Most people buy organic products because they want to avoid pesticides; but organic farming is also better for the land and the environment. To be Certified Organic:
The coffee must be grown on land that has not been treated with synthetic pesticides or other prohibited substances for three years.
There must be a sufficient buffer space between the organic coffee and the nearest conventional crop.
The farmer must have a sustainable crop rotation plan to prevent erosion, depletion of soil nutrients and pests.
All of these factors contribute to making a better cup of coffee. Less chemicals andbetter soil means a healthier and tastier crop. Because it helps to reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers, a majority of organic coffee is shade grown, which is another factor that often improves taste. The shade has a similar effect on coffee as growing coffee at high altitudes, and it ensures that the birds and animals who live in the trees don’t lose their habitat. These factors slow down the growth of a coffee, which results in the production of more sugars and natural chemicals in the bean responsible for the desired acidity in the coffee.
Buying Certified Organic coffee isn’t just good for the consumer and the environment; it’s good for the farmers who grow it as well. It fetches a higher export price, an agrochemical-free farm is a safer environment for farm families and workers, it lowers expenditures for synthetic inputs and it helps protect the local water. There are a variety of organic certifying organizations: the USDA and numerous state authorities certify products grown here, and Quality Assurance International and other organizations certify products grown in other countries.
Choosing A Coffee
There are some critics of Organic and Fair Trade certification. These individuals feel that many farmers whose coffee is perfectly deserving of being Certified Organic, are suffering because they simply cannot afford certification fees. Though the fees of $350 may sound reasonable to us, that is a lot of money to a third-world farmer earning only $2,000 annually. Critics of Fair Trade worry that it will hurt the very people and countries that it means to help by pricing them out of export markets. Others have criticized Fair Trade’s price-driven model, claiming it unfairly rewards coffee with low production costs instead of coffee that tastes better. Many small organic farmers are excluded from Fair Trade because they are not a part of a co-op. For the farmers who are included, Fair Trade prices are still not necessarily high enough to bring them out from poverty.
At the end of the day, however, buying Fair Trade and Certified Organic is an excellent way to do your part to ensure that you are helping farmers and the environment. But for people who want to know that they are drinking the best tasting coffee that is also the most socially responsible, there is just no replacement for taking advice from those who know. Buy your coffee from distributors who have direct relationships with the farmers, or listen to the people whose job it is to research this stuff all day. Obviously, we’re talking about ourselves here at THE NIBBLE. So read on to find out what we think are the best Organic and Fair Trade coffees on the market today.