Growing up in the 1970s, coffee was just part of breakfast for most American adults. Nobody gave much thought to its role in our overall health. It was part right of passage, part morning ritual, part tasty beverage. Most of it was probably instant — a process devised to supply soldiers with a familiar drink that wouldn’t weigh them down — although people with the time and equipment might percolate it on the stove every now and again as my parents did on Sunday mornings.
This post contains affiliate links through which I may receive a small commission
Then came the 1980s, when coffee was scapegoated for the rapid decline in America’s health. Nevermind the rise of GMOs, aspartame, industrial vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup and the food pyramid. Coffee consumption took a hit as tea, and eventually green tea, replaced at least some of the coffee formerly consumed.
As Americans started getting out of their bubbles and crossing the Atlantic, Starbucks swooped in in the ’90s with their European-mimicking coffee shops. Starbucks reminds me more of Central Perk, the place where Phoebe, Chandler and their friends hung out rather than the coffee shops I was familiar with living in Europe.
Simultaneously, we began learning that coffee had tremendous health benefits including fighting Parkinson’s, increased metabolism to theoretically reduce weight, and its association with lower rates of depression. This flip-flopping on what’s actually good for our health is exactly why I avoid food fads and instead focus on quality and freshness.
Starbucks, unfortunately, bats zero in both areas. Slave labor and waste accusations aside, the coffee typically tastes stale and burnt.
First and foremost, good coffee should have robust flavor, but not leave you with a sour or bitter aftertaste or coffee breath, no matter how strong it is. Contrary to assumptions, the more a coffee bean is roasted, the less caffeine there is. In other words, if you want to get more caffeine and more of the subtle flavors out of your coffee, then go for light roast.
It is, however, a mistake to assume that more caffeine means more jitters. Quite the opposite is true. Most people find that the darker the roast, the more likely they are to get the shakes. I think this is the audience Starbucks panders to. People who basically think, “I really got my money’s worth because I felt like crap for hours after I drank it!”
When we moved to Hawaii, we we’d drink local coffee all the time. The quality and flavor was variable though. With some 600 producers on the Big Island alone, a lot of people sell old coffee that’s basically Starbucks quality or worse. The better ones we knew left the islands.
Lockdown happened alongside my increasing interest in all things Japanese. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you were probably surprised to learn that they brew a mean cup of coffee, especially if you’ve visited other corners of Asia where the coffee is less than desirable.
That’s when I found Kurasu, a subscription coffee service out of Kyoto — the capital of Japan before Tokyo. Although southern parts of Japan are able to grow some coffee, they don’t supply the nation’s coffee fix. And the Japanese are serious about their coffee. Every cup I had in a coffee shop, when I was there, was brewed to perfection.
Kurasu takes coffee roasting to another level. Each month, they procure coffee from different countries and roast them according to what’s best for the specific bean and even the season. You can check out their YouTube channel to see what’s due to ship that month, the flavor notes to expect, and why they chose a particular roast.
After two years of drinking their coffee, we’ve only had light and medium roasts. Their aromas are exquisite and flavors always exceptional. We’re kinda addicted.
The downside is that they buy at auction, not going out of their way to acquire fair trade, organic or any other indicators of sustainability or concern for our fellow humans who toil daily to bring us this precious beverage. This is a major disappointment, but it is what it is.
Along the way, we also tried sumiyaki coffee from JapaneseCoffeeCo — another subscription service. Sumiyaki refers to charcoal roasting. The process of making and using charcoal is a treasured Japanese tradition.
Similar to Japan’s famous hibachi grill method. They both use Binchotan charcoal. It burns for long hours while being very clean & food grade safe. The high steady heat combined with alkalized ashes helps enhances the taste & aroma of the coffee beans. Resulting in the unique flavor profile of Japanese Sumiyaki coffee.The Japanese Coffee Co.
Besides the use of charcoal, this coffee is certified non-GMO, gluten-free, responsibly sourced, and fairly traded. They also offer one coffee that is organic. Their coffee is certified vegan, but who gives a sh¡t? What I mean is that salad isn’t even vegan when you consider that massive numbers of animals slaughtered in vegetable harvesting and pest control practices.
We tried a sampler containing a variety of roasts as well as the organic coffee. Personally, I love this coffee too. My husband, on the other hand, is addicted to Kurasu. He said this one is okay, but for whatever reason prefers Kurasu. They had just opened operations when we tried it so maybe he’d change his mind now.
Neither of us found that the dark roast made us jittery or left a bad taste in our mouths as they often do. We do, however, prefer lighter roasts.
A big negative for us is that there’s no real variety from month to month. The price is far higher than Kurasu. Alas, it’s the price we pay to make sure (we hope!) our fellow humans earn a living wage so that their children can live better lives as we wish for our own. The sumiyaki process may also play a role in this increased cost.
LifeBoost Ethical Coffee
A new friend recently brought me some fair trade, sustainable, organic, non-GMO, 3rd-party tested for over 400 toxins, low-acidity coffee to try. Many of these “healthy” coffees had been on my radar for quite some time, but let’s just say I wasn’t feeling it for a variety of reasons.
To my surprise, LifeBoost coffee is almost as delicious as Kurasu! The flavor is a tiny bit rougher, but meets my standard for being full-bodied with no aftertaste or coffee breath for the rest of the day. This, plus the fact that it hits all the buttons on social and health issues, pushes it to the front of my list of preferred coffees.
Their single origin coffee is grown in South America and offered in a wide variety of roasts. If you like trying coffee from other locations around the world, keep an eye out for special batches that come available. We recently purchased light roast African-grown beans. It would be nice to know which specific countries are being supported, but for now at least the best information they seem to be able to offer is by continent.
Get 22% OFF with Code COFFEE22 at LifeBoost Coffee
If you’ve been paying attention, then you’ve noticed in the past few years that we — the little people, the 99% — have to stick together. While it may seem small, our choices can create demand for ethically sourced foods that benefit families and the world around us as well as that which is far away. We cannot leave it in the hands of corporations and conglomerates to clean up the mess they created. That’s why we switched to LifeBoost coffee…. until further notice. I say this because too many good companies have sold out to multinationals with objectives in complete contrast to the stated values of the original entities. Only time will tell.
Price may still be a factor. I totally get it. But I have often seen people winge about the cost of a $30 bag of coffee, which might last a month, yet spend as much on coffee drinks over the course of 3-4 days! Thankfully, they frequently run 50% off specials on Facebook.
So what’s your favorite coffee? Or are you a tea drinker? I love them both! Let me know in the comments below.
5 thoughts on “Best Quality (Ethical) Coffee for Coffee Lovers”
Great article. We use Equal Exchange fairly traded coffee. We like light roast as well and get the organic Ethiopian kind. It say full city roast complex with incredible fruit as the description. However, I am a tea drinker from way back. My grandmom got me started on tea at a young age. My favorite is PG Tips from England. I also like Yorkshire Gold. Maria
Yes! That’s EE Ethiopian coffee is one of my favorites too. There are a lot of great ones. I just chose to discuss the ones I’ve been enjoying since being locked away from society. Haha! I’ve developed more appreciation for tea especially matcha and green tea over the past few years since going to Japan. But coffee is still my favorite upon waking. Then I move to green teas for more focus during the latter part of the day. Thanks for commenting! Cheers!
I like LifeBoost a lot but it’s too expensive even with all of the discounts when it only comes in a 12 oz. or 5 lb. container. I can find others that are almost as delicious and very healthy in a 2 or even 2.5 lb size for a lower price than LB’s 12 oz size.
I hear ya! There are definitely many healthy and delicious options that may be more budget friendly. LB is one of the few I’ve come across that really seems to have the farmer in mind as well, which is why I recommend it here. It could totally be a situation where other brands are getting the coffee from the same small farms at a fair price, but not recognizing the importance of this to some consumers. As for price, we compare the cost of going to a café, which many people will do without considering cost much, to simply making a damn great cup at home. We’ve gotten LB discounts of up to 58% off, which helps 🙂
Thanks Adrienne. It is a good article.