Certified Organic Coffee
To certify, or not to certify, that is the question.
Some of the most popular certifications for coffee (or any consumable) are Organic and Fair Trade. While there are many more, these two are at the forefront of the Sustainable Movement. As conventional as these may be, there is some controversy surrounding them.
Let’s focus on Organic. The goal is to provide consumers with peace of mind that they are supporting a cause that supports their values. A sort of ‘badge,’ if you will that guides decision making.
But the problem is two-fold; the lack of big picture significance and the cost of the certification. Organic certifications suggest that we are consuming natural and clean products void of man-made toxins, which is better for our bodies and the Environment. However, it doesn’t acknowledge any other potential for greater environmental practices.
If we are thinking about organic in the context of environmental health, then there is much more that is missing from the overall picture. Toxins are applied in the form of pesticides on most agricultural products, and avoiding these toxins is a great first step. But there are other equally important factors to consider.
Most “Specialty” grade coffees are washed, meaning that the seed of the coffee is scrubbed and washed of all the fruit mucilage. The water used to do this is often discarded into the environment with no filtration. The runoff water is a natural toxin to the environment unless properly treated.
While we love washed coffees, it’s better for the environment to produce Natural or Honey Processed coffees as they use little to no water before fermentation. This is an added bonus in villages where water availability is limited.
Composting & Natural Fertilizers
Many producers make a natural fertilizer from the waste that coffee produces in the form of “coffee pulp”. This resourcefulness is great for the ecosystem.
Soil and Habitat Health
Taking care of the ecosystem within the farms could be the most important factor for environmental health. Healthy soil, healthy animals and biodiversity will create a rich and bio-dynamic atmosphere. When will biodynamics become popular with coffee!? A bustling habitat will also make for healthier coffee shrubs which pays long term dividends.
None of these factors are considered with an Organic Certification. While other certifications exist to touch on these subjects such as the Rainforest Alliance badge, the rabbit hole goes much deeper.
The other problem is cost.
To become OG Certified, a premium is applied to the coffee and this burden is placed on the Producer. While we can agree that Organic is positive, why should the producer need to PAY to do the right thing. This does nothing to incentivize producers to produce organic coffee, especially when the aforementioned environmental practices could be done for a lower cost.
Okay, so why is the Organic Certification important?
The good news is that the Certification makes the coffee more Valuable, and this is what makes it worth it. Better yet, we can make the value go up even more if the demand for organic coffee goes up. Industry will always follow demand, and the supply will follow demand. Remember, your dollar is your vote. If there are more votes for organic, then the future of organic coffee is brighter. The problem isn’t the certification, it’s lack of demand.
When you’re shopping in a store and you have a choice between a Certified Organic Coffee Or Non-Certified organic coffee, which will you choose? There’s no easy way to know if the Non-OG coffee supports your values without clear indication, and there’s certainly no time to research the product while at the store. Our job is to make it easier for you to have peace of mind that you’re consuming both healthy coffee that upholds your values.
I understand that this is an important topic, and I don’t pretend to have all the insights and answers have flip-flopped my opinion over the years. I do, however, see the potential good that certifications can offer and this is why Mutiny is committed to serving certified organic coffees, and work with producers to increase the value of their coffee. We will, however, support producers with non-certified coffees if they strive for the same goals we do.