub takes them "into the field" and forgets to wash them for days) but he just gave massive thumbs up to our new insulated Klean Kanteen's--they held up great, didn't leak too badly, and can take his wear and tear. Glad we got two and that we designated one to be mine! ;-)

  13. Nice Onion article and great post as usual. One of my husband's friends once told me that individual people will never make a difference. Change has to come from the government. I wish I had been quick enough to say that the government is made of individual people. We really can make a difference.

    It's helped me to keep a mug on my desk at work and make coffee in the office kitchen once I'm there. Unfortunately, work mornings are too rushed for me to grind and brew coffee at home...although I've been snowed in for almost a week, so I have plenty of time these days!


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