Ethical Coffee In NYC
For many people, the only thing that will get them going in the morning is a cup of coffee. Knowing that the coffee is ethically sourced and eco-friendly should give drinkers an added boost. Drinking Fair Trade and organic coffee means that farmers are compensated fairly and your coffee is free of harmful chemicals, and bird-friendly certification ensures that farmers are maintaining forest covers which house local bird species, provide shelter for migrating birds, and encourage reproduction. In order to obtain bird-friendly certification, farmers must maintain a variety of shade trees throughout their plantation, which protect water sources for the community, sequester carbon, and provide a suitable habitat for migratory birds. There are plenty of coffee shops in NYC that source their coffee ethically, but some go a step further to reduce the environmental impact of the shop itself by building with recycled materials, sourcing their food menu locally, and composting to drastically reduce waste production. Here are NYC’s best eco-friendly coffee shops:
21 East 27th Street
Other locations: West Village, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Murray Hill, Long Island City, Financial District
Birch Coffee’s Flatiron location became the first independently owned coffee shop in New York City to obtain LEED Certification in 2009. Their bird-friendly, fair-trade coffee is roasted in small batches to ensure the best possible flavor, and organic sandwiches, salads, and pastries are available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Birch Coffee composts and recycles their waste whenever possible, the countertops and furniture are made from recycled and repurposed materials, and they run a “take one, leave one” library out of their shop to create a sense of community.
228 Mott Street
Other locations: Williamsburg (North), Williamsburg (South)
Gimme! Coffee uses a transparent trading model called Relationship Coffee, where they work closely with growers who are committed to improving their local communities. In December 2012, Gimme! Coffee began selling a special “Fracktivist” Blend and donating a portion of the proceeds to agencies committed to banning hydraulic fracking in the Finger Lakes region. Their efforts contributed to Governor Cuomo banning fracking in 2014. You can enjoy a cup of coffee at Gimme! Coffee’s shop, take some to go in a modified canning jar with a BPA-free lid, or buy some beans to grind and brew at home.
37-18 Northern Boulevard
Long Island City, Queens
Other locations: Bryant Park, Chelsea, Times Square, Randall’s Island, Financial District, K-Town, West Village, Staten Island
COFFEED is committed to local sourcing – they roast their own coffee, do their own baking and juicing, and source their food from the Brooklyn Grange farm on the roof of the Long Island City flagship location. They compost all of their coffee grinds and food waste, which fertilizes the regrowth of their produce. COFFEED buys directly from farmers, ensuring they are paid fairly while keeping prices as low as possible. COFFEED also donates 3-10% of their revenue to local charitable partners, with almost $240,000 donated so far.
Blue Bottle Coffee
85 Dean Street
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
Other locations: Greenpoint, Bryant Park, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, High Line, Rockefeller Center
Blue Bottle roasteries are CCOF certified organic, which means they meet federal standards for organic food production including the use of additives, among other factors. Over 85% of the coffee they buy is Certified Organic, with certifications clearly listed in the online shop and on the (compostable) bags the coffee comes in. Some of Blue Bottle’s coffee is Fair Trade Certified, and when it’s not, it comes from producers who are working toward certification or who meet the standards for certification.
248 Mercer Street
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Other Locations: Flatiron, Bowery, Meatpacking, Hudson Yards, Silver Towers, Union Square
Think forms personal relationships with the farmers who grow their coffee, collaborating with them to address social, political, and environmental obstacles in their local communities. Their farmers have access to health care and education, and are paid well above average incomes in their communities. In the past they have worked to reduce school dropout rates, assisted with feminine hygiene initiatives, and helped farmers buy much-needed equipment. Think never buys coffee that has been grown with pesticides, and their single-source coffee rotates throughout the year based on availability and quality.
482 Avenue of the Americas
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Everything from the paint on O Cafe’s walls to the utensils available in the shop is made from eco-friendly material. The walls are painted with 0-VOC paint and made from reclaimed wood. The store produces 90% compost, 3% waste, and recycles the rest. Both the coffee and the consumption ware comes from suppliers that practice fair labor standards and all of their coffee can be ordered as single origin. Their food menu includes a mix of American pastries and South American specialties, all made from ingredients supplied by the Finger Lakes region.
If you prefer to brew your coffee at home, stores like Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, and The Brooklyn Kitchen sell Fair Trade and organic brands, and the Red Hook Natural Foods in Brooklyn is one of the few spots I’ve found that sells bird-friendly coffee. Whether you’re just starting off your morning or looking for an afternoon pick-me-up, you have plenty of options for green and ethical coffee in NYC.