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What is organic coffee

Organic coffee is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. There are a number third-party organic certification organizations (that are generally registered with IFOAM) verify that organic farmers abide by the law

What does it mean to be certified organic?

For coffee to be certified and sold as organic in the First World, it must be produced in accordance with IFOAM standards for organic production and certified by an agency accredited by IFOAM requirements for organic coffee production.

Size of the world organic coffee market

Global sales of organic coffee reached 67,000 metric tons (or about 148 million pounds) in 2006, a 56 percent increase from 2003 when approximately 42,000 MT were exported.5 Forty-four percent of the total was consumed in North America, of which approximately 85 percent was consumed in the United States. Since 1990 the market for organic products has grown at a rapid pace, averaging 20-25 percent per year, and this has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland. About 306,000 square kilometres (30.6 million hectares) worldwide are now farmed organically.[As of 2005 organic wild products are farmed on approximately 62 million hectares. Most of the land is outside Africa

Organic Concerns

To a large extent the organic movement is a positive one. Its basic principle to sustainablity for land and farmer, and normally this means better produce, that is repeatable

That said there are a few glass half empty considerations:


Organic Certification in South Africa is very rare. And for Arabica “typica” base coffees impossible, since Arabica typica can only grow on the highlands between the tropics. Add to that the fact that all agricultural produce is treated once it arrives on our soil with non organic pesticides.

To claim that something is organic means very little. and most of the organic produce that is sold is not certified, and merely sold as organic by design. If something is sold as organic rather than organically certified it normally means that the producer is claiming that they are following they have follow a basic process similar to the process recommended by IFOAM


Being organically produced is assumed to imply good quaility. This is not part of the certification process. The asuumption that growing in a organic way produces a higher quality product is exactly that an assumption. With the explosion of organic produce, some of the quality has been questionable, relying on consumer buy in on the marketing power of organic. More and more organic produce is dependent on man made varietals of seed and plant, neglecting the heuristic seed.

Organic certification does not have as a core principle natural varieties, growing areas or quality, and this is a flaw. A good example of this is that most of the organically certified coffee coming from Brazil is cataui variaty grown in areas that are de-forested.

Affect on Subsistence Farmers

Many of the world’s coffee farmers are by their very nature good to the environment, they have been growing coffee sustainably for hunderds of years, and continue to do so.

These farmers typically cannot afford fertilizer and pesticides (never mind organically certified ones), and have learnt to live off the land for hundreds of year without depleting the soils.

These Farmers growing produce semi-wild or wild without the use of chemicals and harmful substances are neither educated nor well off enough and are not certified because of the cost of the extra organic certified goods that they are required to use to become certified

Other Notable Movements

There are a number of other movements that have become popular and are showing some popularity

Fair Trade

Fair Trade certification focuses on labour and trade standards to provide small-farmer co-operatives a guaranteed price above the conventional market.

Fair Trade Certified coffee is not necessarily organic. However, Fair Trade Certified does require strict environmental stewardship such as prohibiting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the most hazardous pesticides. Seventy-eight percent of all Fair Trade Certified coffee sold is certified organic.

All Fair Trade produce must have a Fair Trade Label Organizations stamp of approval (or similar) to be Fair Trade from seed to distributor. There is a local FLO representative in South Africa, that can ratify these certificates. Check you supplier to see if they can furnish said certificate for the coffee they are claiming is Fairtrade

Rainforest Alliance

Sustainable agriculture is at the centre of the Rainforest Alliance’s efforts to conserve ecosystems by protecting healthy soils, rivers and wildlife and by promoting dignified living conditions for farm workers and neighbouring rural communities.

The mission of the sustainable agriculture program is to integrate productive agriculture, biodiversity conservation and human development. Farmers, companies, cooperatives and landowners who participate in our programs meet comprehensive, rigorous social and environmental standards.

The Rainforest Alliance provides farmers with incentives to meet the highest quality standards, and encourages companies and consumers to support the farms making improvements toward sustainability.

Bird Friendly

Bird Friendly can only be used by operators that meet inspection and certification requirements of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. All certified Bird Friendly coffee must also be certified organic. Bird Friendly certification requires that the coffee be shade-grown with a wide variety of native shade trees and other shade-providing species. No synthetic chemicals can be used in the processing of Bird Friendly coffee.

Wild Coffee

Truly wild coffee can only come from one region in the world, which is the coffee from the forest in the Limu of Ethiopia. The substance Farmers are bordered on the forest and a large portion of the coffee that is picked there comes directly from the forest, and the farms are only an acre in size. Some of the coffee from Limu is cultivated. There are a number of wild only Limu coffees. There are some other area that have left varieties of coffee grow wild, these are less common.

Relationship coffees

Pioneered by Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers in the late 1990s, Relationship Coffee is an economic and social impact-based system that depends on strong personal bonds between all entities in the coffee product chain - from source to consumer. The relationship concept that cuts out the tradition coffee trading market and connects the coffee roaster, almost directly to the coffee grower in as transparent a means as possible. This means that produce is sold through an import-exporter that has the farmers interested at heart, rather than the farmer being forced to be a trader in a bargain hunting market. By not being forced to produce bargain goods, and establishing a direct link to the import-exporter to the roaster to the distributor and therefore the end user, the farmer can drive quality up and make more money doing so.

The Relationship Coffee Model is intended to redefine and add value to the “middleman” importer role. In doing so, the companies using this model provide full transparency of all business, price and quality information throughout the supply chain in order to foster understanding and supply chain efficiency. The Relatinship coffee supply chain provides traceability throughout the entire chain, allowing purchasers to know the origin of the coffee and producers to know their product’s final destination. The model of sustainable harvest provides business and agricultural training for cooperative managers, providing an avenue for reinvestment in producer communities that benefits the entire supply chain.

Decaffeinated Coffee

The further away a coffee variatal is away from arabica typica the higher it is in caffeine as it is not natural. The typica variatal represents only 6% of the coffee grown in the world today. Arabica typica developed caffeine as a method of defending it self against insects, rather that a method to attract the consumers, who assist in distributing the seed.

There are three ways to decaffeinate coffee with a solvent, with a filter or with a gas.The two most popular methods are with a solvent are Methylene Cholride – commonly used in paint removal (which has found to cause some lung related diseases) and Ethyl Acetate – used mainly in dry cleaning (linked to skin, eye, throat and delicate skin irritation). Filtration methods use hot water and filters to remove as much as possible then return the flavour in a cold soak.

The method that is used for the decaffeinated coffee we sell is the CO2. The process uses the fact that CO2 when compressed acts as botha liquid and a gas, the caffeine is removed while the flavour remains in tacked. Since carbon dioxide is a natural substance as far as the plant is concerned it is has been found to be the most effective at retaining flavour.

This process is performed on the green bean, and the resultant bean is slightly parched, and a darker colour after it has been roasted

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