I recently engaged in a spirited debate with a restaurant proprietor who doesn’t serve coffee. The owner had good reason to omit it from his menu: the restaurant is hyper local and all ingredients, including cooking oils, are obtained from the farmer’s market.

While I support eating as locally as possible, I want to draw attention to some important factors for deciding what to eat and drink. Coffee and other tropical crops including cocoa, tea and spices, have become invaluable commodities since their introduction to the western diet several centuries ago. The spice trade even once dictated the globe’s commerce and exploration. While we should all strive to minimize the carbon footprint of our food, scores of communities rely on the production and export of coffee for their livelihoods.

Just like local farmers, coffee growers throughout the world depend on the continued consumption of their product to support themselves and their community. Though the majority of the world’s coffee is still grown conventionally, an increasing percentage is being raised and sold sustainably, providing added benefits for these forward looking farmers. Shade grown coffee is interspersed with other crops, creating havens for biodiversity and allowing farmers to  also grow sustenance crops. Farmers who use environmentally friendly practices also tend to receive more for their product, meaning more money is pumped back into their community. Finally, sustainable coffee farming prevents land from being clear cut for other uses, ensuring  it captures carbon and will be around for future generations.

I could expound for hours. Ultimately, no one but you can decide what to put into your body and what does or does not belong in your diet. Making the correct choice 100% of the time is impossible but being informed about your options is essential to being a responsible consumer.

Advertisements