WatchHouse x Oatly - Celebrating 1 year surcharge free.
Free Coffee Day.
Monday 14th March 2022.
It’s been little over a year now since we made the decision to drop the surcharge for Oatly in our Houses, something we’re really proud to have achieved. It was our aim to make the choice between cow milk and plant based alternatives accessible to all our customers by removing the barrier of an extra charge. So whatever reason you make a plant-based choice we can support conscious consumerism while serving the coffee we love.
A big part of dropping the surcharge was about being more mindful of the environment, and how our day to day decisions have an impact on climate change. The climate crisis touches every single aspect of our lives and in recent years, there’s been a worrying acceleration in the impact facing the coffee industry. The product that we are so deeply passionate about is at risk, as well as the many people at origin of whom coffee is their livelihood, access to education, economic security; often rooted in the history of their families and communities.
How is climate change impacting coffee?
All of us can agree that we’re seeing more unpredictable patterns of weather here in the UK, but this is especially problematic for coffee producing regions. Coffee needs consistent and particular conditions to flourish, like distinct dry and rainy seasons. Global warming is destabilising these weather patterns, which leads to a whole host of issues for coffee plants including uneven cherry maturation and extended harvests. This causes a real struggle for farmers trying to maximise their crop yield; leaving them financially vulnerable, we will start to see farmers having to consider stopping growing entirely to try their luck with a more hardy crop. Unpredictable weather also guarantees natural disaster, devastating the lives and infrastructure of communities, and unnaturally extreme conditions such as last year's intensive frost across Brazil, which ruined huge percentages of the country’s crop.
Impact on workforces.
Coffee harvesting is a significantly labour-intensive process that relies on migrant workers, many of whom will spend seasons moving around from country to country to work. Unpredictable weather, natural disaster and the impact on crop will have huge limitations on worker's opportunities, inserting a block in the line of production. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 21.5 million people a year become climate change refugees, forced to relocate due to the negative impact of global warming.
Changing producing regions.
The Coffee Belt, where coffee has historically grown, is the name given to the part of the world that can provide the right climate for coffee to thrive; between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn stretching 25 to 30 degrees on either side of the equator. This area of the globe provides specific conditions, mild temperatures with warmer days and cooler nights, distinct seasons and humidity, as well as the high elevation of mountainous landscapes required for high quality specialty Arabica.
Global warming is having a dual impact that jeopardises these regions. As temperatures rise and weather patterns become unpredictable, suitable producing land within the coffee belt will start to disappear. According to the 2018 World Coffee Research annual report, 47% of global coffee production comes from countries that could lose over 60% of suitable land by 2050. There is also the factor that suitable land and conditions for coffee will shift out of the traditional location. There is no guarantee that these new areas will prove successful for growing coffee and it will take significant time and investment to find out; leaving new coffee growing communities extremely vulnerable and devastating communities in traditional regions whose infrastructure and financial security relies on coffee.
So what has milk got to do with it?
For each of us as individuals, making small sustainable changes in our daily routines can add up to bigger impact. Cow's milk is responsible for the majority of the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee. A 2019 study by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland estimates that 73% of the CO2e in an 8oz coffee can be attributed to cow's milk. So while not everyone can, or would want to switch to a plant based alternative, we dropped the charge in all our locations to encourage you to add it into your routine.
Tips for a more sustainable cup.
Try Oatly. Oatly Barista Edition is our mylk of choice; a litre of Oatly has one of the lowest carbon emissions of any mylk on the market and we especially love the upmost level of transparency they offer as a supplier. Importantly to us it tastes great, textures wonderfully and still allows the full flavour of our coffee to shine through.
Look for more sustainable dairy options. More and more dairy farms across the UK are making moves to compensate against the environmental impact of livestock, and choosing dairy products from independent farms rather than large scale industrial is an instant win. Our dairy supplier The Estate Dairy work with Bickfield Farm, who have committed to planting numerous acres of diverse crop to naturally improve livestock health and soil fertility.
Go for black coffee. We’re a little biased here, but exploring black filter or espresso is not only a great way of making your daily cup more sustainable, but will take you on a new coffee journey if you usually enjoy a milk based drink. Our baristas are more than happy to talk you through our coffee offering in store; we will always have a range of profiles available and serve all coffees with a story of its origin and tasting notes.
To find out more about our efforts to be a more sustainable business, check out this run down of just some of the practices we've implemented across our Houses.
- ‘How Is Climate Change Impacting Coffee?’ Sprudge. Zac Cadwalader July 15, 2021.
- ‘Milk Matters: Small changes can dramatically lower your coffee’s carbon footprint’ United Baristas. December 17, 2019.
- If you wanted to find out more about Oatly’s approach to sustainability, check out their Sustainability report 2020 here.