Organic coffee is grown under minimum conditions that guarantee respect for the environment. An organic product is grown naturally, without adding chemicals or pesticides.
Organic coffee must comply with the following requirements:
- It must be grown naturally, without adding chemicals or pesticides.
- It is also grown in the shade of larger trees, keeping the rainforest intact so other trees and animals can live.
- All coffee processing is done sustainably, both in the production areas and in the other techniques used to process the coffee to get it to your cup.
- Coffee harvesting is manual and selective, which is also the first step to obtaining quality coffee.
- The harvesting and other tasks are carried out by local labour and the indigenous communities in the production areas.
- Much of the production must be done in cooperatives of small producers for marketing.
- Pests are controlled without the use of pesticides or industrial chemicals.
Is it called organic coffee, ecological coffee, biological coffee or sustainable coffee?
In most producing countries, this type of coffee is known as organic coffee. However, many other receiving countries label it as eco, bio or sustainable coffee.
The authority that regulates this type of product prefers the denomination organic. But many brands use the terms “eco”, “bio”, or “sustainable” for marketing purposes. Still, other times, the brands try to pass off non-organic coffee as organic.
However, to label organic coffee in any other way is to violate the legislation or to try to deceive the consumer.
How do we know that the coffee we buy is certified organic coffee?
Each country or region has a different symbol to identify those coffees that fall within the organic denomination. Here are the ones for Europe and US:
- In Europe, all organic products are marked with a green background and a leaf of white stars logo.
- The USDA Organic stamp guarantees that this coffee has been planted, developed and harvested according to US standards.
So when looking for organic coffee, look for these stamps. Without these stamps, you are not buying certified and guaranteed organic coffee, no matter how many words “bio”, “eco”, or sustainable they have.
The official stamps symbolise a guarantee of quality; they are an added value and the main certainty that the coffee meets the criteria of organic production.
What is the difference between organic and conventional coffee?
As I said, organic coffee is coffee that has been cultivated without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. In addition, the production process must guarantee the sustainability and conservation of natural resources.
The cultivation of organic coffee must be grown under regulated shade (in the shade of other trees, maintaining the rainforest)
This is one of the most important characteristics when growing organic coffee if good quality products are to be obtained. Since no chemical fertilisers are added in organic coffee cultivation, the plants only rely on the naturally available nutrients in the soil.
The presence of other taller trees in coffee crops helps to achieve a balance in which the nutrient cycle works similarly in a natural forest ecosystem. This allows the coffee plants to obtain the nutrients they need for growth and development from the soil.
On the other hand, shade cultivation prevents deforestation and increases biodiversity, contributing to the fight against climate change.
➡️ Shade trees provide other ecological benefits necessary for organic coffee production:
- They regulate environmental humidity and create a more stable microclimate inside the crop.
- They help regulate the hydrological cycle.
- They promote the recycling of nutrients by extracting nutrients from the deeper layers of the subsoil with their roots and returning them to the surface as leaf litter.
- The decomposing leaf litter is converted into nutrients available for the coffee plants.
- Leguminous tree species provide the coffee crop with an additional source of nitrogen, thanks to the action of nitrifying bacteria that symbiosis with their roots.
- Shade cultivation also helps to regulate weed growth.
➡️ Only organic fertilisers can be applied:
- Pest and disease control should be done by applying bio-inputs.
- The preparation of fertilisers and bio-inputs on the farm is labour-intensive.
- Bio-inputs must be certified for organic agriculture, are commercially available and are much more expensive than industrial agrochemicals.
- Weed control has to be done by hand, machete or scythe, which increases the labour required to achieve the coffee. The use of chemical herbicides is not allowed.
75% of the world’s organic coffee comes from Latin America: Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico are the main producers.
In many cases, these are poor regions where this coffee production helps locals progress socially and economically.
Why choose certified organic coffee?
It is a high-quality coffee harvested by hand in shaded plantations, without machines of any kind, and which is given special care from harvesting to roasting.
1. The high quality
It is a coffee that is treated with great care, with manual harvesting processes that result in a high-quality product.
2. Good for your health
Organic farming results in healthier products with higher nutritional quality, as their production is very careful, avoiding pesticides and chemicals that may appear in the final product.
In organic coffee, it has been demonstrated that contains more antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
3. Contributes to the care of the environment
It promotes the rational use of natural resources, thus helping the development of the rural areas where it is grown.
Among the advantages of this type of cultivation, it is worth mentioning that it protects the soil from chemical contamination, contributes to regulating the rainy season by not deforesting tropical forests, and protects hydrological basins by avoiding the contamination of aquifers.
4. development of the regions of origin
Organic coffee production contributes to the sustainable development of the environment.
It promotes fair trade, the work of indigenous people, and the association in cooperatives of small producers, which is an element of dynamisation and wealth in disadvantaged rural areas that would find it difficult to survive without their coffee crops.
Organic crops improve farmers’ living conditions, which translates into a sustainable system, both environmentally, socially and economically.
Is there such a thing as decaffeinated organic coffee?
The answer is yes. This format is designed for those who love the taste of coffee but are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Normally, coffee beans of the Arabica variety are used because of their low caffeine content.
Green, unroasted coffee beans are extracted using solvents that can be water through osmosis and CO2 using high pressures and temperatures. None of the methods using chemical solvents is authorised for producing organic coffee.
For this reason, I recommend acquiring decaffeinated organic coffee with water if you want my advice; better in beans; although there are organic pre-ground coffees, in all of them, no chemical products are used.
When you buy a certified organic coffee, it is because you are willing to pay a higher price to:
- Obtain a product guaranteed as 100% organic, free of agrochemicals.
- To be assured that labour rights have been respected in its production.
- Know that the coffee production process has been environmentally sustainable.
- To support organic coffee producers so they can assume production costs and obtain a fair price for their product.