There is hype around buying organic produce in an effort to improve health and positively impact the environment. But what does it mean in the world of coffee? Are you making the right choice by going organic?
Coffee is the world’s most-produced consumable product and the industry employs and impacts a massive community of people, which is why you can make a great difference by carefully choosing what coffee you buy.
Today, we can access coffee produced by many countries, companies and farmers, from the supermarket shelves to locally roasted beans sourced from single-origin farms.
One of the fundamental distinctions when purchasing your caffeine hit is between organic and regular coffee.
What are the differences, is it healthier, and what is the best organic coffee to buy? Read this article to discover the truth behind organic coffee.
What Is Organic Coffee?
Organic food products are those that haven’t had contact with any antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or other growth stimulants. Yes, it might be surprising but these can often be added to mass-produced regular coffee beans.
In order to earn the “organic” label, the coffee needs to meet the qualifications set by the US Department of Agriculture Organic program.
According to USDA, aside from avoiding the chemical additives mentioned above, coffee farmers need to proactively use renewable resources and attempt to conserve water and soil during production.
The organic farms are then inspected by an official to ensure that these requirements are met.
Organic Coffee Vs Regular Coffee: What Is The Difference?
In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between organic coffee and regular coffee in terms of taste, its impact on the environment, price and health.
Organic Coffee Beans Are Chemical-free
Synthetic substances and chemicals can be a risk to people, animals and the environment and can cause serious health issues for those exposed to them.
The pesticides can damage the human reproductive and nervous system, and since regular coffee is one of the most chemically-treated products on the market, choosing to buy organic eliminates these risks to the farmers and those in contact with the coffee.
One thing to mention, however, is that even when you buy chemical-free coffee, the beans can still contain mould and mycotoxin, which are naturally occurring but can cause a variety of health threats.
When growing and processing certified-organic coffee, the farmers need to actively protect and preserve the environment by using renewable resources, sustainable farming practices and recyclable materials.
These practices help to conserve wildlife, fight soil deforestation, global warming, prevent soil erosion and therefore protect the ecosystem.
One of the eco-friendly practices is growing the beans in the shade, which means that the plants are naturally protected and need fewer chemicals, which results in a higher quality of the beans.
Better For Your Health
The most common question that people ask when considering organic coffee beans is the impact this switch has on your health.
If you drink two cups of coffee every day, the chances are that the coffee is one of the products you consume the most often after all.
While by drinking organic coffee, you will be consuming fewer chemicals, the truth is that the nutritional value of coffee stays the same and your cup still contains the same amount of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Switching to organic coffee will reduce your exposure to chemical additives but it has a much bigger impact on the environment and the farming communities than on your own health.
Impact On The Farmers
When growing pesticide-free coffee, the farmers are not exposed to high levels of chemicals as they would be when growing regular coffee.
When the coffee beans are treated with synthetic additives, the farmers are often breathing them in after spraying. The chemicals contaminate the water sources impacting the health of the whole community.
Further, the farmers will get paid more if they follow these strict standards, improving their quality of life.
On the other hand, however, the transition from regular to organic coffee comes with a high drop in production and can therefore be risky.
Since the farmers often struggle to make a living in the first place, they can’t afford to risk their profits any further.
Coffee is naturally acidic but since the additives in regular coffee can increase its acidity further, the organic coffee can be easier on the stomach, especially for those who are sensitive to it.
Since no chemical fertilizers are used when producing organic coffee, it takes longer to grow and develop, essentially resulting in lower levels of naturally-occurring acidity.
While the taste is not usually the primary focus when talking about organic coffee, if you drink coffee because of its taste, you probably want to know whether the organic version tastes better.
Since organic coffee is free from chemicals and pesticides, it means that only the best trees that receive exceptional care without any artificial enhancers will thrive.
This means that the quality of the beans naturally improves, and since this coffee is typically grown at a higher altitude, it takes longer to develop its flavours, resulting in a richer and cleaner taste.
However, you need to keep in mind that the taste of coffee depends on many other factors besides its organic or non-organic status. These factors include its origin, processing method, roasting, and brewing.
This means that when comparing two similar mass-produced coffees, the organic beans are likely to taste better.
But when comparing single-origin beans from a small farm in Ethiopia that is not certified as organic to an organic French Roast blend produced for supermarket shelves, the Ethiopian beans are likely to win the taste test.
The last difference between organic and regular coffee is its price. Similarly, as is the case with taste, more things influence the price of the beans. But when comparing two types of coffee within the same category, organic coffee will be more expensive.
The second factor to consider when it comes to money is that the organic certification is very expensive and can cost up to $3000 a year, which the smallholders cannot afford, even if they still follow procedures that would meet the organic coffee requirements.
Is Single Origin Coffee Organic?
As mentioned in the previous point, single-origin coffee that is sourced from small farms doesn’t have the budget to purchase the certification unlike the big plantations under global organic coffee brands.
But the truth is that most of these small coffee holders are producing organic coffee anyway because they cannot afford synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Local specialty cafes that source these single-origin coffees tend to have a close relationship with the farmers and make sure they use the best practices in their coffee production.
So by buying single-origin coffee from a local cafe or a roaster, you are already supporting the farming communities, just like you would by buying organic whole bean coffee from a global brand.
Should You Buy Organic Coffee?
Now that you understand the difference between organic and regular coffee, the key question still remains: should you buy organic coffee?
A collective effort to reduce the number of artificial enhancers and pesticides is no doubt an important endeavour for the coffee industry but searching for the best organic coffee beans is not the only way of making a positive difference for the coffee communities.
If you buying coffee from a big producer, at a franchise or at a supermarket, selecting organic coffee is the right choice.
But if you are buying beans from a smallholder farm, sourced by a local roaster, don’t worry about the “organic” label because the chances are, that the coffee is organic anyway.
Best Organic Coffee Brands To Buy
In case you decide to give organic coffee a chance, these are some of the best organic coffees on the market right now.
Volcanica Organically Grown Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Volcanica is known for producing high-quality beans grown at high altitudes in volcanic soils. And this lighter roast of the popular Ethiopian single-origin is no exception. You can expect bright acidity, juicy flavours and subtle caramel and blueberry taste.
Peet’s Yosemite Dos Sierras Organic
This coffee is grown in high mountains in Colombia, has fruity and nutty tasting notes, is rainforest certified as well as bird-friendly, so you know you’re making a positive impact on the environment.
Life Boost Organic Coffee
This Nicaraguan USDA-certified organic coffee covers all the bases of sustainable and chemical-free farming, as it is shade-grown, spring water washed and 3rd party tested for mycotoxins.
Cafe Don Pablo Subtle Earth Organic Coffee
This medium-dark coffee from Honduras is also USDA-certified organic and is most notable for its pleasing balanced flavour. It has low acidity, smooth taste, and is easy to drink black, with many of its drinkers claiming it is the best tasting organic coffee on the market.
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
Best organic French roast coffee is perfect for espresso or French Press brewing since it has a full body, robust flavour full of chocolate and caramel tasting notes and an intense smoky flavour.
Death Wish Coffee
Death Wish coffee is known to be one of the strongest coffees available because of its elevated caffeine levels. This coffee is also organic and prides itself on an exceptionally smooth balanced taste with no bitterness.
Kicking Horse Ground Coffee, Grizzly Claw
Kicking Horse offers the best organic ground coffee with excellent packaging that will keep the coffee fresh. This dark roast is smooth, rich, non-acidic but also bold and rich with pronounced cocoa and caramel flavours.
Bulletproof coffee has been popularized by keto dieters and when prepared following their signature recipe by mixing it with ghee and MTC oil, it has been labelled the healthiest organic coffee.
If you’re not feeling the buttery coffee mix, you can still prepare this coffee in a traditional way.
Jo Coffee Organic Decaf Coffee
If you’re looking for an organic coffee that is also decaf, Jo Coffee uses the natural Swiss Water method for the decaffeination process that strips the caffeine without any chemicals while maintaining the smooth flavour and the rich taste.
There is no doubt that buying organic coffee has a positive impact on the farmers, the environment as well as your health.
But when shopping for your next bag of beans, consider other factors such as buying coffee that is ethically grown or sourced from small independent farms.