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Why Organic Coffee Is Better Than What You’re Drinking Now

latte with leaves art taken from above on light grey background, why organic coffee is better
organic coffee

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It’s no secret that we’re big fans of organic coffee. But we want to pause and take a moment to fully explain why organic coffee is better than the rest.

And how you can make a difference through something as small as your morning cup of coffee. So, here we’ll provide a quick recap of why organic coffee is better and why you should switch today.

Let’s get roasting.

Why Organic Coffee Is Better

green coffee beans in drying beds with mountains in the background

Organic Coffee Isn’t A Loosely-Used Term

Not all coffees grown without pesticides or other chemicals may be advertised as organic coffee. 

The first reason why organic coffee is better is that the USDA seal on the bag provides peace of mind and assurance that the coffee has been grown and harvested following strict criteria.

For a coffee to be certified organic and display the USDA seal on the bag, it must meet several stringent criteria ranging from soil quality to pest and weed control and additives.

The USDA organic standards also require strict supply chain and manufacturing controls for roasting and manufacturing. These standards are verified through inspections. Farms and co-ops pay for the organic certification, including travel costs for inspectors.

Fellow Clara French press in black

However, many farmers may avoid using chemicals simply due to cost. Pesticides and herbicides are expensive and may be cost-prohibitive for some. 

While these farmers may be following all or most organic growing standards and would otherwise qualify for the organic certification, they may lack the financial means to pay for the certificate.

Under these circumstances, the product, in this case, coffee, would be considered “passive organic.”

We fully support “passive organic” coffee and the farmers who follow organic standards and practice sustainable farming methods. However, it can be challenging to verify that all organic criteria are being met without visiting the farm yourself to inspect. 

So if you’re serious about only consuming organic coffee and want to ensure that the coffee you’re drinking is certified organic, look for the seal on the bag, and you’re good to go.

field of crops lined by trees in the mountainside taken from above

Pesticides In Coffee

It is known that most crops grown worldwide are treated with pesticides or weed abatement chemicals at some point in their life cycle.

Coffee is no exception and is one of the biggest offenders. When considering why organic coffee is better, pesticides may be the first thing that comes to mind.

Organic coffee plants and regular coffee plants start precisely the same. However, organic coffee plants aren’t treated with pesticides, additives, or artificial substances during their lifetime.

An organic coffee farmer will use natural methods to fertilize the soil (typically with manure), remove weeds, and treat pest problems. 

On the other hand, regular coffee plants are grown without these strict standards. They are often subjected to pesticide treatments and other harmful chemicals that cause groundwater contamination, plant and animal species degradation, and direct and indirect adverse effects on human health.

Airscape vacuum coffee canister in matte black
Airscape Stainless Steel Coffee Canister

A conventional coffee farmer will start with coffee plant seeds soaked in fungicides, a fertilizer loaded with petroleum and chemicals, and irrigation water treated with pesticides to keep the bugs away. 

The need for these chemicals is exacerbated by the growing environment. The increased demand for coffee has caused a global rise in sun-grown coffee operations.

According to The Call To Conserve, “In Central America alone, the cultivation of coffee has led to 2.5 million acres of forest loss.”

So not only are we losing precious trees and forests, but no canopy cover or biodiversity around the coffee plants means they have no natural protection from pests. This creates a reliance on chemical pesticides to treat the plants. 

coffee cherries on a branch in red yellow and green, chemical free coffee
healthiest brand of coffee

Chemical Free Coffee

While the health benefits of coffee are widely debated, we like to think that drinking coffee that’s never been exposed to chemicals has inherent health benefits. 

When considering why organic coffee is better, remember that regular coffee is one of the most heavily chemically-treated crops globally. This means that conventional coffee can be potentially dangerous to the farmers who handle the coffee cherries and to us as consumers.

As we’ve discussed, these chemicals also harm the environment (and those living near areas where conventional coffee is farmed).

According to Coffee & Conservation, even though many chemicals that are harmful to the environment have been banned or are strictly regulated in the US or Europe, they remain legal to use in less-developed countries, including many countries that grow coffee.

So, while coffee grown in the US and Europe may be free from these known offenders, the same can’t be said for coffee grown elsewhere (aka, the majority of coffee in the world). 

And your favorite inexpensive retail coffee chain? Yep, they’re buying beans from sun-grown farms outside the US to reduce costs and mask poor coffee bean quality with sugar and additives. (gasp)

So if it isn’t already becoming obvious why organic coffee is better, buying organic coffee means that you’re supporting sustainable practices and creating demand for environmentally-friendly products globally.

Boom.

burlap sacks of coffee beans stacked on wooden shelves, coffee for good
organic coffee versus regular coffee

Coffee For Good

So, now that we’ve looked at some of the more obvious reasons why organic coffee is better let’s look at a few facts about organic coffee that you may not know.

Organic coffee only accounts for 1% of the market. This means that 99% of the coffee grown globally is potentially hurting our environment. Big yikes.

But there’s hope.

fellow opus grinder
The Fellow Opus Grinder

Organic farming can slow climate change. In a 30-year study by the Rodale Institute, researchers found that organic farms produced 40% fewer greenhouse gases than conventional farms.

Organic farming also supports water conservation and water health. Organic farmers avoid harmful fertilizers and pesticides, posing a significant threat to rivers through non-organic farm runoff. Soil quality is improved by organic farming methods, and erosion is reduced. 

Lastly, as sun-grown coffee requires the use of chemical pesticides to keep the plants pest-free, it is safe to assume that most, if not all, organic coffee is shade-grown.

Growing coffee in the shade has significant environmental benefits like supporting the natural habitats of numerous birds, preventing soil erosion, and reducing the temperature beneath the shade trees (a vital adaptation strategy for climate change).

jungle trees with sun shining over the hillside in background

Healthiest Brand Of Coffee

So, while it’s clear why organic coffee is better, which organic coffee brand should you buy? Which is the healthiest brand of coffee?

In short, whichever organic coffee you like best. 

An ever-increasing number of coffee roasters is emerging in the market, and we support trying as many as you can to find your favorite.

Shop small when you can, and support your local organic roasters striving to make a difference in this world. Not sure if your favorite local coffee roastery uses organic coffee beans? Just ask them! Roasters will usually jump at the chance to discuss the origin stories of their coffee beans.

If you’re purchasing coffee from a grocery store and can’t chat with a rep from the coffee roastery, look for the organic seal on the label to ensure you’re getting certified organic coffee beans.

leaves in foreground with orange pour over dripper and coffee bar in background, is starbucks coffee organic
Is coffee sprayed with pesticides?

Closing Thoughts – Organic Coffee Versus Regular Coffee

There are many compelling reasons why organic coffee is better. But we like to roast and drink organic coffee because it’s better for everyone.

We also happen to think that organic coffee tastes better than regular coffee. It’s a matter of debate, but try it yourself and see if you can taste a difference (we’re betting you can).

There are several tasty varieties of certified organic coffee for sale at reasonable prices, so don’t let the (occasional) higher price tag deter you. You can even find a decent selection of organic coffee beans at Costco, and there’s a variety of organic coffee on Amazon. 

Organic coffee has become incredibly accessible in recent years. Now you know why organic coffee is better, so there’s no excuse not to buy organic coffee versus regular coffee.

If you’re loyal to your local coffee shop and prefer to buy your beans from them, that’s awesome! Simply ask your barista about where they source their beans

You’d be surprised to learn that many small roasters only source and use organic coffee beans in their shops (like us!).

FAQ’s

Is coffee bad for the environment?

We don’t like to point fingers, but… conventional coffee farming, like many other agriculture forms, has negative environmental impacts. Deforestation, soil erosion, and pollution, to name a few. 

There are many compelling reasons why organic coffee is better, but the positive impact on the environment is perhaps the most persuasive. So, while coffee itself isn’t necessarily bad for the environment, the process by which it’s farmed and harvested is. 

Is Starbucks coffee organic?

No. While Starbucks sells some organic coffee varieties for home brewing, the coffee beans used to brew espresso beverages in their cafes globally are not organic. That being said, Starbucks is taking steps to promote sustainability.

While Starbucks sources its coffee from over 30 locations, 99% of the coffee is ethically sourced. They donate and partner with several global organizations to promote sustainable practices in the coffee industry.

Is Coffee Sprayed With Pesticides?

In most instances, yes.

Organic coffee only accounts for 1% of the market; therefore, a large majority of the remaining 99% of coffee is likely treated with pesticides at some point during the life cycle of the coffee plants.

Coffee grown in the sun requires pesticides to keep the plants pest-free, as the natural habitat that typically protects the plants (tree canopies, birds) has been eliminated. 

One sure-fire way to tell if your coffee is shade-grown without pesticides? Look for the USDA organic seal on the bag. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters