What Does Organic Even Mean for Coffee? | Chattanooga Coffee Box

Should we jump on the organic coffee bandwagon!? What does it even mean to drink organic coffee? How is it different from usual? Is it different?

Let's dive and take a closer look at these questions and more. Most people tend to look at anything grown without pesticides to be much better. In most cases, this is true, but for coffee, we need to take a more in-depth look. The topic of organic coffee isn't just black and white, and there is a high chance that it is not work seeking out.

FIRSTLY, DOES CERTIFIED ORGANIC MEAN NO PESTICIDES?

This very question had me second-guessing when I was informed about organic coffee and what all it consists of really. So, I did some digging.

In most cases, I always believed that for crops to be genuinely organic, they had to be free of pesticides and fertilizers. Well, this turned out not to be the case all.

For a group to be Certified Organic:

  1. Be produced without using banned materials and methods, such as sewage sludge, ionizing radiation, and genetic engineering
  2. Be overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent

But wait, some fertilizers and pesticides allowed. A good percentage of them are non-synthetic, meaning naturally. Believe it or not, a few approved synthetic ones are allowed as well. 

Shocking a bit, but this doesn't mean the whole certification is just a scam, but we should face the facts. Even the USDA approves the use of several synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in the Certified Organic process.

A GOOD PERCENTAGE OF COFFEE FARMERS CAN'T EVEN AFFORD THE CERTIFICATION

Let's take a look at how much it takes even to have a crop certified:

A farmer could be looking at $700 and $3000 per year.

Sadly, most of the farmers that live in Mexico live in poverty...

48% of the population in Mexico's ten coffee growing regions. Even the state of Chiapas, known for its specialty-grade beans, has insane coffee producer poverty. In the city of Chilon, 93% of farmers live in poverty!

This is the same case across the world.

The few farmers that thrive are mostly the large corporate farms, and the rest of the world's 25 million coffee farmers are the small guys that barely get by.

Let's not overcomplicate the matter, but for most of the coffee farmers around the world cannot only afford to pay the organic certifications. With many other challenges they face, like adapting to climate change, taking on the organic financial burden isn't most likely going to be something they do anytime soon.

FOR THE MOST PART, COFFEE IS ORGANIC ANYWAYS

The reason why most coffee that you are drinking is organic anyways is that the 25 million smallholder coffee farmers can't afford any synthetic fertilizers and pesticides anyways.

Coffee is one of the world's most unsophisticated crops grown. This is very apparent in countries like Ethiopia and Yemen. These farmers mostly let the coffee grow how it wants in the forests and fields.

So, while the green sticker may not be on the bag, it often is fertilizer and pesticide-free, especially likely if it came from a smallholder farm.

IS ORGANIC COFFEE EVEN WORTH IT AFTER ALL THEN?

Here is what we already know so far:

  1. Organically grown coffee is better for the world in a variety of ways
  2. Most farmers cannot afford or risk the investment to be certified
  3. Many small farms already grow organic coffee

One day, maybe the world will be rid of non-organic coffee. I think we can all agree that's the goal. But, for now, buying only organic coffees will unnecessarily penalize farmers that cannot make the transition.

Organic coffee is excellent, but it's not the only way to make a change by your purchasing habits.

I am only scratching the surface on organic coffee, but take a more in-depth look into and share your thoughts with the rest of the community and me. I hope you enjoyed the read. Stay tuned!

Keywords: What Does Organic Even Mean for Coffee?

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