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Are they organic, or are there grounds for confusion? Photo by Joan Vicent | IST.



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STEPHANIE ZONIS focuses on good foods and the people who produce them.



October 2006
Updated April 2009

 Product Reviews / NutriNibbles

Organic Coffee

Page 8: Summary & Acknowledgements

Click here to read other months’ Organic Matter columns by Stephanie Zonis


This is Page 8 of an eight-page article on all the facets of organic and sustainable coffee. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.


And In The End

What does it all boil down to, if I may be excused the phrase when discussing coffee? Should you be drinking only organic/shade grown/Bird Friendly/Fair Trade/sustainable coffee? Your means and your conscience must dictate that, though it is unlikely you’ll find a coffee meeting all of these criteria. The proponents of each set of practices strive to benefit others in this world, which can’t be bad, and, as Chris Neumann of Sweetwater Organic comments, “It’s good to have multiple systems that address a common goal.” Better still, Mr. Neumann grasps the concept that people don’t care for ethics shoved down their throats. “Be ethical,” he insists, “But present good coffee in a way that makes people want it. Then, they’re buying sustainable coffee, and they’re not angry at it.” Sage advice, indeed. Because above all else, in the words of this roaster, your cup of coffee should bring a smile to your face.   



The individuals listed here provided invaluable information and opinions, without which this article simply couldn‘t have been written. I thank them all for taking the time to communicate with me. Everyone listed here has “coffee on the brain”; they are all devoted to finding and selling what they believe to be truly great coffees, though they all see the matter from a different point of view. I hope you will see fit to sample products from one or more of these companies. Thanks also to Woody K., coffee taster, web guy extraordinaire, and survivor of the former planet Krypton.

  • Chris Neumann, Co-founder, Sweetwater Organic Coffee, Upon hearing that I was doing an article about organic coffee, Mr. Neumann insisted on sending me some and refused to let me pay for it. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that I don’t drink coffee myself and told him I was going to have a guest-taster for the month. Of the four coffees Mr. Neumann sent me, my guest-taster, an inveterate coffee drinker, liked the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe best, with its rich taste and lemon-floral aroma. His second choice was Moka Harrar, with a full-bodied, strong aroma and a taste that would “really wake you up in the morning.” The Tanzania Pea Berry “has a wonderful coffee scent” but was a trifle too acidic for my taster, and the Sweet Erna Espresso was simply too strong for him (he’s not normally an espresso drinker).       
  • Peter Giuliano, Director of Coffee, and Mark Overbay, Counter Culture Coffee,
  • Geoff Watts, Buyer, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Inc.,
  • Nicole Chettero, Public Relations Manager, TransFair USA,
  • Ric Rhinehart, President, Groundwork Coffee Company,
  • Tom, Contra Cafe,
  • Buck, Volcanica Coffee, Inc.,


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