Monday, 5 March 2012

Production Materials For Truly Eco-friendly Coffee

"Eco-friendly", when applied to coffee, has become something of a marketing asset. For a retailer chasing the 'Green Pound' it's important to come across as a responsible, caring company. For the consumer there are a number of factors that may lead them to make the purchase - does they feel good that the produce is from a sustainable source? Is it that they care for the welfare of those individuals working to bring them the coffee?
However, that applies to the coffee itself. If you want a truly enjoyable drink then it's important not only to consider the coffee, but also the espresso cups you're using to drink out of. For if the coffee has been produced to high green standards but the cup is made by a toxic, harmful process then it diminishes the value of your efforts.

It's not necessarily easy to understand the processes of how a cup is made when considering the environment, so it's perhaps useful to start with the materials themselves - porcelain, clay and glass.
Porcelain is arguably the material used in most coffee and espresso cups because of its versatility. It's easy to mould into unique, interesting shapes and has the capacity for application of colour making it aesthetically pleasing. Porcelain is also good for heat retention, meaning the drink will stay warm or hot for a reasonable amount of time.

Porcelain is made by firing a combination of natural base materials in a kiln, including clay, flint and silica. Kiln-firing can be eco-friendly depending on the kiln. Newer kilns are specifically designed with emission-reduction and energy efficiency in mind, which can be increased by using carbonaceous waste materials. Porcelain manufacture doesn't produce any by-products that can't be recycled back into the manufacturing process.

Clay is a natural material that has been used as in building everything from structures to smaller items for thousands of years. Clay, as mentioned above, is used during the manufacturing of other building materials due to its useful attributes. Clay is used in coffee or espresso cup production but is not as versatile as porcelain for colour application, and not as good at retaining heat as glass. Clay is considered to be fairly eco-friendly.

Glass is considered, at least by many consumers, to be one of the most environmentally-friendly materials, especially when used in packaging. Glass has the benefit of not adding anything to the taste of the food or drink it can contain. Combine that with its ability to be sculptured into any shape and its great heat-retention qualities and glass appears to be an excellent material for coffee cup manufacture. Glass can be recycled, making it comparatively sustainable as a building material. However glass is created at high temperature meaning whether it is eco-friendly or not depends on the type of fuel used to create those temperatures within a glass factory. When compared to plastic, glass is certainly more eco-friendly.
Next time you consider buying eco-friendly coffee spare a small thought for your coffee cup - does it meet your high standards?

This article is a post from Espresso Deco (, a UK coffeeware retailer.

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