Vegan Coffee: What is it and what does “vegan coffee” mean?

A kinder way to caffeinate

Chances are most of us reading this have heard the term “vegan”. We may have met someone who identifies as “vegan” or food or even clothing products that are marketed as “vegan” or “vegan-friendly”. But some may be wondering what exactly "vegan" means and what the benefits of “going vegan" are exactly? 

Well, today we are going to take a deep and refreshing dive into the world of vegan coffee. If the term “vegan coffee” sounds surprising and/or intriguing, please keep reading. You are in for a real treat, and don't forget to check out our many vegan options for coffee, too!

What is vegan coffee? 

For all intents and purposes, “vegan” is defined as someone or something that does not consume anything made from animals, or by animal labor. This can include the obvious like a steak or leather and range to the seemingly more subtle like honey or milk, even wool. If a product comes from or causes pain or suffering to animals or people, then it is by definition NOT vegan!

So now that we have grasped what “vegan” means let’s start with a challenging fact, not all coffees are vegan-friendly even if they’re all technically vegan! 

Coffee comes from coffee cherries that grow on bushes. No animals are usually intentionally or directly harmed when it comes to cultivating and processing coffee. That is with the distinct exception of civet coffee, where animals are in fact directly harmed.  

But unfortunately, besides civet coffee, a large deal of coffee production around the globe does end up hurting animals, ecosystems, and people. 

For example, there are Coffee beans that are grown with harmful chemical pesticides. These pesticides and other chemicals not only kill native insect populations but also have negative effects on birds and other animals that might normally prey on these same insects and “pests”. The chemicals also run off or leech into the soil or water and do even more damage to the land, plants, and all the aquatic ecosystems. That water will also eventually become rain and rain down residual chemicals. 

These pesticides alone do tons of damage to natural ecosystems but coffee as an industry wreaks even more havoc in the form of deforestation. Too many coffee farms clear staggering amounts of forest and wildlands for cultivation that further harm animals by destroying their habitats. This is especially tragic as coffee cultivation can be performed without clearing huge swathes of land. 

Besides having to live with chemically tainted water and soil, the people around coffee also suffer. More often than not coffee is sold at such a low price that they leave their farmers in poverty and do not align with vegan values. Industrial farming is largely exploitative and takes advantage of workers who are essentially doing slave labor with little pay or rest. 

This is where the beauty of third-wave coffee in general and specialty coffee like here at Blue Goose, in particular, come into play. By seeking out more conscious coffee one can find a balance between an excellent cuppa at home and a happier, healthier, and safer world at large. But if the aforementioned things like the use of chemical pesticides and the like mean “non-vegan” coffee, then what would constitute “vegan coffee” exactly? 

More conscious coffee

Vegan coffee includes biodiversity-rich coffee growing that doesn’t impact wildlife. So certified Bird-Friendly coffee like some of our pods are would fall into the vegan camp. That is because the coffee cultivation methods used do not disrupt bird habitats, bird migration, or the birds' diets for example. Earning the Certified Bird Friendly badge is one of the most difficult of certifications and also one of the most important.

Shade-grown coffee is another way to make coffee more vegan-friendly. This method allows birds and other animals to maintain their habitats, for starters. With the birds and other animals present, the plants do not need pesticides as the other animals simply eat them! 

As for fertilizers, these are also obsolete because the soil around the other plants and trees is exceptionally rich and nutritious for coffee plants. Farms such as these are also more fairly compensated and receive lots of financial and other support from their coffee clientele. This means the farmers and their households can earn a higher wage, live in an environment that is not tainted by chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and can hear the lovely sounds of birds chirping because there are plenty of wild and native trees around!

Is Cafe au lait, okay?

What about coffee lovers who like to add milk or cream to their coffee? Unfortunately, dairy products are non-vegan as they require labor from the cows. Not to mention what dairy cows in general may go through during their lifetime in the dairy industry. 

However, we know some coffee lovers out there enjoy putting milk in their coffee. That is why we have taken a look at some keen milk alternatives for those who would like to switch from animal-based milk to healthier, greener, and more sustainable options. 

You aren’t alone, too! Since 2019 nearly 1/4th of Brits have been enjoying plant-based rather than animal-based milk. Not only that but more than half of British adults had made plant-based milk one of their purchases, perhaps for a vegan cappuccino? Now let’s see some vegan and vegan-friendly alternatives to cow's milk:

Soy milk

Usually when people think of vegan they think of soy and for good reason. Soy milk tastes great with a rich mouthfeel similar to cow's milk for those just switching over from dairy. Soy milk is high in protein, vitamin D, B12, calcium, and iron.

    Oat milk

    Another great option for vegans who would like a latte every once in a while, oat milk will do the trick. Not as naturally nutritious as soy and many oat milk options need to be fortified with nutrients, but oat milk is highly sustainable and makes up for this by leaving a small ecological footprint.

      Coconut milk

      We mean the more natural kind, not the watery kind! Though both would be fine blended in a smoothie, we think the natural coconut milk which tends to be creamier than its carton-bound cousins would be a better latte option! Coconut milk has tons of antioxidants (like coffee!).

        Flax milk

        This plant-based milk is rich in omega 3’s and healthy fats. Not to mention it has tons of dietary fibre that can help with our body’s natural flow.

          Almond milk

          Soy milk’s rival when it comes to one of the first plant-based milk to come to mind, almond milk sports lots of vitamin E and is a vegan option. However, be aware that almond cultivation and almond milk processing require a great deal of water, so maybe choose almond milk on occasion.

            Sesame milk

            This plant-milk option is rich in protein, antioxidants, dietary fibre, and more. Sesame milk is a stupendous vegan milk alternative, especially for those who are fans of sesame seeds in some of their other myriad forms, too!


            Why vegan?

            Opting for vegan choices when we buy is a way that we can try to make the world a better, greener, and more sustainable place. Vegan and vegan-friendly options are kinder to animals, kinder to people, and kinder to the planet as a whole. As it turns out, unfortunately, some types of coffee, though technically vegan, do damage to the environment that is certainly not vegan or vegan-friendly. Deforestation that harms birds and other animals, the use of pesticides that harm both people and animals, the use of chemical fertilizers which can make surrounding communities and waterways sick and unclean, and an unfair labor system that works farmers to the bone yet hardly pays them a liveable wage.

            Vegan coffee addresses these issues to bring the world more conscious coffee. So if you are already vegan or are interested in adding some more vegan options to your diet and consumption habits, please peruse our catalog of superb vegan and vegan-friendly coffee choices here at Blue Goose Coffee which also includes Bird Friendly as well as Shade Grown coffees. 

            Bird Friendly coffee is one of the most rigorous certifications to attain and ensures coffee that helps bird habitats and migratory patterns. Shade Grown coffee mitigates deforestation and the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers by instead growing plants among other trees. We seek out specialty coffee that is organic and sourced from farms where the hard-working farmers are paid fair and liveable wages so they and their communities can flourish.

            Happy vegan brewing, the planet will thank you!