With so many food items moving to organic status is it any surprise to see coffee doing the same? Organics is big business. No matter how "right" it is for our food to receive as little processing as possible, there will always be a price tag attached for good health. Don't take that to be an anti-establishment statement. The fact is that organic foods require way more attention than processed foods and that means higher prices to compensate. It's just a fact. But how much processing actually goes into non-organic coffee? What is the difference between organic bean gourmet coffee and non-organic beans?
Non-organic beans are often treated with artificial pesticides and chemically treated fertilizer. Chemical pesticides may reduce the damage caused by insects but they are absorbed by the soil and ground water and the coffee plant itself.
The most chemically treated food in the world is coffee.
But don't let that fact throw you too much. Coffee is also the second most traded commodity (oil being the first), so the two go hand in hand.
Fertilizer is often infused with chemicals that promote growth in plants, yet it can decimate natural organisms that promote balance in soil nutrients. Over time these treatments can create an unbalanced soil and leave plants near void of nutritional value.
So why produce non-organic coffee? It's fast. Corporations manage acres of sun blasted fields. Sunlight causes coffee to overproduce which means less flavorful coffee but more company profit. (okay, so there's my anti-establishment statement.)
Organic coffee beans are produced in an earth-friendly, sustainable manner, typically under shade in smaller fields to capture the most flavor and aromatics from the beans. They are produced without the use of artificial pesticides or chemical fertilizers, which leaves a zero carbon footprint on the environment.
Truly organic coffee must be certified. A product might be labeled organic, but it is not necessarily true without the certification. In the US, that certification comes from the USDA. There is a rigorous certification process in place.
Is Organic Coffee The Same Thing As Fair Trade Coffee?
No. Fair Trade coffee can be organic but being labeled Fair Trade only means the producers followed specific guidelines that qualify them for higher profits. Though both types of growing and cultivating processes are aimed at creating a healthier world, one does this primarily through what goes into the coffee (organic) production and the other focuses on social justice issues like fair wages and treatment of workers.
Often, there are collectives for Fair Trade and there are quite a few collaborations between fair trade growers and organic growers packaging organic fair trade coffee. These coffees will have labels identifying them as such.
Differences in Growing Practices Between Organic Bean Coffee and Conventional Beans
Organic coffee beans grow with a different set of practices and operations than conventional ones. Some plantations producing organic beans have to meet certain requirements. Such as, if a plantation was not previously organic and had used chemicals prior, there must be a three-year waiting period before it can receive organic certification.
Additionally, if both organic and conventional methods are being used, there must be a distinct separation between the two growth areas. Just growing organic beans is not enough to receive the credential. The operation must also run with the purpose of sustainability through practices like composting, recycling and other Eco-friendly practices.
The Benefits of Buying Organic Whole Bean Coffee
Buying organic gourmet coffee beans plays a role in improving health, in being earth-friendly and in being socially responsible. There are many toxins released on conventional plantations that find their way into ground water leading to the earth's streams, rivers and oceans and into the air through evaporation. Conventional beans may also introduce toxins from pesticides into your body.
Encouraging organic bean farms is ecologically sound as it promotes migratory bird species necessary for pest control in coffee fields. A healthy bird population enables farmers to rely less on pesticides. This is a real issue as there has been some information suggesting that babies are exposed to toxins in utero.
As more than two thirds of the coffee in the world is grown in South America, depleting forests in the region make environmentally safe farming more difficult as there are fewer shade trees. With the lack of shade, farmers rely more on pesticides and fertilizers to produce coffee beans, so you can see it's a vicious circle.
Nonetheless, organic coffee is out there. It's becoming more and more accessible. The following is a small list of companies producing organic bean gourmet coffee:
- Higher Grounds Trading Company
- Outland Java Company
- Chiapas Farms
- and Equator Coffees and Teas
Higher Grounds Trading Company focuses primarily on supporting Indigenous farming communities that keep a close eye on the product from harvest to export.
The specialties of the Outland Java Company are organic, fair trade and wholesale beans.
Chiapas Farms is another organic grower that works on social justice issues as well through its dedication to fair trade, farmer education and aiding independent growers in creating success for themselves.
Equator Coffees and Teas is a woman-owned organic coffee company.
You should feel comfortable purchasing from any of these companies and I invite you to do so.