It is estimated that over 400 billion cups of coffee are drunk each day in the world, making coffee a commodity second only to oil. With a global population rapidly approaching 7 billion I’ll leave it to you to do the maths. Clearly a lot of coffee is drunk by a lot of people, every day.

But there is more we need to know. Originally most coffee was grown in the shade of large trees, providing habitat for a diversity of animals and insects. Once it was discovered that berries ripened more rapidly and produced higher yields under full sun, increased clearing of trees and use of fertilizer and pesticides became common practice. And, not only are rainforests being cleared to make room for more coffee plantations, the wood from rainforests is burned to dry the beans.

It has been estimated that each cup of coffee is responsible for at least an equivalent size of rainforest being cleared. Although this doesn’t seem like much, according to the Rain Forest Alliance, over twenty hectares of rainforest disappears every minute. Try to picture that. Clearly this is not sustainable and leads to the possible extinction of thousands of plant, animal and insect species every year.

My question is: Do you need to drink coffee at all? If you must, coffee can be purchased that is grown in environmentally friendly ways that provide reasonable income and living conditions for plantation workers. I don’t drink tea or coffee and I don’t feel deprived.

Kumarahou Flowers

Here in New Zealand, one need look no further than our native forest inhabitants for a good cup of tea. One of my favourites is kumarahou, whose spring blooms herald the traditional time to plant kumara. This somewhat bitter brew is said to heal all manner of lung, bladder and skin complaints. Kawakawa, a common native bush, has a unique flavour and makes a simultaneously relaxing and energising tea. Of course, early European visitors to Aotearoa turned to Tea Tree as a substitute for the black tea they had become habituated to.

Camellia Sinensis

By the way, the source of English tea, camellia sinensis, is easily grown here in New Zealand. It is a hardy camellia bush with small, fragrant white camellia blossoms.

Just down the road from us is Kerikeri Organic Tea, New Zealand’s largest certified organic and fair trade tea company. Here is a local business creating an extensive range of teas. By applying the principle of localism, we can indulge in healthy, locally grown/produced beverages that enhance our local economy and don’t contribute to worldwide rainforest destruction. I suggest that no matter where you live, there are choices you can make that are equally positive. Will you make them?

 

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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.com

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