Fair trade, organic, recyclable and biodegradable – that's the promise of Oxfam's new range of Fairtrade coffee capsules, which hit the shelves on September 29 to coincide with International Coffee Day.
Oxfam's Julia Sumner says the Nespresso-compatible capsules contain blends of organically produced coffee sourced from Fairtrade co-operatives in six coffee-growing countries.
"Oxfam has been working hard to develop a range of capsules that are not only Fairtrade certified and organic, but also reduce the environmental and waste impacts often associated with capsules," she says.
Sumner says that Oxfam's extensive research has convinced them that the Fairtrade scheme is the best way to improve the lot of small coffee farmers. She cites the suppliers of the Peruvian coffee used in the capsules – Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Valle Rio Apurimac – as an example.
The cooperative runs a number of projects using money from the Fairtrade premiums paid for their coffee: 55 per cent is invested in programs that support and improve the organic cultivation of coffee by their members, while other funds go to programs that promote the participation and recognition of women in the co-op.
The Ethiopian coffee in the capsules comes from the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-op Union, which has been able to build schools, kindergartens and clinics with money from the Fairtrade premiums.
The coffee is roasted by Melbourne specialty roaster Veneziano. The capsules – which cost $6.95 for a pack of 10 – come in three blends.
The #05 is a medium roast of a blend of coffees from Peru, Honduras and Indonesia. It's fairly toasty, with a distinct Fairtrade/organic earthiness in the cup.
The #10, a darker roast, contains coffees from Peru, Honduras and Ethiopia that make it a little sweeter and more chocolatey, while the #12 – Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Peru – brews a classic dark espresso-style cup with hints of toasted nut.
To recycle you need to remove the aluminium foil cap and empty out the spent grounds – a bit of a fiddle, and you probable won't recover enough aluminium from the seal to make recycling that bit worthwhile. But once you clear the grounds from the capsule the plastic (polypropylene with a number 6 label) can go straight into the recycling bin.
The capsules are also biodegradable, says Sumner: "Even if they aren't recycled they will naturally break down in landfill."