Today, over 150 million 60-kilo bags of coffee are consumed every year, and this number is growing modestly but steadily.
Chasing after caffeine, people consume phenomenal amounts of coffee every day. Some stats even show that globally, up to 2.25 billion cups of coffee are being drunk every day.
The coffee industry is one of the biggest in the world, but it's also one of the least sustainable. In the United Kingdom alone, 500k tonnes of coffee get wasted every year.
The reason why so much coffee is thrown out, is that currently, we only extract taste from the bean while discarding everything else. From the fruit of the coffee cherry, cascara, to coffee grounds - each year, thousands of tonnes of coffee are left in the trash.
The thing is, we can't afford to waste coffee anymore
The growing industry pushes producers to deliver larger quantities of coffee beans to satisfy the market needs. As a result, the quality is often overlooked - coffee is harvested when the cherries are not ripe yet, then the beans get over-roasted to hide the flaws.
Now, here's the irony:
The lower quality coffee, the more beans are needed to extract the same amount of caffeine. So, the more low-quality coffee is produced, the more of it is required for the same level of caffeine intake. The more coffee is consumed, the more of it goes to waste.
For now, coffee farmers have been able to keep up with the market needs. However, if we'll continue to waste such amounts, in a few decades, the industry might not be able to satisfy the demand anymore.
The coffee industry is already affected by climate changes. Experts assume that by 2100, half of the land used for coffee production today will no longer be arable.
While farmers may be able to cope with climate changes - they're already doing it by creating new coffee breeds - there's another challenge much more difficult to deal with: within a few years, the industry may run out of workforce.
Having flourished during the times of slavery, coffee today is still produced by the third-world countries and consumed by industrialized nations. As a result, coffee is bought for cheap, workers are paid pennies to work on plantations, and that makes it difficult for landowners to attract and motivate new people. With older generations retiring, it's not unlikely that some coffee growers might even go out of business.
These challenges mean one thing: in the future, coffee will become less available and therefore, more expensive. Unless we make this industry more sustainable.
Making the coffee industry more sustainable
What coffee drinkers don't know is that they don't need more coffee to take in more caffeine. They need less of it, but to consume it smarter.
Choosing high-quality specialty coffee over the mass-produced is the first step. You see, when we look at a coffee bean, 30% of it consists of solubles. Out of those, 7% to 10% are bad and taste awful. The lower quality coffee, the higher percentage of bad solubles, and that is why we need more of the drink to take in the same amount of good things it contains.
Another smart way to drink coffee is to microdose it. That is, you can either drink tiny shots of coffee throughout the day every 15-20 minutes, or - you can combine coffee with products that slow down caffeine absorption and its entering in the bloodstream, such as saturated fat.
Coffee Pixels edible coffee does exactly that. By combining coffee with cocoa butter (very saturated fat), these coffee bars ensure that caffeine is microdosed over a longer period of time. As a result, people don't feel the need for an additional dose every couple of hours.
And finally - this goes more for coffee producers than consumers - coffee fruit can and should be used entirely, leaving little to nothing to waste.
Currently, when harvesting coffee beans, the fruit of the coffee cherry - cascara - is typically discarded, and 97% of that goes to landfill. Tonnes of this superfood and the 4th antioxidant-richest product in the world are left in waste.
Coffee Pixels is one of the few producers in the industry that uses the entire coffee fruit, including cascara, and therefore requires 3x fewer beans to achieve 50 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of one espresso).
But what's even more important:
Aside from preventing food waste, cascara usage could also improve the economics of the coffee trade in general. By increasing the demand for the coffee fruit, we could open new possibilities for farmers to monetize their plantations. In fact, it's been assumed that selling cascara might help farmers double their income, which, consciously, would let them pay more to their workers and avoid running out of the workforce.