E.R. Dunhill has offered us a great post this morning on the complexities of choosing a container for one's coffee (and I offer a photo of my personal collection of handcrafted pottery coffee mugs, the average age of which is 15 years).
Even more perplexing than the container is coffee itself. There are many good health reasons to avoid caffeine or at least to reduce substantially the amount we ingest. We can sleep better, avoid caffeine withdrawal headaches and migraines, women can avoid breast pain from fibroadenomas, and many people can solve the problem of "overactive bladder" by just cutting out that troublesome caffeine. These and other reasons are why over a decade ago I went from being an eight cup a day coffee/caffeine addict, to being a two cup of decaf a week person -- because after all the smell and taste of coffee is just too, too good to give up completely.
Then there are the environmental and humanitarian issues. Coffee, unless you live in Hawaii, comes from great distances. Unlike winter blueberries from Argentina, of course, coffee can travel by ship rather than plane to its destination, but nonetheless long distance travel in petroleum powered transport is behind every cup of coffee we drink. Coffee has traditionally been grown in partial shade of existing forest, providing an incentive to protect tropical forests. But in recent years, more and more coffee is grown in full-sun, resulting in destruction of forest cover to expand coffee plantations.
There are other issues about human welfare in how coffee plantations are owned and managed. The blurb on my morning coffee says "Coffee grown on farms that meet rigorous social and environmental standards earns the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal. The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity, protect ecosystems and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior. Rainforest Alliance certification assures that forests and wildlife habitat are protected, local waterways are kept clean, and farm families have access to education and healthcare."
Certified coffee costs more, but if you make the change to drinking less for health reasons, you can afford to pay a little more for coffee that will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And if you're not drinking on the run, you can invest in a handcrafted cup from which to drink your occasional cup, thus savoring the process even more.
Friday, September 19, 2008