This week is UK Coffee Week. A week in which you can celebrate coffee and donate to a good cause. A cause providing clean water and sanitation to the coffee growing world.
So what’s it all about and what can you do?
Coffee and Water
There is probably no more fundamental link in coffee than the one with water, and yet it’s more often than not the invisible foundation on which we build. We drink our coffee and rave about the the flavours, enjoy the deep warmth and maybe even comment on the beautiful Latte Art that adorns our cup. But without water, none of this would be possible, we would have no coffee to drink. Water is absolutely critical to the coffee world, it’s needed to grow the crop, often used in significant quantity to process the cherries, and of course we use it to make the drink we love. In the process of getting to our cup of coffee we make a huge impact on the environment, including on water supply, for some more information on this see Coffee and the Environment where I share some of my thoughts.
But the immense irony in all of this is that the coffee plant is grown in some of the most water poor parts of our world. Many of the regions where our favourite plant is cultivated suffer from low sanitation and a lack of access to clean water. From Africa to Colombia, India to Vietnam coffee is grown by hard working farmers, who often live immensely hard lives. The free access to water and sanitation we take for granted, so much so that it we are honest we probably don’t even register it at times, is not a universal privilege. As an industry, and as consumers, those of us connected to coffee have a responsibility to be aware of the whole journey to our favourite drink, and to support and enable fair trade and good practice throughout the chain. Nowhere could this be more deeply true than in the use and availability of water.
UK Coffee Week and Project Waterfall
Project Waterfall is a charitable cause and part of the Allegra Foundation it was established to improve the lives of those in the coffee growing community through access to clean water and sanitation. Since its establishment in 2011 the project has raised over £1,000,000 and impacted over 37,000 lives, sounds awesome right? Well it is, the project is incredible but given the scale of its goals it’s still small and needs all the support it can get. How much bigger is the target for this, well about 80% of coffee is grown by around 25 million smallholding farmers, so a lot bigger.
The UK Coffee market is big, we are massive consumers of the product, drinking something in the region of 70 million cups of coffee a day. Just take a moment to think about that number. 70 million cups a day, how much water do we use to consume so much coffee? I am not going to go for a detailed answer as it would take an article of its own, and plenty of more qualified studies are out there. But playing a little fast and loose with the maths, if we assume each one is a roughly standard double espresso shot, that’s about 60ml of liquid (it will vary a lot but I did say I would play fast and loose). So 60ml x 70 million is over 4 million litres of water a day, and that assumes no one has any extra water in an Americano, long black and the like. The actual number will be much larger. Staggering isn’t it?
How does that feel when you consider that those who are working to grow coffee can struggle to access a source of safe drinking water, or live without proper sanitation?
So what can I do?
This isn’t a guilt trip folks, not at all. What it is, is a suggestion that you look out for ways to support UK Coffee Week and Project Waterfall. How? Well, you can find a local coffee place that is part of the event and buy your coffee there. But what if you struggle to find a place that is part of UK Coffee Week? Well, I have an idea.
This week I am taking a picture of each coffee I drink and recording them. At the end of the week I will donate 50p for each coffee I bought or brewed for myself or my wife to Project Waterfall and I am asking you to consider doing the same. You don’t have to do 50p, perhaps you can only do 20p, or maybe you feel you could manage more per cup, it’s all good, but please try. You can follow our week supporting Project Waterfall on social media, the handles are all below, come along and join us if you can!
Why this idea?
At the heart of making the coffee industry more equitable down the supply chain, indeed at the heart of living in a fairer word, is in my humble view, one fundamental truth. We have to be prepared to pay more for things we see as a simple norm, almost as a right. Until we can settle the industry into a pattern of pricing allowing for the fair treatment of everyone along the line, there will always be disparity and sadly farmers will still live with limited or no access to clean water. That fair pricing policy, will in the end mean we as consumers will have to pay a bit more, we cannot just demand that shops and producers do all the work. So I am advocating that we do just that for a week, that we try it on for size, and this week we can do so knowing that 100% of our overpayment goes to make a difference where it counts.
OK I’m in. How does this work?
It’s all on the honours system folks. I am not affiliated with Allegra, Project Waterfall or UK Coffee Week. I am just one guy, with a platform, making a suggestion that we support a good cause which I think needs more noise making about it. So if you want to try, do just what I said above. Keep a record of the coffees you drink, add them up at the end of the week and work out the amount you are going to give. Then head to the Project Waterfall website linked below and give. While you are at it, take some pictures, share what you are doing on social media and use #mycupmatters Tag Project Waterfall and UK Coffee Week, all the info is on their sites, and let’s see what a difference we can make.
Websites & Social Media
Bear Essentials Coffee: @Bear_Gardner
The Green Bean Project: @Greenbeanprojectuk
UK Coffee Week: @ukcoffeeweek
Project Waterfall: @project_waterfall
Bear Essentials Coffee: @Bear_Gardner
The Green Bean Project: @Greenbeanproj1
UK Coffee Week: @UKCoffeeWeek
Project Waterfall: @Projectwaterf
About Bear Essentials CoffeeIf you have enjoyed this or any of my writing please check out my Homepage to find out more about me and my work. Follow the blog and if you feel you can, drop a donation to support this project. Thanks, – Bear