One trend of the past decade has been the rising demand for 100% organic products. Whether in beauty products, produce, meat, or even coffee there we have seen increased awareness and demand.
There are now a large number of brands selling certified organic coffee and most of us will find the label does hold some appeal. But what does it actually mean? What are the benefits of buying organic coffee? And what is the best organic coffee? We will cover these questions and more.
What Is Organic Coffee?
If you know much about coffee you will realise that it is often one of the most chemically processed products in the world. With the huge and growing demand for coffee, farming methods have been developed to maximise production. However, this has often been at the expense of the environment and the indigenous farmers. In order to aid coffee growth a huge quantity of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides are commonly used.
Organic coffee is coffee that is grown without the use of these synthetic chemicals.In order for coffee to be labelled as “organic” in the US at least 95% of the beans have to have been grown under organic conditions. Around the world there are different standards for what is accepted as organic. For the sake of simplicity we will be focusing on the USDA organic standards.
Why Buy Organic Coffee?
Before writing this article, when I thought of organic coffee I had some vague idea that organic coffee probably was healthier, tasted better and had less chemical residues. However I quickly realized that most of these ideas weren’t true.
Is Organic Coffee Healthier?
While there are health benefits to drinking coffee, these properties tend to be common to all coffee. Both conventional and organic coffee have vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system. They both have antioxidants which lower the risk of certain forms of cancer. They can improve brain function, and lower the risk of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So if you are drinking your coffee black, you will find you gain these health benefits no matter what coffee you are drinking.
Does Organic Coffee Taste Better?
Organic coffee doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality coffee. Organic coffee is typically shade grown, which literally means that the smaller coffee plants are planted under the shade of larger trees. The results of this is that it can be more human for the coffee farmers particularly in hotter climates, and also that the coffee cherries tend to ripen more slowly. This slow growth may intensify the flavors and result in a better tasting cup. However a lot of other factors contribute to the final taste including processing methods and roasting. The average person won’t taste any difference between conventional and organic coffee.
Does Organic Coffee Have Less Chemicals?
A lot of people who are into organic produce are concerned about the pesticide residues left on food products. However, these concerns are nullified by the fact that any chemicals used in the growing process are very unlikely to make it to the actual coffee bean. The coffee bean is covered by a thick cherry pulp, and the bean is then roasted at very high temperatures, so if there were any chemicals on the bean they would likely be burnt off.
So if organic coffee isn’t any healthier or doesn’t taste any better than conventional coffee why should you buy it?
The main benefits of organic coffee are that it is better for the environment and the farmers growing it.
Organic coffee is generally grown using a shade-grown method to provide natural pest protection. This means that natural environments are maintained. In comparision, conventional coffee is increasingly being grown in the sun. This results in forests being cut down, plants and trees destroyed, and animals and insects loosing their homes.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.Dr Zeuss
Benefits for Coffee Farmers
In many coffee growing countries highly toxic pesticides, that have been banned or restricted in the US, are still being used. The farmers and workers using these pesticides often have a lack of training and inadequate protective gear. This, in turn, means that the farmers and workers are being directly exposed to these toxins, which can cause cancers and infertility among other things. This can be devastating to the farmers and communities.
The Best Organic Coffee
Lifeboost Coffee -Light Roast
Lifeboost coffee is a premium organic coffee brand. Their coffee is a single origin coffee grown in the Nicaraguan Mountains. Lifeboost take great care when growing their coffee ensuring no pesticides, chemicals, GMOs or mycotoxins are present. All of their coffee is also fair trade certified ensuring the workers are getting paid and treated fairly.
The coffee itself has a mild, clean taste with no bitterness. It has hints of caramel and chocolate with a light, fruity flavor. Their coffee is naturally low in acid making it a gentle on the stomach. Lifeboost coffee is available in Light, Medium or Dark Roast. They also have several organic decaf coffee options and a whole heap of flavored options.
If you are after a high quality, fresh, organic coffee give Lifeboost a go – you won’t regret it!
Volcanica Coffee- Ethiopia Yiracheffe– Medium Roast
Volcanica Coffee is another high quality coffee brand that focuses on producing single origin coffees from around the world. They have over 120 different coffees in a range of single origin, peaberry, organic decaf coffee and flavored options. Amongst these they have a range of organically grown coffees. Our favorite is their Ethiopia Yiracheffe coffee, which is both organically grown and fair trade certified.
The Ethiopia Yiracheffe is a unique coffee in that the bulk of the crop is gathered from wild coffee trees, giving the coffee an exotic flavor. The coffee itself is a medium roast that has distinct floral and fruity notes with a sweet, complex flavor profile. It is available as whole beans or ground for drip, espresso or french press.
Death Wish Coffee– Dark Roast
As the name suggests, this is certainly not a blend of coffee for the fainthearted! Death Wish Coffee reportedly has at least twice as much caffeine than a normal coffee and is all about an incredibly strong shot of coffee which shares similarities with a punch in the face. Death Wish is a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans to achieve the high caffeine level.
These beans are dark roasted and oily which makes for a very strong almost burnt flavour with hints of chocolate which many customers absolutely love. Another great thing about this coffee is that it is entirely organic, fair trade, and even kosher. Death Wish small batch roasts their coffee to ensure the freshest cup of coffee possible. This is a great option for the coffee junkie wanting a strong, bold coffee.
Kicking Horse- Kick Ass (Dark Roast)
Kicking Horse is another great brand when it comes to Organic coffee. All of their coffee is Organic Certified and Fairtrade. The company is based out of Canada and has been named Canada’s #1 selling Organic Fairtrade coffee brand for 13 years in a row.
Their Kick Ass coffee is one of the signature roasts. It is a dark roasted coffee made from 100% certified organic Arabica beans sourced from Indonesia and South America. The coffee has a smoky taste with hints of chocolate and vanilla. This bold, dark roasted coffee blend really expresses Kicking Horse’s motto to “wake up and kick ass.”
Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic Coffee– Light Roast
Don Pablo is a family owned business based out of Colombia. Their coffee is sourced from South and Central America. They only use 100% Organic Arabica Beans that are shade grown at high altitudes.
Their light roasted coffee has a smooth, bright profile with hints of caramel, honey and cocoa. It is made with 100% certified organic Arabica beans. Don Pablo roasts their beans in small batches and to order to ensure freshness.
Cameron’s Coffee Organic French Roast– Dark Roast
Cameron’s coffee have a selection of organic blends of coffee. Their organic coffee is farmed using natural pest management and fertilization. They are sustainably sourced with a focus on reducing water consumption. They use only 100% specialty-grade Arabica beans.
Their French Roast is one of their most popular coffees. It is a dark roasted coffee with a rich, smooth flavor. The beans are roasted in small batches to ensure quality and consistency.
Tiny Footprint Coffee- Organic Cold Brew -Medium Roast
Tiny Footprint is a unique company that has created the world’s first carbon negative coffee. For every pound of coffee sold the company donates a portion of the proceeds to Ecuador’s Mindo Cloud Forest to help restore the habitat.
Their organic cold brew coffee is made with 100% organic shade-grown Arabica coffee. The coffee is sourced from Ethiopia and blended perfectly for cold brew. The coffee has a sweet, rich flavor profile with fruity and floral notes. If you are after a refreshing cup of cold brew for those hot summer months Tiny Footprint is the way to go.
Jo Organic Decaf Coffee– Medium Dark Roast
Jo Coffee is Certified organic coffee the Fair trade. They use the swiss water method to decaffeinate their coffee in a gentle, chemical free process. Jo coffee has a passion for crafting high quality decaf coffee. Their philosophy is that what you take out is just as important as what you leave in.
Their no fun no decaf blend has a full body with sweet notes of blueberry and chocolate. They use specialty grade organic Arabica beans.
How is Organic Coffee Produced?
Coffee beans that are grown under the USDA organic standards must be grown in land that has been chemical free for at least 3 years. This is to ensure that there are no chemical residues left to contaminate the soil. The coffee must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, or without the use of GMOs.
Producing coffee this way is not easy. Farmers have to use traditional farming methods which results in higher costs of production and manual labor. In addition to this their is often a large reduction in the coffee yielded.
Pest & Disease Control
When it comes to pest control farmers often decide to use shade grown methods which naturally aid in discouraging crop destroying pests. The focus is on the prevention of pests and diseases. This is achieved by maintaining proper shade, having good drainage and healthy soil and setting traps. If there is a serious disease outbreak such as coffee leaf rust the farmer may have to choose between losing their entire crop or spraying a chemical and losing their certification.
Maintaining Soil Health
Farmers use natural fertilizers such as chicken manure, coffee pulp and compost to provide the nutrients in the soil the coffee plants need. Often producing or acquiring the large volumes of fertilizer required is a huge task that is not easy.
Finally once the coffee is ripe it is picked by hand. Overall a lot more work is required to grow coffee organically. From hand weeding to pruning of shade trees to pest management to producing large volumes of fertilizer.
Organic coffee is either processed using wet or dry processing methods.
Dry Processing is the oldest method of processing coffee. The entire cherry is cleaned and then placed in the sun to dry on large concrete patios. The cherries are raked or turned by hand to ensure even drying. The fruit or pulp is removed after drying. Dry processed coffee has a full body and fruity flavors.
Wet processing is where the fruit or pulp is removed from the cherry before it is dried. This process requires the use of specific equipment and large quantities of water. The pulp is generally removed by a machine and then the beans are left to ferment in tanks for around 18-24 hours. The final stage is drying. Wet processed coffee generally has a cleaner taste with bright acidity, however it does lose some of its body. Whether or not a coffee co-op chooses the wet processing can often be in large part determined by the availability and promiximity to reliable water sources.
Green coffee beans are then shipped to roasters around the world. In order for a coffee to be labelled as certified organic, the beans have to be roasted in a roaster that hasn’t been used to roast anything other than organic coffee beans. This is to ensure there is no cross contamination.
To get the coveted Certified Organic label on your coffee, 95% of the beans used in the coffee have to have been grown, processed and roasted organically.
Why would a farmer grow organic coffee beans?
As you can see, growing coffee organically is not easy. There are increased production and labor costs and usually a lower yield of coffee. In addition to this, it is time consuming and costly for a farm to become organic certified. The farm needs to go through a conversion- a three year period where they use no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers before it can be certified. The farmer then has to pay annual certification fees and for the cost of the inspection including travel and accommodation for the auditors.
Achieving organic certification is an enormous accomplishment, especially in developing countries. So why would a farmer go to all this effort?
The 2 main reasons are for commercial and environmental reasons. A farmer can sell organically grown coffee at a premium price. Growing coffee organically also means the farmer and workers are not exposed to harmful toxins and the local flora and fauna are protected.
USDA Organic Standards Summary
There is no single international set of standards for organic coffee, instead it is down to each country and the governing body to set these. In order to sell organic coffee beans in the US you have to be certified (unless you are selling less than $5000 a year). Here is an outline of the USDA organic standards:
The Final Verdict- Is Organic coffee worth buying?
We hope this article has opened your eyes to see the value of organic coffee and what a huge accomplishment it is for a farm to achieve organic certification. Organic certification is a commitment to sustainability that deserves to be rewarded with our support. If you are looking for the best organic coffee we highly recommend Lifeboost coffee. It is a high quality, fresh, organic coffee available in all different roast levels and flavors.
How is organic coffee decaffeinated?
The most common method used to decaffeinate organic coffee is the swiss water process. This method basically uses the solubility of caffeine in water (ability to dissolve) and osmosis to remove caffeine out of the green bean. It reduces caffeine levels by up to 99%. In this method only water is used. Most of the other processes use chemicals to remove caffeine which is not acceptable when it comes to organic coffee.
Where does Organic Coffee come from?
According to the center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education in Costa Rica, 75% of the world’s organic coffee comes from Latin America, with Peru being the main exporter. The remaining 25% comes from African and Asian countries.