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What is Organic Coffee?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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Organic is a term usually legislated by each country or region separately. In broad strokes organic coffee would refer to coffee beans grown, as defined by the law, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. There can be variation in this definition. However, since many coffee growers do use these products in large supply, a lot of people favor finding organic coffee.

One of the reasons that organic coffee is considered with such favor is because of the ways that coffee is made. Whether with a French press or an automatic drip, water covers the coffee grounds, quickly or slowly, and this is the same water that will become coffee and that people will drink. The thought that beans could have exposed to a high number of pesticides or other chemicals contributes to the idea that a person is merely running or sloshing water through a pesticide laden product, to create a drink. Some people feel that when taken in this light, the idea of coffee is simply not that appetizing.

Of course, it may be a luxury to buy organic coffee. First, failure to use chemical fertilizers may result in smaller bean yield in each crop. Similarly, lack of pesticide use may translate to fewer perfect beans to sell. Both of these factors tend to contribute to a higher coffee price. Price per pound may vary in final sales, but it’s not uncommon to pay between 15-20 US Dollars (USD) for a pound.

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Another reason for lower yield organic coffee, that can affect price, is that many states insist that organic exclude use of any plants that have been genetically modified (GMO). A number of companies that produce coffee beans do so in areas where they must grow in the shade of the rainforest, and they cannot expand their growth areas to produce more. These companies thus produce less coffee than other businesses. Those uninterested in seeking the organic coffee label can use plants that are genetically altered to produce more or to grow in environments unavailable to non-GMO plants.

While concern about purchasing organic coffee has surged, many people also point to the importance of using Fair Trade coffee. This coffee is also pricier but it guarantees certain economic rights to the grower by organizing groups of growers into co-ops. Farmers who sell directly to the world market may not even make a subsistence living. For purists, another potential issue is how long coffee stays organic. Exposure to pesticides may quickly occur if coffee is served with a dollop of non-organic milk and a spoon of pesticide-laden sugar. Those who buy organic coffee for pesticide avoidance can fortunately find organic milk and sugar too, if this is a concern.

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