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World's Most Expensive Coffee On Sale

World's Most Expensive Coffee On Sale

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And you thought your $4 Starbucks latte cost too much?

How much would you spend on a cup of coffee? $3? Maybe $5 if you were in a good mood? Would you be willing to drop $30 on your wake-up beverage? Some people are.

For a limited time, the website, Touch of Modern, is offering bags of Kopi Luwak coffee for less than $30.

Made from beans extracted from the excrement of Paradoxurus, the Kopi Luwak coffee is normally priced at $90 a cup, and $1,000 for a pound of beans. The small animal eats coffee cherries, which then pass through their system, virtually intact. The beans are cleaned and roasted to create this rare blend. Usually, it takes an appointment with an establishment that carries the blend to try the rare, and controversial, beverage.

The decreased price might seem like a great deal for coffee fanatics and the adventurous alike, but would you be willing to spend splurge this much on coffee?

The Disturbing Secret Behind the World’s Most Expensive Coffee

Kopi luwak is made from coffee beans plucked from civets’ feces. This is bad news for civets.

It’s the world’s most expensive coffee, and it’s made from poop. Or rather, it’s made from coffee beans that are partially digested and then pooped out by the civet, a catlike creature. A cup of kopi luwak, as it’s known, can sell for as much as $80 in the United States.

Found in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the civet has a long tail like a monkey, face markings like a raccoon, and stripes or spots on its body. It plays an important role in the food chain, eating insects and small reptiles in addition to fruits like coffee cherries and mangoes, and being eaten in turn by leopards, large snakes, and crocodiles.

At first the civet coffee trade boded well for these creatures. In Indonesia, the Asian palm civet, which raids commercial fruit farms, is often seen as a pest, so the growth in the kopi luwak industry encouraged local people to protect civets for their valuable dung. Their digestive enzymes change the structure of proteins in the coffee beans, which removes some of the acidity to make a smoother cup of coffee.

But as civet coffee has gained popularity, and with Indonesia growing as a tourist destination where visitors want to see and interact with wildlife, more wild civets are being confined to cages on coffee plantations. In part, this is for coffee production, but it’s also so money can be made from civet-ogling tourists.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and the London-based nonprofit World Animal Protection assessed the living conditions of nearly 50 wild civets held in cages at 16 plantations on Bali. The results, published Thursday in the journal Animal Welfare, paint a grim picture.

From the size and sanitation of the cages to the ability of their occupants to act like normal civets, every plantation the researchers visited failed basic animal welfare requirements. “Some of these cages were literally the tiniest—we would call them rabbit hutches. They’re absolutely soaked through with urine and droppings all over the place,” said Neil D’Cruze, one of the researchers.

Some of the civets were very thin, from being fed a restricted diet of only coffee cherries—the fruit that surrounds the coffee bean. Some were obese, from never being able to move around freely. And some were jacked up on caffeine, D’Cruze said.

But what he found most disturbing was the wire floor many of the animals were forced to stand, sit, and sleep on around the clock. “If you’re standing on that kind of wire mesh all the time, it’s going to cause sores and abrasions. They have nowhere to go to get off that flooring,” D’Cruze said. “It’s a constant, intense source of pain and discomfort.”

Would You Drink Coffee Made With Animal Poop?

Additionally, many of the civets had no access to clean water and no opportunity to interact with other civets. And they were exposed to daytime noise from traffic and tourists, which is particularly disturbing for these nocturnal animals.


So as to control the taste tests, as so as not to die of over-caffeination on assignment, I have developed a strict testing methodology. Over two days, I prepared an 8-ounce mug of coffee from each of 13 different coffee brands widely available in U.S. grocery stores. I have tried to select the most basic variety of each brand—i.e., blends labeled as “house,” ”original,” or 𠇋reakfast.” Each mug has been brewed using a ceramic pour-over cone with an unbleached paper filter, allowing for portion and strength control as well as the potential for a more flavorful, less bitter brew than an auto-drip. Each coffee was consumed black, without milk or sugar.

Heat, as always, is an essential factor in coffee drinkability, so my taste tests have included an assessment of the flavor at brew temperature, at room temperature, and after microwaving to return the coffee to brew temperature. Anyone who’s left a fresh, full cup sitting out just a little too long—while changing over a load of laundry, say, or tackling a pet barf emergency—knows the tragic dilemma of the cold cup, too full to top off with hot-from-the-pot coffee, too cold to drink. I am a staunch proponent of microwaving coffee rather than wasting it, though I know many people (my own boyfriend included) might call this the line between cheapness and frugality. After all, if the coffee’s cheap to begin with, what’s the waste? Still, I believe microwaveability is essential to any home coffee, and can indicate whether coffee left on the burner will deteriorate or stay more or less stable, flavor-wise.

I decided to assess these coffees on four more or less objective metrics: flavor price thermal shift, whether/how flavor changes as coffee cools and microwaveability, whether/how flavor is affected by reheating.

Good 'til the last drop? $75 cups of coffee sell out in California

A coffee shop in San Francisco just got 10 pounds of the most-delicious and rare coffee in the world. It's $75 a cup. Buzz60

Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this story misrepresented the kind of coffee sold at Klatch Coffee Roasters. The Elida Geisha 803 is not a type of Kopi Luwak coffee and does not involve the use of civets during its production process. According to the Klatch website, the Elida Geisha is “a rare variety of Arabica coffee that came to Panama from a research lab in Costa Rica but has its origins in Ethiopia.”

If you thought your $5 morning latte was expensive, think again.

Southern California-based Klatch Coffee Roasters has been selling a $75 cup of coffee, and all sold out.

The company offered a tasting experience at its San Francisco location on May 11 and gave people the option to have some of the coffee shipped to them. According to Klatch's website, the beans are all sold out.

The coffee shop is roasting the Elida Geisha 803 coffee beans from Panama. They were sold at $803 per pound, the highest price paid for the beans at the Best of Panama green auction. The auction is referred to as the "Oscars for coffee."

Only 100 pounds of the beans were available for purchase, and Klatch snatched up 10 of them, becoming the only coffee shop in the United States to have it. The beans were divided among their several Southern California locations and one shop in San Francisco.

Klatch Coffee Roasters sold a cup of coffee for $75. (Photo: praisaeng, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

According to ABC7 News, a local Bay Area news station, the 10 pounds of beans comes out to about 80 cups of the Elida Geisha coffee.

"It's a unique coffee that comes from Panama. It's by far better than any of the coffee you hear about that comes from animals," Bo Thiara, co-owner of the Bay Area Klatch, told ABC 7.

This rather expensive cheese is known for making sandwiches taste better and often pairs perfectly with wines and beers. It is actually one of the most traditional cheeses. This cheese, made in 1861 by the Wyke Farms family in Great Britain is also an award-winning cheese.

White Stilton cheese is actually the cousin to the famous blue cheese from Britain but is extra creamy and deliciously tangy. This cheese is often made with different fruit flavors like lemon, ginger, apricots, and many other combos.

4. Schorschbock 57

At 57% ABV, is this really even a beer anymore? Well, yes, it is. The German brewery’s website makes it clear (in German, of course) that this is indeed “the strongest beer in the world.” Schorschbrau made this eisbock-style beer as part of a back and forth with the aforementioned BrewDog, resulting in an extremely limited-edition release (fewer than 40 bottles) that’s best sipped by the ounce instead of in a pint glass. Expect to pay at least $300 per bottle if you can still find one.

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Thanks for sharing this, can’t wait to make it. So any flavors would be added after it sits for 12 hours?

I just roasted my 1st batch on the stove top with a Belgium made frying pan. I hadn’t seen your post yet. So of course my house got very smokey and we set up a fan and open up lots of windows. I personally like the roast dark because of the lesser amount of caffeine. Could you please write more about the things that happen to the bean as each stage goes. Like the health benefits or dangers etc.

About Matt & Betsy

Matt and Betsy are passionate about living naturally and building a like-minded community focused on the sustainable lifestyle.

DIY Natural is about rediscovering the traditional value of doing things yourself, doing them naturally, and enjoying the benefits. Welcome to the movement! (read more)

Civet cat coffee: can world's most expensive brew be made sustainably?

Coffee derived from the faeces of the civet cat has spawned a cruel industry. Will sustainable production leave a better taste?

A caged civet cat snacks on coffee berries in Bali, Indonesia. Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

A caged civet cat snacks on coffee berries in Bali, Indonesia. Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Last modified on Sat 18 Aug 2018 14.49 BST

T he story of kopi luwak has a certain repulsive charm. A shy cat-like wild creature wanders out of the Sumatran jungle at night onto a coffee plantation and selects only the finest, ripest coffee cherries to eat. Only it can’t digest the stone (the coffee bean) and craps them out, its anal glands imparting an elusive musky smoothness to the resultant roasted coffee.

And when, as coffee director of Taylors of Harrogate, I first brought a small amount of kopi luwak to the west in 1991, that repulsive charm worked wonders with the press and public, and my kilo of luwak beans caused a stir wherever I took it.

But the charm has now evaporated, and the only thing left is the repulsive. Kopi luwak has become hugely popular worldwide, and as a result wild luwaks (palm civets) are being poached and caged in terrible conditions all over South East Asia, and force fed coffee cherries to produce commercially viable quantities of the precious coffee beans in their poo.

But even as these cruel battery farms, especially in Indonesia, were pouring out tonnes of it a year, the coffee trade was still pedalling the myth that kopi luwak was incredibly rare, derived from coffee chosen by discerning wild luwaks.

That myth was well and truly exploded by the Facebook campaign (Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap!) I launched a year ago. Shocked at the thought that my original innocent purchase could have spawned such a monster, my original aim was to persuade consumers, retailers, importers, exporters and producers of kopi luwak to end their involvement in this cruel, fraudulent trade.

Kopi luwak coffee. The brown beans are before roasting, whiter beans afterwards. Photograph: Alamy

I’ve since teamed up with partners such as World Animal Protection (WAP) and and the effects have been dramatic. Under pressure from us – and from their own customers – leading UK retailers such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridges have ceased to stock kopi luwak, and retailers in Holland, Scandinavia and Canada have committed to dropping it too. Coffee certifiers such as Rainforest Alliance and UTZ are banning its production from their estates.

But late last year there was an unexpected development with Harrods. They found a new supplier, Rarefied, which they claimed was the real deal, a producer of genuine wild kopi luwak. Not only that, they invited me to meet its founder, former Goldman Sachs banker Matt Ross, and check him out.

Deeply sceptical at first, I was ultimately impressed. Rarefied’s foundational principle is that their coffee is guaranteed wild, and it has put in place solid, demonstrable systems to ensure it is the case. Matt took me through the process, step by documented step. Not only that, but I could suddenly see that there were additional benefits in terms of habitat and biodiversity conservation, and smallholder education and income. Kopi luwak, far from being the monster I thought I’d created, could actually provide a sustainable livelihood. Provided, of course, that it’s genuinely wild.

Rarefied’s kopi luwak is called Sijahtra and comes from the Gayo Mountains district of northern Sumatra. Matt and his partners have about 40 coffee farmers on the company’s books, typically from the more remote areas, each with a couple of hectares and close to or abutting the rainforest – the luwaks favoured habitat, where they nest in trees. They are natural omnivores, but when the weather is cold and wet (and at 1,500 meters above sea level, even on the equator, that is quite often), luwaks seem to welcome the caffeine boost that eating ripe coffee cherries gives them.

The farmers are shown how to collect the resultant scats containing the coffee beans while they are still fresh and bring them to a central processing factory where they are assessed for quality. At this stage it’s possible to tell the difference between wild and caged kopi luwak by the appearance of the faeces, which tells the story of what the animals have been eating in addition to coffee cherry.

Scats containing coffee beans. Photograph: Joel T Sadler 2014

The farmers are well-trained and strictly monitored, and if any of them attempts to pass off caged kopi luwak as wild, they are instantly banned. If the kopi luwak they collect passes muster, they are paid very well for it, some 10 times what the caged equivalent would fetch (the aim, says Ross, is to return 5% of the sale price to the farmer – $100 a kg). But the amount they are allowed to bring in monthly is strictly limited – a quota system that further helps to guarantee authenticity.

All this care and attention to detail comes with a hefty price tag – Harrods are currently selling Sijahtra at £200 per 100 grams – but there are plenty of customers there and around the world willing to pay for what is seen as the ultimate luxury coffee.

Hearing about Sijahtra kopi luwak has had a significant effect on my Cut the Crap campaign aims. I’ve realised that potentially there is a sustainable business model in genuine wild kopi luwak. While still calling for the end of the cruel practice of using captive luwaks for coffee production, I’ve now joined with Harrods and WAP to lobby for the creation of an independent certification scheme for genuine, wild kopi luwak based on similar monitoring systems.

We’ve even persuaded the Indonesian government to support the concept of a certification scheme for what they call their “national treasure”. And more recently the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, one of the most influential trade organisations in the coffee world, has acknowledged that there is a problem with caged kopi luwak, and have come out in support of our independent certification initiative too. The aim would not necessarily be to emulate Sijahtra’s extremely high quality control levels (and price tag), but to guarantee that the coffee was wild, and thus by its nature, sustainable.

Wild kopi luwak could provide smallholders with a premium product that also helps conserve the animal’s natural forest habitat. Maybe not so repulsive after all.

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Coffee Buying Guide

The story that an Ethiopian goat herder discovered coffee when his berry-eating goats became frisky is likely apocryphal, but it's generally believed that coffee first came from that region.

When we test coffee, we look for smoothness and complexity with no off-flavors. The beans should be neither under-roasted nor charred, and the brew should have at least moderate aroma and flavor, and subtle top notes. Some sourness and bitterness are desirable, too, to keep the coffee from tasting bland.

Get the Buzz on the Best Coffee

Cool Beans – What We Found

All coffees consist of arabica or robusta beans, or a combination. Arabica beans are more expensive and tend to make better coffee. And as with wine grapes, where the beans are grown makes a difference. Coffee is cultivated across the world in a belt generally bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Brazil is the top coffee producer, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, and Colombia.

At Consumer Reports, we test the coffees that our readers are most likely to drink. We've tested Colombian because it comes from one of the most popular regions. We've also tested and tasted blends because they're the best-selling type of ground coffee. Blends contain beans from at least two regions or countries.

The tastes of coffee drinkers have become more discriminating in recent years and coffee drinkers are demanding more flavor from the cup. Here are some things to remember when buying your beans.

Consider How You Take It
Excellent and very good coffees taste fine black. Milk and sugar can improve a mediocre coffee, but not even cream is likely to help the lowest-scoring coffees.

Choose a Good Coffeemaker
The best coffeemakers reach 195 degree to 205 degrees F during brewing, the temperatures required to get the best from the beans and avoid a weak or bitter brew.

Consider Grinding for Fresher Flavor
Even the best pre-ground coffee can't beat a good quality freshly ground when it comes to taste.

Caffeine Cravings By Type

Arabica and robusta are the two main types of beans for all coffee. Robusta beans are less expensive and easier to grow. Arabica beans tend to make better coffee. Roasting is what turns green beans into coffee that is ready to grind and brew. The type of roast is often listed on the label--you may have to experiment before finding the one you prefer. And different brands may characterize their roasts differently. Here are the types of coffee to consider.

Light Roast
Light roasting produces beans that are light brown and have a more sour taste.

Medium Roast
Medium roast coffees have medium brown beans. The beans do not have an oily surface in this roast. The coffee beans can have a bright acidity, but specific varietal aromatics (e.g. floral, fruity, vegetable, berry, etc.) of the coffee are still apparent.

Dark Roast
The beans in this roast have some oil on the surface and the color is rich and darker. The characteristics of the coffee are complemented by caramelization notes such as nutty, bread or baked goods, or chocolate, and the acidity has faded somewhat, bringing out a slightly bittersweet aftertaste. French roast is a good example.

Darker Roasts
The darkest roasts have shiny black beans with an oily surface. In a good/well done dark roast, there is still some good acidity to liven the cup. Dark roasts run the gamut from slightly dark to extremely charred. Italian roast and French roast are darker roasts.


With the popularity of coffee rising, it helps to become familiar with some of the features that appear on the label or in the cup. Here are some of the coffee features to consider.

Denotes the second-largest beans on a Kenyan grading scale usually sold at a higher price than any other grade.

A Starbucks term, standing for Coffee and Farmer Equity. According to the company's website, those guidelines, developed with Conservation International, "help our farmers grow coffee in a way that's better for both people and the planet."

The amount of caffeine in a cup can vary greatly, depending on factors such as blend, method of brewing, and type of bean.

Caffeine is removed from green coffee beans before roasting. The green coffee beans are steamed and then the outer layers containing the caffeine are scraped off. The decaffeinated coffee beans are then returned to their normal moisture content levels, ready for roasting. The processing almost always affects the flavor and decaffeinated brews may taste flat or dull.

Fair Trade Certified
Part of a nonprofit, international program that advocates sustainable production and fair prices for small farmers. TransFair USA, the certifying organization, also works for safe working conditions (and no forced child labor), limits the use of harmful pesticides, and supports credit plans and training for farm workers.

Brews with the taste and aroma of Hazelnut, Vanilla, Irish cream, and others are made by adding flavoring agents to the roasted beans.

Growing Region
Coffee is grown throughout the tropics worldwide. Regional influences have created a wide variety of coffees with unique tastes and smells. Coffee connoisseurs tend to favor one region over another.

Means that the coffee was grown without synthetic fertilizers and most industrial pesticides.

Rainforest Alliance Certified
This nonprofit group has determined that chemical pesticide use was limited, water and soil were conserved, and workers were treated fairly.

Bitter Brew: The Stirring Reality of Coffee

The view of El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve from Margarito Gurgua’s farm. Margarito Gurgua is a member of Comon Yaj Noptic in Mexico. Photo Courtesy: Equal Exchange

Coffee is the most popular beverage consumed in developed countries but grown almost exclusively in the Global South. [1] There are two main varieties of coffee: Arabica and Robusta. The former (which is considered better quality) comes mostly from Latin America, Ethiopia, and Kenya the latter from Brazil, Vietnam, and Uganda. [2] In the United States, the largest consumer of coffee worldwide, what was once an exotic luxury is now so entrenched in the culture as to be considered a staple. [3] Unfortunately, coffee is tied to a long history of colonialism and slavery, [4] and production of the crop remains a hotbed of exploitation and environmental degradation to this day.

Child Labor

Coffee farmers typically earn only 7–10% of the retail price of coffee, [5] while in Brazil, workers earn less than 2% of the retail price. [6] To earn enough to survive, many parents pull their children from school to work on the coffee plantations. [5] Child labor is widespread in coffee cultivation. When the price of coffee rises, the incentive for struggling families to withdraw their children from school and send them to work increases at the same time, a fall in coffee prices increases poverty in regions that depend on the crop, which can also prevent children from attending school. Since higher levels of education are tied to higher income over the long term, and children from poor families are those most likely to be sent to work rather than school, child labor maintains a cycle of poverty over generations, which is why it is important for the children to go to school and for the farmers to be paid a living wage so that the amount of money they make is not based on the price of a commodity.

A study in Brazil found that child labor rates were approximately 37% higher—and school enrollment 3% lower—than average in regions where coffee is produced. [7] Children as young as six years old often work eight to 10 hours a day and are exposed to the many health and safety hazards of coffee harvesting and processing, from dangerous levels of sun exposure and injuries, to poisoning from contact with agrochemicals. [8]

During the coffee-harvesting season in Honduras, up to 40% of the workers are children. [8] Children, and women, are hired as temporary workers and are therefore paid even less than adult male workers. [8] In Kenya, for instance, these “casual” workers often only make about $12.00 a month. [4] Even though there are family farms where children might participate in light labor for part of the day, regulations against child labor do exist in coffee-producing countries, but economic pressures make authorities in these regions reluctant to enforce the law. [4]

Many coffee workers are effectively enslaved through debt peonage, which is forced labor to repay debts. Landed elite in coffee-producing regions own large plantations where a permanent workforce is employed. [2] On these plantations, the only source for essential goods is often the estate shop run by the landowners, since workers are prevented from shopping elsewhere by their long hours of work, lack of transportation, or constraints on travelling out of the estate. [9] Since they earn less than minimum wage and must pay inflated prices at the estate shop, workers wind up with little or nothing to show for their long hours of hard physical labor—worse, they can become indebted to the plantation and are thus forced to work as payment on their debts. It is not unusual for families who are part of the permanent labor force on a plantation to work and live there for generations, sometimes being pushed into debt by the cost of renting land or interest on loans for emergency healthcare. [10] Forced labor aside, the conditions of work in coffee production are unjust and often illegal.

A study of workers in Guatemala found that the vast majority did not receive overtime pay or the employee benefits required by law, and nearly half were paid less than Guatemala’s minimum wage. [10] Focus groups conducted as part of the same study revealed instances of discrimination against women, unsanitary living environments, child labor, and a lack of both legally-required health and safety initiatives and access to education. [10]

In Brazil, hundreds of workers are rescued from slave-like conditions annually. [6] In 2016, two of the world’s largest coffee companies (accounting for 39% of the global coffee market), Nestlé and Jacobs Douwe Egberts, acknowledged that slave labor is a risk in their Brazilian supply of coffee. [6] Nestlé admitted they purchase coffee from two plantations with known forced labor and they cannot “fully guarantee that it has completely removed forced labour practices or human rights abuses” from their supply chain. [6]

Nonhuman Animals Exploited

One recent development of concern in the coffee trade is the practice of feeding coffee beans to animals and then using the excreted beans for consumption. Kopi luwak, for example, is a type of Indonesian coffee produced by feeding coffee beans to the Asian palm civet, a small mammal found in the jungles of Asia. It is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for hundreds of dollars per pound. [20] A single cup can cost up to US$80. [21] Coffee producers claim the civet’s digestion process improves the beans’ flavor.

The popularity of so-called “civet coffee” has led to intensive farming of the animals, who are confined in cages and force-fed the beans. [23] It has been documented that many of the civets in the coffee industry have no access to clean drinking water, no ability to interact with other civets, and live in urine- and feces-soaked cages. Many are forced to stand, sleep, and sit on wire floors, which “causes sores and abrasions.” “It is a constant, intense source of pain and discomfort.” [21] Some civets also exhibit signs of zoochosis, “a neurotic condition among stressed animals in captivity. The signs include constant spinning, pacing and bobbing their heads.” [22] Civets pay a high price for luxury coffee.

A similar process is used in the nascent practice of feeding coffee beans to elephants. Sadly, it’s being carried out at a “sanctuary” in Thailand, where about 27 elephants consume beans from nearby plantations. [26] Branded as Black Ivory Coffee, this expensive brew (it’s about US$50 per serving) doesn’t yet have the popularity of civet coffee, and producers argue the animals are in no way harmed, but it points to a disturbing trend in animal exploitation. [24]

Environmental Impact

In a natural setting, the coffee plant grows in the understory of tropical and subtropical forests. [4] Coffee can be grown under the shade of trees or in the sun of an open field. Shade-grown coffee cultivation is beneficial for the environment in many ways, preventing soil erosion and providing a haven for species native to the often ecologically fragile and extremely biodiverse regions where coffee is grown. [11] The plants used for shade can be a source of additional income for farmers. [12] Moreover, by preventing soil erosion, shade-grown coffee decreases the amount of run-off from agricultural chemicals and reduces water consumption. The product is often considered to be of higher quality, but many coffee-roasting companies have devised ways to hide the bitterness of cheaper beans, increasing demand for inexpensive coffee. Since the yields (and therefore profits) are lower in higher-intensity forms of coffee cultivation, shade-grown coffee operations are increasingly being replaced by sun-grown ones—in some cases, coffee is abandoned altogether in favor of environmentally destructive agriculture, including razing forests into pastureland for cows [2] to feed the worldwide demand for cheap “meat.”

CIRSA Co-op in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo Courtesy: Equal Exchange.

Because sun-grown coffee production depletes the nutrients in the soil, plantations that use this method of cultivation generally only last for about 12 to 15 years before farmers need to replant this perennial crop. [12] Productivity decreases along with soil quality, so after a short span of time it becomes more economically advisable to abandon the plantation and clear a new area of land—an environmentally catastrophic model. In contrast, shade-grown coffee plantations can remain productive for more than three decades. [12] Sadly, large-scale, “technified” coffee production has completely stripped the soil of nutrients in many areas of Brazil, to the point where these lands can no longer be used for agriculture. [13] Sun-grown coffee also requires more chemical fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, and fungicides, making coffee one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. [12] Many pesticides banned in the EU are continued to be utilized on coffee plantations. [6] Given the levels of poverty in the areas where coffee is grown, workers are often unable to afford protective equipment that would limit their exposure in other cases, they simply choose not to use it or are not aware that it is necessary. Many workers complain of difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and birth defects. [6]

In the production of coffee, the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry are removed and discarded. Though the waste makes excellent compost, it is more often unloaded in waterways, where it has a negative effect on water quality. [14] There are two methods for the primary processing of coffee beans: dry and wet. Dry processing is preferable from an environmental perspective as the coffee cherries are simply sorted and left to dry in the sun, while wet processing, on the other hand, involves high water use and generates wastewater. [15]

Labels on Coffee – Do They Mean What They Say?

There are a number of certifications applied to coffee that purport to ensure that the beans were produced ethically. Organic-certified coffee must be made from beans grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic agriculture also forbids the use of genetically modified organisms, and farmers use organic fertilizers and safer alternatives to fungicides and agricultural chemicals. [16] Unfortunately, lower-intensity farming methods and the use of shade trees result in lower yields. While the environmental benefits of producing organic coffee are many, the economic advantages are few, and for farmers living in poverty, the immediate struggle to sustain a family will naturally tend to overwhelm concerns about water quality or exposure to chemicals. While certified-organic coffee is sold at a premium, the lower yields mean that farmers do not always profit in a meaningful way from obtaining the certification. [16]

A more recently developed label that appeals to consumers concerned about the environmental effects of coffee is the Rainforest Alliance certification, often found on products from large corporations like Kraft and Nestlé. Unfortunately, its standards are so low as to make the certification almost meaningless. Unlike a Fair Trade certification, the Rainforest Alliance does not guarantee a fixed price to growers, leaving them vulnerable to the rise and fall of coffee prices on the stock exchange. [17] Although the Rainforest Alliance certification does include some provisions on the use of biodiversity and agrochemicals that are used, organic cultivation is not strictly required. [18]

Fair Trade initiatives aim to provide farmers with an equitable price for their coffee and labor however, the coffee crisis – a steep decrease in the price of coffee over the last few decades – has left many farmers in debt to their cooperatives. [19] When the additional income provided by Fair Trade is diverted toward paying off debts and shouldering rising production costs, the actual living conditions of coffee-producing families does not improve. For this reason, a Fair Trade label does not guarantee that the farmers who produced the coffee have a reasonable standard of living or better working conditions than they otherwise would. Furthermore, it should be noted that the premium charged for Fair Trade coffee does not go to coffee farmers in its entirety rather, much of it is expended on marketing, administration, processing facilities, and labor at other levels of production. [19] Fair Trade certification, while a step in the right direction, cannot by itself resolve the inequities of the coffee industry as Bradley R. Wilson (2010) notes, “There are broader political-economic factors outside of price that must be addressed for farmers to earn a livelihood and to overcome cycles of indebtedness.” [19]

Fair Trade has also experienced some changes recently.


Food Empowerment Project encourages individuals to choose a vegan lifestyle, with the understanding that compassionate choices do not have to end there. Individuals can also make impactful decisions by purchasing products, such as coffee, from ethical sources, but Westerners really should begin to view coffee as a luxury, and people should consume less as part of reducing their environmental impact. Gaveau et al. (2009) found that law enforcement to reduce deforestation was helpful, but not completely effective, and concluded that “In the long run one must act to decrease incentives for coffee cultivation.” [25]

If you can, work on getting more sleep versus using a stimulant such as coffee, and if you are going to buy coffee, we recommend supporting the companies below. All of the coffees recommended are shade grown except for Coop Coffee, which sources coffee grown from varying degrees of shade to more direct sunlight.

    is a product of the Community Agroecology Network Trade Innovations Program and directly links farmers, roasters, and consumers to generate higher returns to small-scale coffee farmers transitioning toward sustainability while improving rural livelihoods. – from Mexico – not only pays good wages for the growers, but also pays for health care, social security, and retirement. – supports the authentic and original Fair Trade model by purchasing organic coffee through democratically organized small farmer cooperatives it also supports equitable distribution of economic gains and promotes labor rights and the right of workers to organize, and it promotes safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions.

[1] Global Coffee Market – Forecast to Grow at a CAGR of 5% During 2017-2022 – Research and Markets. (2017, October 31).—Forecast-Grow-CAGR (2/2/18)

[2] Bacon, C. (2005). Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-Scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua? World Development, 33(3). 497-511.

[3] Perez, M. G. (2013, March 22). Coffee Consumption Increases in U.S., Association Survey Shows. Bloomberg. Retrieved from (5/27/14)

[4] Rice, R. (2003). Coffee Production in a Time of Crisis: Social and Environmental Connections. SAIS Review XXIII(1). 221-245.

[7] Kruger, D. I. (2007). Coffee Production Effects on Child Labor and Schooling in Rural Brazil. Journal of Development Economics, 82(2), 448-463.

[8] International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour. 2004. Safety and Health Fact Sheet: Coffee. Geneva: International Labour Organization.

[9] Kaye, M. (2008). Arrested Development: Discrimination and Slavery in the 21st Century. London: Anti- Slavery International.

[10] COVERCO. (2003). The Culture of Coffee in Guatemala. (5/27/14)

[11] Blackman, A., et al. (2005). Deforestation and Shade Coffee in Oaxaca, Mexico: Key Research Findings. Resources for the Future Discussion Paper 39. 1-12. (5/27/14)

[12] Person, L. (2008). Ethics and Environment in the Coffee Sector – Linking CSR to the Consumer’s Power in the Context of Sustainable Development.

[13] Watson, Kelly. “Deforestation, Coffee Cultivation, and Land Degradation: The Challenge of Developing a Sustainable Land Management Strategy in Brazil’s Mata Atlântica Rainforest.” February 5, 2001. (3/30/18)

[14] Beyene, A., et al. (2012). The Impact of Traditional Coffee Processing on River Water Quality in Ethiopia and the Urgency of Adopting Sound Environmental Practices. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 184(11): 7053-7063.



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