roasted coffee beans

A cup of coffee made without a single bean.

Sound like something you’d want to try? I took a look at this interesting scientific development earlier on LinkedIn, but I have a few more thoughts on the matter.

Beanless coffee is a (kind of) modern development currently being polished by today’s best scientists. This technique is similar to chicory — a method that involves brewing roots instead of beans — but whittles down the ingredients even further. Everything from the flavor to the way the brew sits on your tongue is meant to replicate traditional coffee near-flawlessly. On one hand, it’s fascinating how science can break down what we consume to its barest components. On the other hand, environmental concerns are cited as a major reason to continue this research.

Beanless coffee could help…as long as the industry’s priorities are kept straight.

The coffee industry regularly comes up with new ways to innovate the art of going green. We’ve seen it in coffee cups and mugs made with old coffee grounds. We see coffee behemoth Starbucks regularly releasing statements on their ongoing commitment to deprioritize plastic (with mixed results). At the same time, a limited-edition run of a neat-sounding sustainability idea does not lasting change make. Sustainability means, for lack of a better word, getting to the root of the issue.

Just what is the root of the issue? Corporate overambition. Outdated farming practices. Exploitation of farmers. Dishonest packaging. Inconsistent recycling practices. The list goes on.

The world we live in isn’t an afterthought. It most certainly isn’t a backyard with which to dump our refuse. If we want to keep the planet healthy enough for the next generation, we have to change today.

Sustainability is developing a good habit on a global scale. You can liken coffee sustainability, in particular, to everyday essentials like brushing, flossing and rinsing. For example, I’m known in my social circle for having a glowing smile, something that has been carefully cultivated with dozens of visits to the dentist’s office over the years. It’s often the first thing people say when they see a photo of me! I maintain this smile by brushing, flossing and rinsing every single day. Even when I don’t want to. Even when my teeth feel or look clean.

Whenever I go to the dentist for teeth cleaning now? The hygienists tell me they have little to do because my maintenance regimen is so spot-on. Imagine living in a world that green.

Beanless coffee is a great way to take some of the production pressure off of growers, especially with how much more serious global warming concerns are making farming habits. However, it should be used as a supplementary option. Not pushed as an outright replacement or even a primary choice. While the novelty of beanless coffee is certainly fun, overemphasizing its importance runs the risk of shifting environmentalist concerns onto the wrong source. Traditional coffee growing, roasting and brewing is our heritage. Our future.

Sustainability threats to the coffee industry — and the world at large — aren’t faults of archaic methods, but the very modernism being praised here.

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