Vegan coffee, made from 100% vegan beans. You have seen that before, labelled and bolded, on some coffee bean bags. It is absolutely amazing what some people make up to sell their coffee. So, is vegan coffee a scam? Yes. And no. But one thing at a time.
What is vegan coffee?
Vegans don’t eat animal products or any animal-derived substances, like dairy products, eggs, honey and such. It’s a quick definition that encompasses most of the long words people use these days to describe and define veganism. The vegan lifestyle is also about living without exploiting animals. That’s a great doctrine, in my opinion.
So, by the pure facts that coffee beans are, well, beans, they are 100% plant and also 100% vegan. Also, no animal is included in making those beans, with two exceptions. But more on that later.
A coffee plant is a bush. You can grow it in your house. Even in Estonia. You don’t need to sacrifice a goat to grow it.
Now we talk about the catch. There is always a catch when you try to sell products in a crowded market. And the coffee market is pretty crowded.
Why call your coffee vegan?
Because it is appealing. It is modern, and it is mainstream. It targets the buyer’s desire to help. Also, it usually shows a lack of other qualities. We have already written about it in our gourmet article about gourmet coffee.
Calling your coffee vegan is the same as calling your pet-rock vegan. Or Rock of Tondi, for that matter.
The world has changed. I see it in the water. Great Tolkien quote, admit it. But also, we see it in people’s buying habits. The care for the environment is rising and some brands will take advantage of it. They will just label anything “vegan” or “environment-friendly” without providing any further info. And people like the fact they help the environment by buying some product.
The next question is: is your coffee vegan-friendly? Vegan-friendly coffee is ethical and sustainable. It is also not measurable but has a general credo of not harming the animals in any way. Vegan-friendly coffee should minimize the negative effect on the environment. The Global Citizen organization has an article about coffee certificates. But, a quick glance at what labels you should look for when buying coffee:
- Fair Trade
- Rainforest Alliance
- UTZ certified
- 4 C Common Code
All these certificates have strict rules, go through changes and adjust. New ones appear, as well as new standards for coffee quality and coffee production.
Notice the lack of “Gourmet” or “Vegan” on the list? That’s because both terms are purely marketing terms, nothing more.
What coffee beans are not vegan and why you will probably never try them anyway
So, vegan coffee equals 100% plants, zero animals. Well, we have two types of beans that are not vegan. And both include animal poop.
The story about coffee from cat poop is true. It is not just an urban myth. But why would a cat eat coffee? First, it’s not a house cat but a civet, or “Luwak” in Indonesian. It is a small, mongoose-shaped mammal that apparently likes to eat ripe coffee cherries. Civets eat just the best cherries, and the beans are partially digested by enzymes in the civet’s tract. Then you gather those beans and make coffee that costs around 1000€ per kilo of beans. More or less, depending on the producer. Here is what’s available to our European readers on Amazon.de (affiliate link). For our other readers, here is an offer from Amazon.com (affiliate link).
Of course, people got greedy. They started caging poor animals and forcibly feeding them coffee cherries. Besides harming the poor animals, the quality of coffee went downhill. In nature, civets will pick only the finest beans. But when fed by force, the result is poop-quality coffee. So, when you buy your Kopi Luwak, please, please, read how it’s made.
When it comes to high-priced ways to enjoy your life, Thailand’s Golden Triangle doesn’t produce just opium. It is also the home of the most expensive coffee in the world – Black Ivory coffee.
Coffee beans are mixed with fruit and given to elephants. Yes, elephants. The elephant eats the mix, then you wait a couple of days and go poop-hunting. You find the massive poop, take out the beans and wash them. But really, really, wash them properly. The coffee supposedly has a light and fruity taste. Why supposedly? Well, you can buy their single package on their website. 35 grams for 102 Euros. And I buy my equipment from old ladies on the Facebook marketplace. So, yeah, I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. If you want to give it a go, here is a handy Amazon.com link (affiliate link). Send us your review, please.
Very vegan (and gourmet) conclusion
If you label your coffee 100% vegan, it is likely because you have nothing better to say about it. I don’t like false advertising. Most people are already confused with coffee terms, and it’s not necessary to add to the pile.