With more than 400 billion cups consumed each year, coffee is the most popular beverage in the world. The global coffee industry earns an estimated $60 billion annually. After oil, it is the world’s second-most-valuable commodity exported by developing countries, and people cannot get enough. Consumption of coffee varies worldwide, with some people even consuming 4 cups a day. As a student, coffee is a staple for me. Many people around the world, including me, cannot get by their days without consuming at least one cup of coffee. This love for coffee is justifiable, as it has many benefits. It energises us, helps us stay focused, reduce the risk of Dementia, and can even lower the risk of certain types of cancer. But, even though millions around the world drink coffee, many fail to acknowledge the dark side of it.
Caffeine is a highly addictive substance. Many people think that they need to consume some form of it. Excessive consumption of caffeine can lead to nervousness and restlessness, sometimes even death. However, we as a society have completely normalised caffeine addiction. Many joke about the fact that they cannot survive without that daily cup of coffee and call it a cup of “liquid sanity” when in reality it is not something to be joked about. It should be taken as seriously as any other addiction. Those trying to reduce or quit coffee, might experience withdrawals in the form of severe headaches, irritability, drowsiness, depression and sometimes even nausea and vomiting.
Conventional coffee not only harms your health (if consumed in large quantities ) but also have negative effects on our planet. Coffee was traditionally grown in shady areas, and it had its benefits. It prevented soil erosion and provided some form of refuge for the species native to the regions where it was grown. But, since the yields and therefore profits of shade-grown coffee are lower, many switched to open fields. Growing coffee under the sun depletes the nutrients in the soil, and render the land useless. Such type of coffee also requires a higher amount of pesticides and fertilisers. Since the workers working in such plantations are generally poor, they cannot afford proper safety equipment and suffer from skin rashes and difficulty in breathing.
Coffee farmers are severely underpaid. But, since this is sometimes their only source of income, they are forced to pull their children out of schools and employ them in plantations. It is extremely unsafe for children as young as 6 to be exposed to such high amounts of pesticides used, and even saddening to know that in Brazil child labour rates were approximately 37% higher—and school enrolment 3% lower—than average in regions where coffee is produced. Moreover, big brands such as Nestlé have admitted to purchasing coffee from plantations where slavery and forced labour are prevalent.
Unfortunately, ethical consumption of any commodity is challenging under modern-day capitalism, and a few people cannot guarantee safe working conditions and fair wages for all coffee farmers. Yet, there are still some things we can do on our part to make our coffee consumption more ethical. For starters, we can avoid buying from unethical brands like Nestlé, and instead switch to fair trade brands. The best thing would be to simply purchase your coffee from local shops that get their beans from small farmers. If you reside in India, then try purchasing from the largest certified organic coffee plantation in the Eastern Ghats, Araku Coffee. Moreover, do not stop educating yourself about these issues; don’t let them go unnoticed. The fight for change is a difficult one, but never stop fighting for what’s right.