What is Organic Coffee

what is organic coffee

Organic Coffee should nourish its surrounding ecology and should not be harvested to the detriment of its environment.

Although there are multiple certifications for organic coffee as well as slight variations per certification, the above guideline encapsulates the principal. 

Popular organic coffee labels and rules

There are many certifications across the world to help identify organically produced coffee. The government overviews the certifications in North America. The misuse of these labels is illegal. 

Canadian Coffee companies may acquire the Canada Organic label by being evaluated by a CFIA (Canadian Food Industry Agency) approved third-party. You can find a list of accreditors here.

canada organic

USA roasters may also acquire their own label through certification. It's called USDA Organic (USDA = United States Department of Agriculture).

usda organic

In 2009, the Canada and the US signed an agreement to state an organic equivalency, meaning that a product certified Canada Organic can be sold in the USA with the label USDA and vice versa.

To obtain one of these certifications, the requesters must follow a set of requirements that stretch from growing the coffee to storing it. More specifically:

  • Restriction and prohibitions of pesticides.
  • Seeds are not genetically modified (No GMOs).
  • Organic fertilizer only (often key to enriching the soil).
  • There’s a restricted use of chemicals.
  • No sewage sludge.
  • The farmland has been free of chemical inputs for several years.
  • A minimal distance between organic and non-organic crops is needed.
  • No artificial sweetener or preservatives added.
  • And more.

Finally, to be certified organic, the final product must consist of least 95% of organic ingredients.

What are the benefits of organic coffee?

There are many reports on how the chemicals and pesticides used to grow food are reaching us and affecting our health. However, it's impossible to confirm a true correlation between non-organic coffee and negative health concerns with the currently available research. 

The same goes for taste. There's no documented correlation between better taste and organic coffee.

But the benefits of organic coffee are much larger than our consumption benefits. For one, they can greatly impact the health of the farmers. There is no ambiguity in the health impacts that spraying pesticides can have on a farmer. And it’s not good. 

These restrictions don’t only impact one producer but a whole community and region. Although precautions are taken, chemicals from one farm regularly leak out into neighboring farms and villages, either through the wind, contaminated water channels and even animals.

As for restricting the use of GMOs, this encourages a wider variety of crops and biodiversity to keep the farm's soil healthy. This is good for wildlife and also keeps the farmer's land more resilient to viruses

Is Fair Trade Coffee organic?

Fair Trade coffee does not have to be organic to be considered Fair Trade. However, Fair Trade will offer a price incentive for all Fair Trade farmers to grow organically, which many do.

Is non-organic certified coffee bad? 

The first thing to know is that using an Organic Coffee Certification is voluntary. That means that a coffee producer might be certified organic but might also choose not to use one of the aforementioned labels. 

Also, getting certified organic is costly for the farmers, importers/exporters and the roasters. In most cases, it’s only accessible to farms working with larger co-ops. This leaves many farmers without access to the certification. It does not mean their coffee should be ignored (or that it isn't grown following organic principals).

Finally, many specialty micro lots are already receiving above the Fair Trade Organic price for their coffee. In this case, even if they’re growing organic coffee, there is no incentive to pay more money to receive extra accreditation because getting certified will not increase their revenues. 

Learn more about sustainable coffee practices by visiting our page on Direct Trade vs Fair Trade and Sustainable Coffee Certifications.











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