Fashions come and go and some things just have their time in the sun; for a while there it was the British Empire that was all the rage, although now…not so much. For a time too, lava lamps, pet rocks, garden gnomes, aerobics, and fondue seemed each to have an irretrievable hold on the collective consciousness but like the British Empire so too lava lamps passed first into the sunshine and then moved out of it. Right now, it is hard to argue that there could be any commodity more fully in the sun and more zeitgeisty than coffee. At the same time, the future of the planet is squarely in everyone’s thoughts so how do you have your coffee and not spend sleepless nights over it (for reasons beyond caffeine)?
The organic advantage
In its natural state coffee grows on trees that are part of the diverse make-up of the rainforest. The coffee tree will usually be shaded by taller growing trees and the canopy of the rainforest. Unfortunately, the very popularity of coffee is causing it some problems.
Coffee is commercially grown in Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, and South and Central America. Small plantations are also operating successfully in Australia. To keep up with global demand, coffee is frequently grown on cultivated land. This means clearing rainforest and planting coffee trees in rows where they get full sun. This intensive cultivation method has implications for both your taste buds and your conscience.
It is estimated that a coffee plantation will offer shelter to approximately 90 per cent less bird life than trees grown under a canopy. Aside from what this means for the bird life itself, since birds are natural insect scavengers, this means an increased amount of pesticides that must be used on the plants. The coffee industry claims that any pesticide residues are destroyed in the roasting of the beans. Yet even if this is the case, the knowledge that the farmers, who are often operating on a subsistence level, must be exposed to these pesticides will prick the conscience. As far as taste goes, coffee grown in the shade is thought to have a better taste since the beans take longer to ripen and develop full flavour when not in full sunlight.
It is estimated that a coffee plantation will offer shelter to approximately 90 per cent less bird life than trees grown under a canopy.
So, when buying coffee beans protect the rights of coffee growers by buying organic and “Fair Trade” coffee, and the bonus is that you will be protecting your taste buds at the same time.
Coffee and the Planet
If you make a daily pot of coffee, you have a fabulous source of organic matter right at your fingertips. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and are approximately 1.5 per cent nitrogen by weight. They also contain magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other trace minerals. A study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that coffee grounds are rich in antioxidants including caffeic acid, caffeine, the chlorogenic acids, eugenol, gamma-tocopherol, isoeugenol, p-coumaric acid, scopoletin, and tannic acid.
There are several ways you can put used coffee grounds to work in your garden. You can put coffee grounds in your compost bin to provide a valuable source of nitrogen. You can also add them directly to the soil in your garden, either sprinkling them on the surface or scratching them into the top centimetre or two of soil. Not only do they fertilise but coffee grounds also repel garden pests like slugs and snails. If you want to, you can make a coffee ground liquid fertiliser. Just add a couple of cups of used coffee grounds to a nine-litre bucket of water and let it brew for a few hours or overnight. You can use this concoction as a liquid fertiliser for garden and container plants. Coffee grounds can also be added to your worm bin. Don’t be scared, worms love coffee grounds. Add some to your worm bin every week or so. Just be careful not to add too many at once, because the acidity could harm your worms. A cup or so of grounds per week for a small worm bin is perfect.
There are several ways you can put used coffee grounds to work in your garden… Not only do they fertilise but coffee grounds also repel garden pests like slugs and snails.
It does not take much effort to make that delicious coffee an indulgence that will not harm your conscience.