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There is little denying the push across the country to go organic. Today you can find sometimes huge sections in your local grocery stores dedicated to organic products and there are even specialty stores sprouting up across the country dedicated to organic products. You can find organic versions of almost anything, including coffee.
But what does the term “organic” really mean and, even more importantly, exactly what is organic coffee? Just like any product, finding organic coffee is relatively easy. But is it really important and is there really any difference? Let’s take a look and what it means to be organic and how that affects the coffee that you enjoy each and every morning.
What It Means to Be “Organic”
When you are out shopping, if you see the U.S. Certified Organic label, then you have a pretty good idea on how it is produced, assuming you understand the organic process. Basically, this means the product you are buying is at least 95% organic unless 100% organic is specified. This usually applies to items that are mixed with others. In the case of coffee, it is one single crop so it is almost always 100% organic.
Organic certification does not mean that no chemicals were used in the production process of the crop. Instead it means almost no chemicals were used. There is actually a list of approved chemicals that can be used as well as a list of substances that are banned in order for something to be considered organic. On this list, you will find both organic and inorganic substances as well. After all, there are plenty of organic substances that are every bit as poisonous as they artificial stuff cooked up in a lab.
Of course there is more to it than just toxic and non-toxic when it comes to our health. The environment must also be considered. One of the stipulations on the list of substances means it must not harm the soil or water.
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Now that we know that some chemicals can be used, how do you know if any actually were? Unfortunately it is difficult to tell. Still, in order to even use the approved chemicals, farmers must demonstrate that there isn’t any other way to protect their crops without them. This can be done as a part of their certification process or even after the fact if conditions change.
The one thing you should take away from all of this is that in order to be certified, farmers must demonstrate their entire growth and harvesting process. Once this is complete and they meet all the requirements, they can obtain the certification and earn the right to stamp that label on the side of the packaging.
A Closer Look At Organic Coffee
Organic coffee is basically coffee grown according to the methods and standard set forth by the USDA. This means that just like other crops, coffee producers use very little, if any, chemicals on their crops and operate farming methods that are not harmful to the environment. Farms that use these methods must go through the certification process in order to be able to use the official seal.
There is a long held belief by many experts in the coffee industry that coffee produced using organic methods tastes better and provides a much richer flavor. Many believe that natural production methods ultimately produces a much higher quality bean. This makes organic coffee much more attractive to high quality roasters and shops as well as consumers looking for the ultimate coffee experience.
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Certified Farms Versus Non-Certified Farms
In the world of coffee production, things are a little different. While the market is subject to the same monitoring and demonstration processes in order to achieve the certification standard, in many cases farmers don’t bother doing it, but that doesn’t mean their coffee wouldn’t be considered organic.
Many coffee farmers use more natural growing methods than other crop farmers simply because the coffee plant is a little hardier compared to others. While other crops often face dangers from wildlife and other pests, the coffee plant does not. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t little critters out there that love getting all hopped up on coffee, so there are times when farmers choose to use chemicals and other pesticides on their coffee products.
So why don’t they bother with getting certified? It’s quite simple really – money. The process can be costly and, in many cases, the farmers simply can’t afford it. This is especially true for the smaller farmers who don’t have the extra income available to get certified. In many cases, these farmers already practice organic methods of production simply because that is how they have always done it.
Of course if they don’t go through the certification process, there isn’t any way to know whether or not the coffee was produced using organic methods or not. So if you are looking to only buy organic, you must still look for the label so you are guaranteed to get organic coffee.
Potential Hazards of Non-Organic Farms
One of the biggest reasons there has been such a huge push to organic farming methods in recent years is the increased knowledge of the potential harmful effects of pesticides and other chemicals on our food supply. These chemicals have demonstrated to cause cancer among other illnesses in people and animals across the world.
When we are talking about coffee, however, the world changes at least a little bit. Non-organic farms that produce coffee often use some of the same pesticides and chemicals on the coffee plants while they grow. However, to prepare the fruit from the coffee plant is a multi-step process that often involves both washing the fruits and then roasting the beans. During this preparation process, the chemicals and pesticides are removed. This means that there is very little risk to the coffee drinker
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t negative side effects to people from these types of farms. The main hazard is to the workers that are responsible for maintaining the coffee crops and then harvesting and preparing the beans. These workers are subject to increased exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals on a regular basis which could then lead to health problems in the future.
What Does USDA Organic Coffee Really Mean?
You have probably heard the term organic coffee, but what exactly is USDA Organic Coffee and what does it mean to you, the coffee consumer?
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Buying products that are considered organic has been on the rise in recent years, and today you can find almost anything organic, including the coffee that you know and love. Coffee produced using organic farming methods is often considered to be much higher quality and better tasting than other lower cost methods of production.
The type of coffee you choose to buy it, of course, up to you. But if you are looking to buy a great tasting and uniquely flavored coffee to enjoy in the mornings, then you are better off looking for the organic label on your coffee. While you can find great coffee that isn’t certified, it is often easier to find a great tasting coffee that has been certified.
Personally, when you are in search of new coffees that provide interesting and unique flavors, I wouldn’t discourage from trying coffee produced using all of different growing methods, organic or not. Still, there is some comfort in knowing you are buying something that is produced naturally and in an way that is much friendlier to the environment.
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