Organic Coffee Information

Here's a page of organic coffee information about coffee growing and why organic coffee is best for the environment

This page of organic coffee information is mainly about the advantages of organically grown coffee for the environment and for the growers.

For information about the health benefits of coffee see: The Benefits of Coffee and Green Living

Sustainable coffee

Organic coffee is far more sustainable than conventionally grown coffee. There are a number of reasons why this is so. We want the best for ourselves and the planet; organic coffee has benefits which are wider than those for just our health.

Growers and their communities nearly always benefit far more when coffee is grown organically. They are less dependent upon imported fertilisers and chemicals. The likelihood of poisoning of workers and families of workers is far less, as most of the inputs to the soil and crop are not generally toxic.

The strain on the local water resources is likely to be far less. Water is becoming a scarce resource in may countries as the demand for added water for crops escalates. Organic crops tend to be less susceptible to drought as mulching and the use of shade helps minimise water losses.

Organic farming is often able to deliver a mixed land use which results in several crops. Organic coffee is sometimes grown underneath a canopy provided by nut trees, for example. The nut trees provide an extra crop as well as useful shade and materials for mulching.

Organic coffee information:

Benefits for wildlife

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center did a study on birds on coffee plantations and discovered that there were up to seven times as many different species on shade grown organic plantations compared to conventional ones.

Sun-grown coffee was developed as a method in the 1970s. It allows (and needs) a high input of artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Coffee plants are grown close together as a mono-crop (i.e. just one type of plant per field). This lack of diversity makes the crop susceptible to mass invasions of pests.

Shade grown coffee, by comparison is far more eco-friendly and closer to the natural order. this was the way that coffee was usually grown before the industrialisation of the plantations. The birds help with pest control and the shade given by larger plants and trees mean that there is less need for additional water.

Slower growth in shade-grown coffee

Shade grown coffee is generally slower growing, so there is a potential loss of profit there. However, the resultant crop is generally finer and better flavoured so can be sold at a premium.

Organic coffee is generally more expensive for the consumer than conventional coffee. This is because it is slower growing and more labour intensive. On the other hand, growers can set up with fewer up front costs as there is no need to purchase expensive fertilisers and pesticides.

Sometimes it may be worth buying your organic coffee through a co-operative food group for group savings.

Land savings

Shade-grown organic coffee needs less new land for cultivation. The natural fertility is replenished continually with natural mulches of dead leaves from the trees. The birds may add a significant amount of potash from their guano (poo).

With standard industrial coffee production, fertility is stripped from the soil and the depleted soil becomes less capable of sustaining a decent crop - so new land is cleared. This land is often virgin rainforest.

This has happened in Indonesia.

Organic coffee information:

Labelling of shade-grown coffee

Some shade-grown coffee is not organic and the process used is quite a compromise in terms of wildlife benefits. Trees may be pruned, excessively, for example, so that they do not provide much by way of suitable habitat for birds.

Growing coffee organically and in the shade improves the vigour of plants according to the Costa Rican Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education Centre.

For the best coffee for wildlife and for the growers, look for organic, fair trade coffee. Many producers in the fair trade movement have made it their business to adopt sustainable organic farming practices.

Mexico, Honduras and are developing extensive organic coffee plantations.

The emphasis in organic farming is to feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant. For more on organic farming methods please see: Why organic?

Organic standards are monitored and certificated by a variety of international bodies, including the Organic Crop Improvement Association International and IFOAM. The OCIA International oversees some 2 million acres of organic crops, world-wide.

Despite the recent increase in organic food in Europe and the USA, the percentage of organic coffee grown is still only around 1% of the total world coffee output!

Organic coffee information:

Perks for plants

Don't forget to recycle your old organic coffee grounds.

You can put them straight on the garden as they are rich in nitrogen and will benefit most plants. To be sure that you are not adding too rich a brew, you can dilute them with water first, if you prefer.

It seems that even plants get a kick out of coffee!

Return from Organic Coffee Information back to Green Kitchen - Natural and Organic Foods

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