In South India it’s filter coffee (or in the local dialect pilter kaapi). In North India it’s chai. It’s grown here, it’s fresh (especially from Coorg!) and it’s delicious. The way everyone used to drink these beverages was pure Zero Waste. Today, people have succumbed to the Western method of using tea bags. And it seems, too, that in various coffee shops that folks flock to today people drink their fancy beverages out of plastic cups with straws (if cold) and out of mixed paper-plastic cups if hot.
My family used to drink coffee and tea without any bags or paper filters until Western multinational corporations flooded the market in the 1990s and messed everything up. Then they began buying tea in teabags from companies like Lipton, which doesn’t even make very tasty tea. As far as I know, because filter coffee is such a delicacy here (which requires a stainless steel coffee drip contraption, somewhat like a French press), people don’t seem to use the abominable one-cup coffee pods that Americans seem to adore. (Hamburg, Germany recently banned them.) Finally, I am happy that my husband finished his finally bag of tea and he has transitioned to loose-leaf tea from Coorg. So our daily rituals of tea and coffee drinking are as waste free as you can get. And the tea leaves and coffee grinds make excellent soil for our composting!
My friends at the fabulous Rainforest Retreat in Coorg make excellent organic coffee (including civet coffee) and green tea (although it is packaged in plastic). It would be great if people could shift to packaging coffee and tea in these paper cups that are embedded with seeds like the coffee cup pictured above. I’m so enamoured with this idea and have only found one place in India–Help Us Green–that uses such packaging, but they put incense in theirs.
On a side note, for those who drink coffee it’s worth watching this film Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, which addresses the problem of the global coffee market and how people, like those who work the coffee plantations in Ethiopia, are exploited as a result of the same MNCs that brought you these coffee pods (it’s $10 to download on Vimeo).