Greenest Way to Drink Coffee?

What’s the greenest way to drink coffee? Jacob Leibenluft at Slate leads in as follows:

how to balance a caffeine addiction with a concern about responsible consumption [?]… You’ll have a hard time finding a more eco-unfriendly product than the material most of us call Styrofoam… Still, it may not always be the right move to switch over to ceramic or stainless-steel mugs. It all comes down to which aspects of the environment you care about most.

January MugsI was discussing this issue with a friend recently. I am fond of my reusable coffee mugs. I joined The Mug Project, which advocates the use of mugs to reduce waste caused by single serve beverage containers.

But is the per-use waste of paper and styrofoam cups really worse than the energy used to produce reusable mugs from plastic or other durable material? That’s the question raised in the Slate article. I’d like to see that question analyzed as well as raised (and sort of addressed), but I consider the article a good enough start to upmod it at Reddit, where I found it.

There are other ways of answering the question in the title. For example, how much greener is it to get coffee from Costa Rica (fairly near, and certainly good) than from Sumatra (much further away from Boston, and my favorite coffee)? And what about buying one’s coffee in the form of unroasted green beans, a la Sweet Maria’s?

Starbucks Update

A couple of weeks ago, I posted unfavorably about Starbucks, albeit somewhat favorably about the Starbucks card. Since then, I’ve received a “dear cardholder, have a drink on us” postcard. When I went to the West Roxbury Starbucks today, there was a selection of drip coffees including my favorite, Sumatra. So I had a cup of my favorite bean and a couple of hours of wi-fi, courtesy of Starbucks. I might not be on the bandwagon, but I will be back in the branches.

Starbucks: Coffee and Confusion

Starbucks is a corporation in transition. It’s not handling the transition well. It’s not that I miss the most salient and profitable aspects of the old Starbucks. I was never interested in the silly overpriced coffeesque drinks: tall iced caramel macchiato, tall double chocolate chip frappucino, etc.

Coffee, black, no sugar, for me. That’s not to say I want the same coffee every time. I used to like the fact that a Starbucks would offer me a choice of coffees. There were usually at least three: a mild or medium, a bold, and a decaf. That seems to have disappeared in favor of all Pikes Place blend all the time.

Starbucks should strive for an image of expertise in coffee and the distinctive nature of each coffee. The packaging of their whole bean coffees, with an appropriate illustration for each coffee, helps here. I suggest that they credit the artist responsible for each illustration. This would reinforce the image of craft and creativity.

I have expressed the above views at the Starbucks Idea site.

One thing that’s well done is the Starbucks card. I bought one today and got a free coffee. The card gives me discounts, and it gives me free wireless – somehow.

The wireless is confusing, or at least it has been over the last couple of days at the West Roxbury location. Yesterday, I was able to just use the wireless network without having to do anything other than turn on my laptop. Today, it seemed that I was able to use the T-Mobile network, but only after getting an AT&T account by entering details from my Starbucks card.

The bottom line is that I’m confused by Starbucks. I can’t help comparing SBX with Rao’s. Scott Rao opened his coffee place in Amherst, MA, while I was in grad school there, and it was always way more popular than the town Starbucks. Scott has grown the business: in the last year I’ve seen his coffees at the Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, at a Boston branch of WholeFoods, and at the Boston Cheese Cellar not a mile from my house.

I know what Rao’s stands for. I am confident that Scott will retain focus and quality as he grows the business. I don’t know what to expect from Starbucks.

Mug Me Twice…

I read about The Mug Project twice today: once at the Boston Globe, once at Universal Hub.

We raise awareness about the unnecessary waste caused by the use of disposable beverage containers and advocate for the use of mugs as an alternative.

We? Yes, I joined the project, already being in synch with its aims. That’s not just because reusable mugs are better for the environment. They are often better for the pocket, in that many places charge less to refill a mug than they do to give you a disposable cup of similar size. One such place that I’ve used a lot in the last month or so is Canto 6 in Jamaica Plain. I also find mugs to be better for the taste buds, since disposable cups mar the taste of coffee.

The Mug Project is a network: it’s implemented as a social network at Ning; I am member 50; and, although it started in Jamaica Plain, there’s no reason the network shouldn’t spread as far as…. Cambridge (MA)… Cambridge (UK)… and further.