Finding the Perfect Eco-Friendly Cup of Coffee

Eco friendly coffeeI love coffee.  I love it.  I love the process of making it, pouring it, and drinking it. I like how it tastes and that it brings me alive in the morning.  I’ve tried switching to decaf, and I’ve tried switching to green tea (and decaf green tea) to make sure it wasn’t having an impact on my rosacea symptoms.  As far as I can tell, this is one of the one things in my diet that I love and that doesn’t make my cheeks redder (provided I let it cool down before drinking it).

That said, throughout my transition to a rosacea-friendly lifestyle, I’ve quite coincidentally started living a greener lifestyle, too. I’ve come to like it and have a taste for living greener.  Soap nuts instead of traditional laundry detergent. Natural skin care full of ingredients I’ve read about and understand. A cleaner diet made with more whole foods and less junk.  It was natural for coffee to make it into my efforts to improve what I’m putting in my body.

As a result, I’m adding a new Green JulieBC section to my Rosy JulieBC blog, to share some of the eco-friendly and natural treasures I’ve discovered as a result of living the Rosy Life.

Changing Coffee Habits

I’d always bought my coffee at the grocery store.  At this time last year, if you’d asked me about my favourite type of coffee, I would have told you it was the Melitta medium-dark roast.  I didn’t have any specific intention of changing.  My main effort with coffee was to find a great sale.

Earlier this year, I attended a skin care webinar.  It was fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The webinar was held by M2 Brand Management, which often sends a gift pack to one lucky participant in each of its webinars. That day, that lucky participant happened to be me.

Bulletproof Coffee french pressI’d expected to receive a few skin care samples that were discussed in the video. What arrived at my door was a box filled to the brim with tons of full-size, awesome products.  One of those products was a certified clean coffee.

In my traditional way of doing anything, I started looking into the products I received, including the coffee.  I realized that I could be doing myself – and the planet – a big favour if I turned my love of coffee into a more eco-friendly habit.

A Better Cup of Coffee

Coffee roasters are not all created equal.  Every roaster treats its craft with its own skill and respect level.  There are lots of things to think about when you’re a coffee roaster.  It’s a business, of course, but even beyond operations, costs, marketing and all the business-related stuff, there’s a lot more.  Coffee beans provide a different taste and environmental impact, depending on where they come from.

The part of the world, the individual, farmer and even the specific crop will all impact final taste and environmentally-conscious growing techniques, among other things.  Some roasters are meticulous about controlling their eco-footprint.  These efforts are great for the world, but it also helps those of us who love coffee to get a better cup without the guilt from loving what we love.

Since I’ve started paying attention to this factor, I’ve brought my coffee enjoyment to a whole new level.  The coffee I used to drink before.  The coffee I’m drinking now is outstanding.  Here are some of the roasters – and the coffees – I’ve recently tried and that have impressed me.

The Coffee Roasters

Bulletproof

Bulletproof Coffee LogoBulletproof coffee has fascinated me for a while. It’s found a unique place in the market because it’s not just about the coffee.  It’s also the “additives” like the Brain Octane Oil (which was also a part of my prize box).  To make a real Bulletproof coffee, it takes the coffee, the brain octane oil, and grass-fed ghee (clarified butter). Blend them together until they look like a latte.

The idea is to drink a great-tasting, clean coffee that will fill you up and give you the chance to burn fat, too. What appealed to me was the brand’s dedication to a clean product. It’s Rainforest Alliance certified, and claims it has been “Independently lab tested for 27 performance-robbing toxins.”  Not entirely sure what that means or what “toxins” they’re referring to – I couldn’t find where they specified – but it certainly sounded good.

I also love the idea that I’d be able to have a cup of coffee in the morning that would power me up without giving me jitters, anxiety or chest tightness/pains from too much caffeine.

Beaver Rock

Beaver Rock Coffee LogoBeaver Rock is a roaster I discovered while googling Ontario coffee roasters that are eco-friendly.  This is an outstanding brand. I highly recommend checking out their website to find out more about everything they stand for because there’s no way I’ll be able to do it justice here.

What stood out to me the most at first was their dedication to eco-friendliness.  Since the whole point to my search was to find a green company that also made suuuuper-great coffee, what drew me to this one at first was how much effort it was making to reduce any negative impact on the environment.  Check out some of the great things they’re doing to take the guilt out of each cup:

  • They recycle absolutely everything they possibly can throughout the full process. Even better, they also reuse as much as possible, including their packing materials, cardboard and even their shipping skids!
  • The chaff left behind from the green coffee beans once they’re roasted isn’t thrown away. They send it to local farmers who use it as a fertilizer and mulch.
  • The used burlap coffee bags are also reused! They’re given to local groups for use in neighbourhood gardens.  How awesome is that?

I purchase their whole beans in bags so I can grind them myself before making each pot of coffee.  That said, they also sell single-serve cups.  At first, that made me think they might not be as green as I’d previously suspected.  After all, single-serve cups are like plastic drinking straws.  They’re unnecessary and adding loads to our landfills…except in this case.

Beaver Rock has become the first roaster to offer a single-serve cup that is fully recyclable.  Will that make me think that single-serve cups are good for the environment? Nope. But they’re not going anywhere anytime soon – just like drinking straws – so I applaud this brand for coming up with a more eco-friendly option. In fact, they received the “Grocery Innovation Award” for this improvement in such an otherwise wasteful area.

While I was shopping there, I also learned why these recyclable cups are superior to the supposedly biodegradable cups some brands offer.  The reason is that those cups biodegrade so slowly that they aren’t accepted by most “green bin” municipal composting programs. In fact, they can’t even be legally labeled as “biodegradable” in California for just that reason.  So far, recycling seems to be the top option, and this was the first company to offer it.

Epic North

Epic North Coffee LogoAnother Ontario coffee roaster, I’d been eyeing this one’s website and finally had the chance to try it when I went to Kempenfest this year.  Kempenfest is a huuuuge arts, crafts, food, and music festival in part of Ontario’s “cottage country”.  Several rows of sellers wrap their way around the ‘U’ of Kempenfelt Bay, which is a part of Lake Simcoe. This year, there were over 300 artisans featuring their awesomeness. Lo and behold, just as I was approaching the booth from St. Jacobs that makes the best caramel apples in the whole world, I spotted Epic North’s booth. Finally, a chance to try their coffee!

Epic North caught my eye while I was looking for eco-friendly coffee roasters because they’ve thrown in a socially responsible component, too. They’re partnered with Organic Products Trading Company and Cafe Imports. They work directly with green coffee growers and build relationships with them to ensure these farms and families are being paid a fair premium price for their high quality product, and to improve sustainability during the growing process.

Even beyond that, what stood out to me was that one of their coffees, ROSC, supports first responders with every bag sold (more about that later).

The Coffees

I’d love to go on and on about what I loved and didn’t love about each of these coffees, but I’ve already written way too much, and while I feel like I know a good cup of coffee when I taste one, I’m hardly an expert in describing flavours.  Still, I’ve been trying some phenomenal coffees over the last while, and I do want to share my thoughts about each one.  Here goes!

Beaver Rock Cuban

Beaver Rock Cuban CoffeeStarting off strong – both with taste and preference – this is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.  It’s my favourite all-time coffee, and I will be buying this for as long as the lovely people at the roaster’s store will tolerate my presence shopping there 😉  I recently sent a box of Ontario products to another YouTuber/blogger, Petite Stephy in a collab, and I wish this coffee had existed at that time because I would have loved to share it with her.

This coffee is a 5 on the darkness scale (I usually prefer a medium-dark roast and this one suits me perfectly.  Comparatively, their dark roast is a 7). It’s a full flavour and just slightly smoky without any hint of being burnt.  This coffee is smooth.  Very smooth.  No bitterness or sourness.  For me, this is the perfect cup of coffee.

Beaver Rock Dark Roast

Beaver Rock Dark Roast CoffeeThis was the first coffee I tasted from Beaver Rock and, until I tried the Cuban, this was my favourite all-time coffee.  It is dark without any charred or burnt flavour. It is very smooth, and I can make a strong cup of it without losing that smoothness.  I love a strong cup of coffee, but many coffees reveal their drawbacks when you make them strong.  Not this one.  It’s a 7 on the darkness scale and ideal for anyone who loves a dark roast.  It’s clear that this is made with skill because it’s easy to go too far with dark roasts.  This one sure doesn’t. It’s completely balanced.

Beaver Rock Black Cherry

Beaver Rock Black Cherry CoffeeThis is one of the most unique flavoured coffees I’ve ever tasted.  I’m thrilled with it.  To be clear, I’m not normally a flavoured coffee person. No flavoured coffee appeals to me in the morning. I save these for Saturday or Sunday afternoons. I like to have several from which to choose so I can complement the mood I need to have.  If I’m writing Irys (I’m a book author as my “real job,” and I’m currently working on the second last step before the third book in the Perspective series is published on Halloween this year), it needs to be something that feels sweet yet elegant. If I’m blogging, something more like this Black Cherry.

It doesn’t taste like black cherry flavoured candy.  It tastes like coffee with a hint of the actual fruit. It’s subtle, smells incredible and perfect for when I wants something special without being sweet or too playful.

Beaver Rock Crème Brûlée

Beaver Rock Creme Brulee CoffeeI drool over this Crème Brûlée coffee.  Godiva used to make a crème brûlée flavoured coffee, and it was my absolute favourite when I was writing Irys.  It feels special, high end and like something Irys would drink if she ever had something in her cup other than what is likely the finest tea on Qarradune.

Beaver Rock’s version of this flavour is even better. Every time I smell this coffee, I’m hungry.  Even if it’s not brewing. If I get too close to the bag, my mouth waters.  Once it’s brewing, it tastes just as good as it smells.  It doesn’t fail to be rich, flavourful and like an expensive dessert.  At the same time, because it’s a fine coffee, I get to enjoy that dessert with all the smoothness and creaminess, but without being overly sweet.  Because this is a coffee, I get all the flavours, none of the sugars. I’m thinking of making a cup right now.  By the time I’m done writing this, I likely already will have.

Beaver Rock Koffee Krisp

Beaver Rock Koffee Krisp CoffeeThe Koffee Krisp flavour surprised me. I was expecting something quite close to a Coffee Crisp bar.  It’s described as double chocolate and vanilla coffee on the brand’s website.  I definitely got a taste of chocolate and I definitely tasted the vanilla.  But somehow, it didn’t taste like Coffee Crisp to me.  The Koffee Krisp coffee struck me more as a s’mores flavour.

That could just be my uneducated pallet, but I could taste coffee, chocolate, and vanilla and when they all came together, it tasted like coffee, chocolate and homemade marshmallow.  It was definitely good. I certainly liked it.  It just didn’t strike me as the flavours I was expecting.  Of the three flavoured coffees from Beaver Rock I tried, this was my least favourite.  That said, I absolutely fall over myself for their coffees, so that’s definitely not saying something negative about the taste of this one!

Epic North ROSC

Epic North ROSC CoffeeEpic North, as previously mentioned, has a coffee they sell to support first responders.  Instead of choosing the flavour I was most likely to enjoy – which, as previously mentioned, would be a medium-dark roast) – I picked the one that would give $9.11 of its proceeds to that cause.

ROSC stands for “return of spontaneous circulation.” It’s a medium roast that combines Costa Rican and Columbian beans.  The official description of the taste says it has notes of “cherry, dark chocolate and butterscotch.” I don’t think my pallet is good enough to pick up those flavours.  To me, this is what I think of when someone says “very good cup of coffee.”

To be honest, my first impression of this coffee wasn’t a fair one. I used the same measure of beans as I previously have when making coffee from whole beans.  I ground the amount, and it brewed and the result tasted like something I’d get at a diner.

Being the second chance-giver I am, I boosted the bean count the next time I made the coffee and what a difference! Yum!  I’d still prefer a darker roast, but, as I said, I chose this one knowing it was a medium roast because of the social cause it supported.

This coffee was extremely smooth without a single hint of bitterness.  It’s the kind of coffee I’d serve to guests because I know not everyone likes a cup as dark and strong as I do.  This is the type of all-around coffee you can serve with confidence when you’re making it for a group.

Still, I will want to give its other coffees a try now that I know how smooth their ROSC is. I think their Freeride (dark roast) or Watt/Kilo (espresso blend) would likely be more up my alley. If I get the chance to try them out, I’ll be sure to do another review or add to this one.

Bulletproof (French Kick + Brain Octane)

Bulletproof Coffee and Brain OctaneThis was the coffee that got me trying all these new options in the first place.  I tried the French Kick, which is a dark roast.  Overall, what I’d say about the coffee on its own is that it is a good, decent coffee.  It’s not as strong or full flavoured as I’d prefer from a good dark roast, but it holds its own and it’s not bitter at all.

That said, the whole point to Bulletproof coffee is to drink it with the Brain Octane.  This is what is supposed to make you feel fuller, help your body to burn fat if you’re doing a keto diet (which I’m not) type of eating plan, and that is supposed to give you a ton of energy.  That ton of energy is what appealed to me the most.  I work 12-14 hours per day, and I suffer from regular insomnia. If I can get more oomph from my coffee, I want it.

As I said, the coffee is nice.  I followed the directions for starting with the Brain Octane, which is essentially a modified coconut oil.  As per the directions, I also found some grass-fed unsalted butter (ghee) to add, too.  Yup, I oiled and buttered my coffee. You’re supposed to start small and ease your way into all that oil and butter.  Eventually, the goal is to add 2 tablespoons of the Brain Octane and 2 tablespoons of the butter.  I never made it that far.

In fact, I made it only as far as about 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1 teaspoon of the butter.  I blended and it looked frothy and gorgeous, like a luxury latte.  While it was freshly blended and piping hot, it tasted kinda awesome. Very surprising.  That said, I have rosacea, which means I can’t drink anything that is piping hot. I have to wait until everything cools down before drinking it or my face lights up to a colour halfway between a tomato and a beet.

I have to say that if you let this coffee cool down, the magic really goes out of it. It separates so there’s a pretty thick oil slick on the top.  Drinking through it distorts the taste and leaves an oily lipped and mouthed feeling that I can’t say I enjoyed at all. This, combined with the digestive issues it added to my day (I have some digestive struggles which include some unwanted symptoms when I have too much fat all at once, and I’m somewhat lactose intolerant, which doesn’t help, either), meant that the full-force Bulletproof coffee just wasn’t for me, particularly when I found out how much it costs.

One thing I do want to point out, though, is that the energy boosting from this drink is not just hype.  It’s amazing.  I loved every bit of it.  All alertness, no jitters.  I can still add a small amount of the Brain Octane to my coffee (no butter) and enjoy some improved alertness, but that’s about as far as I can go.

PHEW – so that’s all of them for now. I’m going to keep trying more local, eco-friendly and socially responsible coffees over time. I’m hoping to have a part-two eventually.

As a small note, in case you’re curious: I drink my coffee black – no cream, no milk, no sugar, no anything but coffee.  I have a regular everyday Sunbeam electric coffee maker that I use throughout the week. On the weekend, I use my Epicure French press.  I have a Hamilton Beach coffee and spice grinder (which I use exclusively for grinding coffee beans). I’m currently debating buying a drip system because the wonderful people at Beaver Rock assure me that the difference is outstanding.  Santa may be getting this request if I’m good this year!

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