31 May 2008

A Thirst for the Natural

Okay, so I'm a bit of a hippie. Not in the '60s love-child, drug-induced folk music kind of way, but in the environment-loving, organic-shirt-wearing, custodians of Mother Earth kind of way. And I find myself drawn to organic foods as I learn more about my environment, body, and what growers use in traditional food crops.

And though I do look for organic foods, it never really occurred to me to seek organic coffee beans until I happened upon this article about organic coffee. It piqued my interest because, while it offers an objective glance at organic coffee vs. traditional coffee, it doesn't tell readers too much about the process of growing organic coffee, or specific cost differences, or how hard (or easy) it is to get organic coffee for those that seek it. So I decided to play journalist and do a little digging.

What is organic coffee?
I'm glad you asked! Coffee is classified as organic or traditional based on how it is grown. In order to be classified as organic, the coffee growers must meet the these conditions.

  • The coffee must be grown on land that does not use synthetic pesticides or other prohibited substances, and has not for three years.
  • A buffer exists between the coffee crop and the nearest traditional crop.
  • There is a sustainable plan for crop rotation to prevent erosion, depletion of nutrients, and pest control.
Coffee farmers must not only care for their crops, but they must also care for the land they use, taking note of the long term effects on it.

According to the Organic Trade Association:
Organic coffee is grown in 40 countries including Bolivia, Burundi, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lao PDR, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timore-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, United States (Hawaii), Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zambia. The leading producer countries are Peru, Ethiopia, and Mexico.
So, I've decided I'd like to try organic coffee. Where can I get it?
While there are vastly more sales in traditional coffee over organic, it seems more and more coffee sellers are providing organic coffee, and the Internet provides the means to acquire organic coffee, even if your nearest Starbucks is several hours away. (Heaven forbid!)

I order my organic coffee from Mystic Monk Coffee. They currently offer three types of organic coffee, but with more and more demand for Earth-friendly coffee, I'm sure the companies who offer organic coffees will offer more varieties, and more companies will offer organic coffee.

Seattle's Best also offers organic coffees, as does Starbucks. There are also lots of great sources for organic coffee from smaller companies; if you want to try somewhere new, try googling "organic coffee" and see what comes up.

What is the cost difference between traditional and organic coffee?
Organic products are, overall, slightly more expensive because of the extra effort that goes into their production. Coffee is no different.

At Starbucks, a pound of organic Serena blend (a blend of organic coffees from Latin America and East Africa) is $13.45. A pound of Ethiopian Sidamo is $10.45. The cost difference is not great, and the healthy quality makes it worth it for many people to pay the extra three dollars for organic.

If you're trying to live a healthy lifestyle by eating organic food, don't forget that beverages are also part of a healthy lifestyle. Think green, and drink organic!

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