Organic Coffee: The Definitive Guide
Aug 05, 2022
What is organic coffee, how does a company become organically certified, and what are the benefits of organic coffee? Organic coffee drinkers are on the rise, and with good reason. As we gain access to more information, it becomes clear that what we put in our bodies and how we treat the environment matters. As a result, more and more coffee drinkers are beginning to drink exclusively organic coffee for health, environmental, and ethical reasons.
Is switching to organic coffee the right choice for you? It might be time to refocus your morning routine and reap the benefits of organic coffee options. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that your decision to start drinking a healthy coffee option can change the world.
What is the Difference Between Sustainable Coffee and Organic Coffee?
Sustainable and organic are similar enough that they are often considered interchangeable. For example, organic coffee is sustainable, but sustainable coffee does not always mean organic. Sustainable is an umbrella term that encompasses three coffee beans certifications. Sustainable coffee beans can meet one of these certifications or any combination of the three of them. Each certification outlines different benefits that create a healthier coffee bean.
Sustainable Coffee Certifications
- Bird Friendly (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center)
- Rainforest Alliance
Bird Friendly Coffee Beans
Buying certified Bird Friendly coffee contributes to preserving critical bird habitats and is the only official “shade-grown” certification. The Bird Friendly certification process was developed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. It is a pass or fail system for obtaining this certification. The environment either meets all the criteria, or it doesn't pass. Choosing a healthy coffee option that benefits wildlife is a win-win.
Requirements for Coffee Farmers to Obtain Bird Friendly Certification:
- Tree canopy of at least 12 meters
- Dominant tree species must be native
- Minimum 40% shade cover even after pruning
- Comprised of at least 10 woody species throughout the production area
- Must have at least two layers of strata or vegetation
- Must be certified organic coffee beans
Rainforest Alliance Coffee Beans
The Rainforest Alliance certification expands to many agricultural products, not just coffee beans. This certification goes beyond creating a healthy coffee option; it factors in the environment, ecological issues, fair treatment of workers, and community relations.
Certification can be awarded if farmers are working towards meeting the criteria standards. So, a product can be given the Rainforest Alliance certification but not have met the minimum requirement for all criteria. Less than 20% of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee beans are organic.
Fairtrade Coffee Beans
Fairtrade certified coffee beans are subjected to multiple audits throughout the supply chain process to verify that fair labor and sustainability practices are followed. Fairtrade certification aims to create a healthy coffee option based on respect, sustainability, and transparency. Fairtrade International is responsible for monitoring and awarding Fairtrade certification.
Fairtrade International is committed to protecting and advocating for the farmers and their working conditions. Generally speaking, better working conditions and workers treated humanely and with respect produce a better product. Fairtrade certification does not guarantee the benefit of organic certification, but some Fairtrade coffees meet both standards.
3 Categories for Receiving Fairtrade Certification:
Bonus: Separate standards for traders in the US that buy and sell Fairtrade products
What are Organic Coffee Beans?
For coffee beans to be certified organic, they must be produced according to the standards set forth by the National Organic Program. In addition, there are fees involved for both producers and buyers to become organically certified, ensuring healthy coffee beans from beginning to end.
The benefit of the organic certification includes an annual audit to ensure organic standards are continually met. A portion of the organic certification fees goes towards these audits. In addition, the organic certification uses a benchmark-oriented evaluation process.
Standards for Organically Certified Coffee Beans Include:
- No prohibited substances on farming land for at least three years, including synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers
- There must be a buffer between coffee plants and any other crops not grown organically
- Provide plans that outline methods to prevent soil erosion
Who is Responsible for Organic Coffee Bean Certification?
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the entity that provides organic certification to agricultural products sold in the US. The National Organic Program (NOP) under the USDA is federally regulated. It is responsible for verifying that products have followed the rigorous supply chain quality controls necessary for obtaining an official organic certification. When it comes to organic coffee beans, this certification process ensures it meets this strict criterion from tree to cup.
The Organic Seal, referred to as the “USDA Seal," is taken very seriously. A benefit of organic certification is companies that label products as organic but have not met the USDA organic standards can be fined for each violation. So, you can rest assured that when you're buying organic coffee beans with the USDA Seal from Coperaco they are not only high-quality coffee beans but harvested and processed with the utmost care.
Breaking Down the Categories Evaluated for Organic Certification:
- Pest Control
For coffees sold in the USA, the USDA requires land to be free of pesticides and chemicals for three years.
Must use non-synthetic fertilizers. The most popular fertilizer options are coffee pulp, manure, and compost.
Ample shade and bird-friendly environments are natural ways to keep pests away from healthy coffee plants. Organic coffee plants can benefit from organic pesticide options also. Organic pesticides come from plants.
The processing area for the coffee beans must be a certified organic facility. It cannot contain any synthetic residues on the equipment or the facility.
Organic coffee beans must be packaged in organic materials. If the packaging is not organic, the entire growing process becomes moot, and the coffee beans cannot be considered organic.
Organic coffee beans must be processed in a certified organic facility. If a roaster processes both organic and non-organic coffee beans, they must be kept entirely separate to avoid cross-contamination.
As you can see, the process of creating a certified organic coffee bean is not taken lightly. There are so many organic coffee benefits, which is why there are no shortcuts taken when it comes to creating certified organic coffee beans.
What are the Benefits of Organic Coffee?
- Better for your health
- Better for the planet
- Better working conditions for farmers
Does Organic Equal Healthy Coffee?
Non-organic coffee beans are treated with synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. To be awarded the USDA Seal, organic coffee beans cannot be treated with synthetic chemicals or fertilizers during the growing or production process. Organic coffee beans are grown using chemical-free fertilizers like coffee pulp and compost.
Another benefit of organic coffee is higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are an essential part of a healthy body and immune system. In addition, since harmful chemicals are not used during the growing process, organic coffee beans start out safer, healthier, and free from toxins and additives.
Top 5 Favorite Healthy Coffee Options:
- Alis Filter Coffee
- Maestrale Espresso Blend
- De’Longhi Signature Espresso Blend
- Zakarian Collection - Drip Coffee
- Colombian Supremo
The most beloved benefit of organic coffee and non-organic coffee alike is the caffeine boost! Between busy schedules, outside stressors, and daily commitments, getting the recommended amount of sleep can sometimes be challenging.
Caffeinated coffee not only tastes delicious, but it's ideal for the mornings when you didn't get enough hours in bed or when you start to doze off mid-afternoon. Making healthy coffee choices first thing in the morning sets your day on the right track for achieving all the benefits of organic coffee and your other goals.
You can also find healthy coffee options with all the benefits of organic coffee but without caffeine. While caffeine is necessary for many coffee drinkers, absorbing the benefits of organic coffee doesn’t require caffeine.
Organic and Healthy Coffee Options Without Caffeine
Are Organic Coffee Beans Better for the Environment?
Agricultural chemicals, together with deforestation and soil erosion, can destroy an environment and leave it uninhabitable to native plants and animals. Organic coffee farmers do not use synthetic fertilizers or chemicals, creating cleaner coffee beans as well as land, water, and air that are free from chemicals. Buying certified organic coffee beans is an easy and delicious way to contribute to the betterment of Mother Earth.
Organic coffee bean farmers use and develop renewable resources to grow their crops. A benefit of organic farming practices is that when organic materials for mulch are paired with plenty of canopy shade, the need for irrigation decreases, and water is conserved. Water and soil conservation works to create a healthier growing environment that does not rely on synthetic materials. A healthy growing environment leads to a healthy coffee bean.
A huge benefit of organic coffee farming is creating a healthier coffee bean. However, chemicals used in non-organic coffee beans will burn off during the roasting process. Though the benefits of organic coffee are widespread and far-reaching, they extend from soil to cup.
Organic Coffee Beans Equal Better Working Conditions for Farmers
Choosing organic coffee beans goes beyond drinking healthy coffee. A massive benefit of buying organic coffee is an understood commitment to improving working and growing conditions for those that grow coffee beans. Those that genuinely love coffee love those that make it possible.
The use of chemicals in farming coffee is hazardous for the environment but also for the workers that are exposed to the chemicals on a daily basis. The farmers that grow and cultivate coffee plants rely on that same land that produces coffee beans to provide for their families. Organic coffee farmers benefit from organic certification, improving their quality of life.
Suppose the land for growing coffee beans is full of chemicals. In that case, it can seep down to the lower elevations and nearby growing areas, causing damage to the natural resources these farmers and their families rely on to sustain themselves. Imagine the land we utilize for drinking water, growing plants, and kids to play on being full of synthetic chemicals that work their way into our everyday lives. Switching to organic healthy coffee beans is the best choice for your body and the environment.
Environmental Effects of Non-Organic Coffee Chemicals:
- Water pollution
- Loss of habitat for wildlife
- Soil erosion
- Land degradation
- Death of native plants and animals
The commitment to drinking healthy coffee has a lasting and positive impact on the coffee farmers that work so hard to provide fresh, high-quality coffee beans. Whatever your reason for joining the organic coffee movement, know that the benefits of organic coffee go far beyond yourself. There is truly no greater gift than giving to others in need.
In the age of social media and mass consumption of information, now more than ever, we can use our voices to speak up for those who don't have a voice. There are several ways we can use our voices to impact and create change to benefit the organic coffee farmers.
One way to force change is with our wallets. How and where we spend our money sends a message. For example, choosing to put our money towards organic coffee beans tells retailers, roasters, and producers that healthy coffee, safe working conditions, and the environment are worth paying for.
Organic Coffee Beans are Better for You and the World
Organic coffee beans free from toxic chemicals create a healthier coffee for the drinker and a safer environment for those harvesting the coffee beans. There are many organic coffee benefits, but a safer and healthier coffee experience from crop to cup is at the top of the list.
It's a big and crazy world out there, and sometimes it can feel like what you do doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. However, all significant change begins with one person deciding to stand up for what is right.
While you might not be able to fix every issue in our world right now, you can make a small change with a big impact in the comfort of your home. So, commit to buying organic coffee beans and take the first sip to affect positive change in an otherwise crazy world. The benefits of organic coffee are far-reaching, but it begins with one sip.