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Rivers flow through your coffee


Published: 08/04/2015

by Marcus Johnson

You can learn more about coffee, from bean to cup, at

Water is an essential part of coffee. Without it, the heavenly brown liquid would be a mound of dry grains sitting at the bottom of your cup. But do you know exactly how much water is in your coffee – not just the water in your cup, but the water that is used in the farming and processing of it?

The answer? A lot.

In fact, a river runs through your coffee and with it is also serious challenges to the lives of the people who live on its banks. With a better understanding though, you can help.

In Ethiopia, where water is precious, river water is used for wet milling coffee, which is one of the methods of extracting the bean from the coffee fruit. The mills share the river with local villagers who collect water from it every day to use in their homes. Women wash their family's clothes in the river and children play along its banks. The villagers' animals also drink from it.

But there is a problem. The wet milling process creates organic waste that flows back into the river. This can have a huge impact on the people living in the region, potentially causing illness in people and livestock.

Some industry members are taking the lead to make a difference however. Canadian company, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee has launched the Water Wise Coffee program to clean up waterways connected with the Sidama River of Ethiopia. The program's goal is to improve the entire Sidama region by 2020.

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