Coffee. World's most popular beverage, fuel of countless Monday mornings, giver of life.
But, with only one in 400 coffee cups recycled in Britain and rising temperatures of key coffee farming hotspots such as Ethiopia – a country in which 16 per cent of the population make their living in the industry – improving its sustainability is key.
Action needs to happen – swiftly. Here's the people on a mission to get coffee green and its trade fair.
Yallah Coffee founder Richard Blake set up his business in Falmouth, Cornwall three and a half years ago. In 2014, the company formed a partnership with a co-op in Divinolândia, a district of São Paulo, Brazil. Here, Yallah buy beans direct – cherry picking the best produce and paying four times as much as other suppliers.
"We believe that we have the most transparent way of trading coffee [is direct] says Richard. "We buy what tastes best, and pay a much higher amount."
Richard travels once a year to Brazil and once to Nicaragua where Yallah runs a similar project. He believes that the key characteristic of these projects is the element of a nurtured long-term relationship with the farmers, and in turn their product and their livelihood.
"A big problem for coffee growers is the guarantee of businesses coming back every year isn't there. We do give that guarantee, we've been working with these guys in Brazil for two years and next year we will give them money before the crop as an even larger guarantee. Other roasters have started to do this, building that trusting relationship with their producers."
The partnership element between producers and roasters is also key to Jeremy Torz at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee. He formed Union with his partner Steven Macatonia back in 2001 after a trip to Guatemala. They found that the incredibly low prices of coffee at the time had had a devastating effect on the local communities.
"Small family farms had been repossessed, families couldn't afford to do what their ancestors had done for generations. We thought this was crazy and wrong, and there had to be a better way," he says.
The newest edition in our retail range landed in @waitrose this weekend, so go and get your hands on Yayu Forest, Ethiopia Wild Coffee Blend with notes of citrus and Bourbon biscuits. We work together with the @kewgardens, the Darwin Initiative, and local partners to help preserve wild arabica coffee and improve livelihoods. 25p from every pack sold will go towards the Yayu Project. #unionroasted #wildforestcoffee
Sixteen years later, Union works with 40 different coffee producers in 13 different countries to "promote economic and social sustainability" through Union Direct Trade. As a roaster, placing themselves between producer and consumer means that "we can get producers to share their interests and problems, throwing knowledge backwards and forwards so that better quality coffee can be produced for the consumer, and the producers are paid more for it."
Union have recently partnered with Kew's Royal Botanic Garden, and began with a trip to Ethiopia with Kew's Head of Coffee Research Dr Aaron Davis. What started out as a research project into the effect of climate change on coffee production snowballed into a new Union coffee co-op. Ethiopia has lost 70 per cent of its forestry in the last century, and Union have invested in the Yayu forest to help conserve the remaining land and community living there.
In Yayu, coffee production is responsible for 70 per cent of income for over 90 per cent of the production. "Coffee farming in these countries is cultural, not a business. Families don't budget, so we spend afternoons with them going through ledgers and numbers. We want them to see that they have a stake in the coffee, focussing on governance and protecting them." Later this year, Jeremy is looking to launch a training scheme for farmers in Yayu, teaching them how to taste and critically assess their coffee, which should lead to higher quality production.
Twenty-five pence from each pack funds this project, as well as funds from the Darwin Initiative. "It's all about delivering a meaningful contribution. At Union we talk about everything with the farmers - price, how much of the money reaches the household level in the village, how good the co-op board is at making business decisions. We go for both financial and structural transparency."
Both Jeremy and Richard stressed the importance of looking beyond the Fair Trade sticker, as lots of perfectly sustainable coffee farmers cannot afford the certification and therefore get overlooked.
One way of choosing the most sustainable coffee is by picking a bag that's from one co-op of farmers, rather than a blend of origins. If the coffee has come from one farm only, it is much more likely to have been selected for its unique flavours and the farmers producing it have a more direct and unique relationship with their buyers.
Richard is also keen to point out that there are other ways that you can drink coffee more sustainably. Use your coffee grinds as compost, so that the life force in coffee doesn't end in the bin when you've finished your cup.
When you're choosing your coffee, look at the packaging. Not just what they say about their sustainable policies, but whether the bag itself is biodegradable, as this isn't as common as you may think and makes a big difference. "A lot of coffee roasters don't go biodegradable and compostable because it's difficult and more expensive to do that and keep the coffee airtight," he says.
Stick to the above and say sustainably strong, caffeinated warrior friends.