Organic coffee is a coffee production practice. Organic coffee is grown on farms that don’t use chemical inputs. To market a coffee as certified organic, a farm must be inspected to receive certification. At each step in the processing chain, inspectors track the coffee beans as they move from source to cup. To protect the integrity of the process, the coffee must be sold through certified importers and roasters. These certification processes help protect consumers as well, guaranteeing the products they buy are genuine.
As the world market gets flooded with inexpensive, low-quality coffee from places like Vietnam and Brazil, traditional coffee farmers — who produce much smaller crops — can’t compete and are often left to abandon their farms or convert their fields into full-sun coffee plantations. Due to this recent “coffee crisis,” half of the region’s traditional coffee farms have been converted to full-sun plantations.
For hundreds of years, coffee plants were grown using organic practices: inter-planting coffee with shade trees, composting, and eliminating harmful chemicals. These traditional, “sustainable” plantations often yield the best tasting variety of coffee, according to industry experts. So why aren’t all coffee beans grown this way? Because farmers can produce more beans more cheaply in “full sun” fields. Unfortunately, those fields carry a hefty environmental price.
It is important to support organic coffee cooperatives that are avoiding pesticide use and keeping a variety of trees, thus providing a much-needed stopover for migratory birds.