The (Coffee) Pod People Are Taking Over Europe

In Turin. Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Britain was never known for its coffee. It is no surprise that Nespresso and other coffee pods caught on there. But Italy? The home of Gaggia and Faema and Bialetti? Impossible.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY-NC 2.0

But everywhere I went, I saw pod coffee machines, fancy Illy machines being sold on Victor Emmanuelle in Milan . George Clooney was peddling Nespresso in a beautiful store on the main square in Turin. At one coffee break I attended, two attendants worked a Lavassa machine, cachunk, cachunck, turning out little cups of espresso one after another, emptying the machine every few minutes to make more room for little bits of plastic waste filled with coffee.

Inside a Nespresso store/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Coffee is an important ritual in Italy, with prescribed rules. You only have cappucino at breakfast; it is unheard of any other time. You don't take a big cup of coffee away in a paper cup; you knock back a tiny ceramic cup of espresso standing at the bar. That is the Express in espresso. They take it seriously.

Inside an Illy Store, Milan/CC BY 2.0

But the pod people are determined to change this. They open gorgeous showrooms that were seriously crowded. They take back used pods and pretend to "recycle" them, as if transporting used pods across the country to try and take them apart makes any kind of economic sense compared to no plastic and foil at all.

People laugh at me for paying close to twenty bucks a pound to have my fair trade organic shade grown bird friendly coffee delivered in returnable mason jars by cargo bike. But the pod people are selling coffee for between thirty and fifty bucks a pound, telling us to use this bit of plastic and foil for all of three seconds and then throw it away. Who is the greater fool here?

The reality remains, it is design for unsustainability. I rant on about it because it represents everything we should be moving away from. And it appears that I am ranting against the wind.

Tags: Coffee | Italy

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