A guide to becoming an ethical coffee drinker

20 Apr 2021

Coffee Uncategorized

Make sure your daily coffee doesn’t cost the earth

Britain may be famous for its enduring love of tea, but the nation’s passion for coffee has exploded in recent decades. According to a recent survey from Statistica, the majority of Brits now enjoy two cups of coffee a day and according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, 95 million cups of coffee are consumed in the UK every single day. Yep, you read that correctly – together we drink 95 million cups of coffee a day!

Statistically speaking, you’ve probably already enjoyed a nice cup of coffee today – you may even be sipping on one whilst reading this – but have you ever considered the ethics behind the warming goodness inside your cup?

If the answer’s no then you’re not alone. Many people have simply never thought about the impact that coffee can have on the environment and the people who grow it, but unfortunately it can have a hugely negative impact on both. As the most widely-consumed beverage in the world, coffee is in very high demand and wherever there’s high demand, you’ll often find corruption and murky ethics.

If you’re anything like us, you can’t live without your creamy caffeine-kick so you may currently be panicking that you’ll have to give up your favourite hot beverage. However, this certainly isn’t the case, so fear not! There’s plenty of ethical coffee out there and we’re here to help you recognise it.

Read on to discover how to become an ethical coffee drinker because, let’s face it, it’s not good coffee unless it’s good for everyone involved…

What is ethical coffee?

Ethical coffee has to be two things – good for the planet and good for the people who grow it.

coffee plant close up

Environmental factors

As coffee grows in some of the world’s most beautiful and biodiverse rainforests, its production can sadly entail destruction and deforestation. What’s more, pesticides and other nasties are used to grow it, which has negative impacts on the people and animals living there. However, this isn’t the case with ethical coffee, which is produced more sustainably and without any chemicals.

Furthermore, there’s plastic to think about. Although the coffee growing process doesn’t involve plastic, there’s a lot of plastic involved in its packaging, which poses a huge problem because it ends up filling oceans and landfill sites. You’ll find ethical coffee will therefore in eco-friendly materials such as glass or cardboard, which you can easily recycle.

Coffee farmers

The other major factor is people. Shockingly, there’s often modern slavery in coffee supply chains. This includes child labour, debt slavery, no stable wages, and gender inequality. In general, women and girls living in rural, coffee-growing areas don’t have equal treatment. This translates to female farmers, who often don’t get the same new knowledge and technology as their male counterparts. It’s therefore only ethical coffee if the farmers – including female farmers – who grew it have been treated equally and paid fairly.

However, these aren’t necessarily two separate issues because they’re often intrinsically linked. Global warming causes heavier rainfall and consequent floods. This means that poorly-paid coffee farmers have no choice but to move their work to higher land which has to be deforested. It’s a vicious circle that will just keep getting worse. Unless, of course, businesses and consumers change their behaviour. We need more ethical coffee and more ethical coffee drinkers!

Unfortunately, a lot of coffee doesn’t tick both of these ethical boxes. In fact, a lot of coffee doesn’t even tick one!

What is the most ethical coffee?

When it comes to ethics, there’s a huge disparity between speciality coffee roasters and the generic coffee that you find in supermarkets.

Speciality roasters

Speciality coffee roasters oversee the whole process. From farming the coffee beans to roasting and packaging them, these roasters know exactly where their coffee has come from. They can also carefully choose packaging to make sure it’s sustainable. These sorts of speciality coffee roasters live and breathe coffee. It’s their passion so they want their coffee to be as good as possible – in ethics as well as in taste.

However, speciality roasters are unfortunately in the minority, with big names the most common sight in kitchen cupboards. Huge companies often make the least ethical coffee because they’re more interested in money than they are in ethics. They want to make coffee as cheaply as possible to maximise profits, meaning they often don’t pay farmers fairly and use the most affordable material available for packaging, which is usually plastic.

At Hotel Chocolat, we’ve aligned our coffee offerings with our Engaged Ethics programme. We carefully select beans from small, sustainable farms around the world to make our five unique coffee blends. We have a transparent supply chain, so you know exactly where your coffee is coming from and who grew it.

Instant coffee

The worst offender in the coffee world is instant coffee, which is hugely popular in the UK. Although it’s a convenient choice for busy consumers, it’s cheap, in high demand, and more likely to be unethical.

Unless you buy from us, that is. As a company, we’re always striving to be as ethical as possible. If you love the convenience of instant coffee, we’ve created our very own range. Our tasty, ethical latte sachets give you a creamy coffee just by adding hot milk. Our offerings include Caramel Latte Sachets, Hazelnut Latte Sachets, and Chocolate Latte Sachets – have fun finding your favourite!

Why does ethical coffee matter?

Hopefully by now it’s pretty clear why ethical coffee matters, both in terms of human rights and sustainability.

Firstly, it matters because it’s helping farmers who grow and harvest the coffee beans live fulfilling lives with financial stability. It also helps women achieve equality because it gives them fair wages, and – crucially – it helps prevent child labour. It isn’t just about treating workers fairly, although that’s an integral part of how we do business. Ethical coffee also helps prevent the destruction of rainforests, the endangerment of species, and the plastic pollution plaguing our oceans.

Choosing ethical coffee is therefore hugely important for both the planet and people. By choosing to be an ethical coffee drinker, you’re voting with your cup for a kinder world.

Environmentally friendly coffee pods

Coffee pods are often really difficult to recycle, making them an environmental disaster. Around 15 billion coffee pods end up filling landfill sites each year, not to mention all the pods that end up filling the ocean.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on pods. Our new eco-press – the Podcycler – makes it easy to use coffee pods and be sustainable. It presses out the coffee grounds, so you can recycle used pods alongside the rest of your household waste. Easy to clean and compatible with all brands of aluminium pods, this is an absolute must for anyone who wants to become an ethical coffee drinker.

Environmentally friendly coffee cups

If you enjoy a takeaway coffee on a regular basis, coffee cups are another thing to consider. Although they’re mostly made from paper, they’re usually lined with plastic, which makes them impossible to recycle. But don’t worry, you don’t have to give up the joy of treating yourself to a coffee on a cold winter’s walk or on your morning commute. You just have to invest in a reusable coffee cup. Not only will this help reduce your impact on the earth, it usually means you get a small discount on your coffee – win, win!

If your favourite cafés don’t offer such a deal, you could suggest that they start one! Did you know that our Rabot 1745 Body Scrubs come in a reusable cup too?

body scrub in a reusable coffee cup
Rabot 1745 Sugar and Sour Orange Body Scrub

The coffee bean supply chain

Farmers are at the very bottom of the supply chain, so an ethical coffee industry has to start with them. As well as a good standard of living, they should have access to knowledge and tools to help them manage the effects of climate change and improve their growing methods. This will help make the coffee industry more ethical for people and the environment.

As an ethical company that strives to be as sustainable as possible, we understand the importance of a transparent supply chain. We get our coffee from small, ethical, sustainable farmers, giving our customers peace of mind when shopping for planet and people-friendly goodies. If you’re an ethical coffee drinker – or on your journey to becoming one – you’ll especially love our coffee products.

We don’t just enjoy drinking coffee. We also love mixing coffee with chocolate to create countless coffee-inspired treats such as our Coffee and Walnut Cake chocolates, our Tiramisu chocolates, and our Salted Espresso Martini chocolates. If you fancy a coffee-inspired tipple, try our Velvetised Espresso Martini Cream Liqueur. It is heaven in a bottle for coffee addicts looking for an evening fix. But we’re not stopping there – we’re releasing a number of revolutionary coffee products this year, so keep your eyes peeled and your coffee cups ready…