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Is coffee vegan?
speaking, all coffee is vegan. It is blended and ground
from the roasted unripened fruit of a small tree known
as the coffee plant.
Coffee is vital to the economies of
more than 50 tropical countries. The two largest producers
of coffee today are Brazil and Colombia. Coffee plantations
also abound in other South and Central American countries,
Cuba, Hawaii, Indonesia, Jamaica, and several African
nations. Growing and tending coffee plants involves
handpicking the fruit, discarding the thin, parchment-like
covering, and cleaning, drying, grading, and hand-inspecting
the beans for color and quality.
Traditionally, coffee is a shade-grown
plant. It also maintains a high cash value, second only
to oil in the international market. Consequently, coffee
has helped to preserve rainforest and ecological diversity,
unlike beef production and the lumber industry which
have slashed and burned precious forest. Unfortunately,
nearly half the world's coffee producers have succumbed
to technological "advancements" and are now producing
sun-grown coffee in order to reap rapid yields and short-term
economic gain. These mass production "advantages," however,
exact an enormous toll. Sun-grown coffee requires heavier
chemical inputs, is more costly to maintain, and drastically
depletes the life-span of the plant. It also has transformed
coffee plantations into ecological deserts where fauna
and flora are unable to survive and land degradation,
water pollution, and chemical poisoning are rampant.
In addition, sun-grown coffee has decimated indigenous
cultures who encounter ongoing health hazards and face
Coffee, like tea and cocoa, contains
caffeine, a stimulant that affects many parts of the
body including the nervous system, kidneys, heart, and
gastric system. Caffeine can also be addictive. Decaffeinated
coffee has had the caffeine removed by one of two methods
before the beans are roasted. The first method is to
chemically extract the caffeine with the use of a solvent.
The solvent is washed out before the beans are dried,
and the roasting process dissolves any remaining residues.
The second method is called the "Swiss water process,"
which involves steaming the beans and then scraping
away the caffeine-rich outer layers.
Some people believe that caffeine is
harmful to our health. Others claim that the methods
employed in growing coffee are unsound and unjust. From
these perspectives, one could question whether coffee
is indeed a vegan product. Certainly, the use of coffee
is not one of the most exigent issues confronting vegans,
and many might contend that what they do to their own
bodies is solely their own business. Nevertheless, if
coffee-drinking vegans are concerned about the humaneness,
environmental soundness, or healthfulness of coffee
-- as is appropriate for anyone attempting to live a
fully compassionate life -- they can eliminate it or
use it in moderation and seek out only sustainably-produced
shade-grown coffee that is marketed in accordance with
internationally recognized fair trade standards. Organic,
shade-grown coffee can usually be found in food co-operatives,
natural food stores, and some specialty coffee shops.
If it is not labeled as such, be sure to inquire.
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