Three Clucks for Coffee


Mother’s Day, Backyard Flocks and a Greener Cup of Joe
For Mother’s Day two years ago, the father of my children built me a chicken coop. It was a gift of time and labor, as well as a concrete (or fine-mesh wire) commitment to the health of our family and its food sources. Laying hens arguably live in the most horrific living conditions of industrially farmed animals. If we were to eat eggs, we decided, we needed to know from whence they came—on a face-to-face basis.

So the coop was built to the left of the swing set in our suburban pasture, and Chloe Omelet, Edith the Egg Lady, Kiki “Kicky” Jones, Scratchy Jackson, Rita Layworth and Captain Pecker were adopted from a flock being disbanded upstate from us. I justified this as “animal rescue” since they weren’t shipped to us as chicks, in the same way I justified using animals for food (they lay eggs compulsorily, rooster or no, so why not consider the eggs edible payment for shelter, organic feed and room to run and explore, scratch for worms, loll in the sun with their feathers fanned and take dust baths beneath the lilac bushes?) As a near-vegan living with three people who aren’t, this has turned out to be one of the happiest—and most justifiable—of dietary compromises. Quite simply, backyard chickens rock.

More on the topics of chicken keeping and navigating family dietary differences in future posts; now onto what I intended to write about: Coffee. Even writing the word makes me give the cup on my desk a hopeful shake. Alas, it is empty, but it won’t be by the time I finish this, because I am a coffee addict. Which is not to be confused with a coffee connoisseur. Like an alcoholic who prefers Glenlivet but will drink Listerine in a pinch, I’d rather consume only organically cultivated, fairly traded, freshly ground coffee…but if the only available kind is the muddy puddle at the bottom of the pot that the gas station attendant brewed 12 hours earlier, that’ll do. When I was primarily working from home, that’s where I consumed most of my joe. But now I have a job for which I have to get dressed and leave the house, and I’ve found myself grabbing more cups on the go than I’d rather, the best of which are the fair trade fare at my corporate cafeteria; the worst of which have the word “green” in the name but are sold by a ubiquitous fast food place I shudder to drive by, never mind “thru.” And yet I have, more than once but fewer than 30 times, readily passing my ethics out the window along with my $2 in exchange for a fix.

Which is why I resolved to stockpile fair trade coffee and bring my own wherever I go. While it’s sometimes pricier by the pound than what’s sold in the supermarket, it’s far less expensive than purchasing lesser quality coffee by the cup, not to mention the reduction of waste and the assurance that the people growing the beans are getting paid a halfway-decent wage for their labors.

I started my search for an ethical and eco-friendly caffeine source with Cooperative Coffees, a group of community-based roasters committed to a transparent, fair-trade process of buying beans directly from farmer coops. (Which are not to be confused with chicken coops.) Weirdly, while looking for a local roaster I found Dean’s Beans, which isn’t at all close to where I now reside, but is headquartered in the small Massachusetts town where I lived for the bulk of my childhood, qualifying it for hometown status. Turns out they’re one of only a dozen 100% fair trade coffee companies in the U.S. So Dean’s Beans is my hometown roaster, and Dean Cyon knows what moms need on this most important of holidays: Coffee. Here’s a deal for a personalized bag of the tastiest shade-grown, fair-trade organic java I’ve had the pleasure of brewing, perfect for sending (or better yet, presenting along with breakfast in bed at around 11a.m.) on Mother’s Day.

And since I just refilled that cup I mentioned earlier, let me say that Highwave makes the hands-down best travel mug ever, the HotJo. It is sturdy, ceramic and huge. The lid screws in so it’s less likely to come unplugged down one’s shirtfront. It has a grippy pad on its bottom and holds its own on the dashboard, so the fact that it’s too fat for the cup holder is a non-issue. Because it’s ceramic the contents cool down before all that long, but honestly, what mothers do you know have the luxury to linger over their coffee, anyhow?

So, what green-minded gift are you giving your mother, wife or baby-mama?