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. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic farmers abide by the law.
What does it mean to be certified organic?
In order for coffee to be certified and sold as organic in the United States, it must be produced in accordance with U.S. standards for organic production and certified by an agency accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. requirements for organic coffee production include farming without synthetic pesticides or other prohibited substances for three years and a sustainable crop rotation plan to prevent erosion, the depletion of soil nutrients, and control for pests.
How is organic coffee decaffeinated?
Most conventionally produced coffees are decaffeinated by using solvents such as methylene chloride (probable human carcinogen, harmful to central nervous system6) or ethyl acetate (harmful to central nervous system, kidneys and liver7). Organic coffee, however, must be decaffeinated using a certified organic decaffeination process to maintain the organic integrity of the beans. Two decaffeination processes that meet federal organic standards are the SWISS WATER® process, using only water to remove caffeine, and decaffeination using carbon dioxide (CO2).
Fair Trade certification focuses on labor and trade standards to provide small-farmer co-operatives a guaranteed price above the conventional market. Not all Fair Trade CertifiedTM coffee is necessarily organic. However, Fair Trade CertifiedTM does require strict environmental stewardship such as prohibiting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the most hazardous pesticides. In the United States, transactions must be audited by TransFair USA to use a Fair Trade CertifiedTM label.