Someone asked me today where they can buy organic coffee. A lot of coffee bean farmers don’t have the funds to get organic-certified… so, sometimes supporting the organic farms means you’re not supporting the small independent-farmers but rather the larger organizations who can pay for that.

Organic coffee is grown without pesticides or other chemicals. Correct me if I am wrong, but is that the only difference?

For some thoughts on the matter, I refer you to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey:

As a consumer, you might choose against purchasing a non-organic origin produced by such farmer because it is not organically grown, and in doing so you are preventing that farmer from attaining a demand that can translate into a profit which he/she can use to convert to organic production.

If you’re a local coffee roaster that sells organic coffee, I encourage you to leave a comment so people who want organic, can find it.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. Okay Chris, you know this topic could get ugly, yeah?

    As a local roaster, we carry organics but not just because they’re certified as such. Rather all of our coffees are chosen strictly on how well they cup. This way the farmer is rewarded for his hard work rather than how deep his pockets might be to go through the rigorous and somewhat ludicrous certification process.

    I know there are a good number of folk that would strongly disagree with our philosophy on organics, but hey, that’s okay; this is Arizona, where there are a lot of hard-core coffee people that think like we do.

  2. Victor, yeah I know it’s a contentious topic. However, I think you explained it pretty good. I am glad you chimed in, since I know you have quite a bit of experience in that area.

  3. Gianni Assam

    From my understanding organic coffee does a few things. Your right Chris in saying that it does not use pesticides or chemicals to enhance yields rather it uses techniques that are more natural. The benefits I’ve learned about for organic Coffee are;

    1.length of sustainability for specific plots meaning that the plot of land that is used for growing can be used for a longer period of time compared to that of a plot which is cultivated using chemicals. Based on Sivetz book “coffee processing technology” typically a plot of land for coffee will be used 3 to 5 years and then rotated to another plot of land, this is called crop rotation and we have used this methods I believe since the sixty’s when we started to genetically enhance crop yeilds and spray pesticides to keep bugs from destroying crops. To me crop rotation seems like a much more expensive venture seeing as Most small coffee farmers are working with less than 5 acres and if they have to consistintlly rotate crops is seems less sustainable in the long run.

    2. The chemicals artificially enhance the soil and then erode and destroy it, to go along with the first point crop rotation is nessisary because after 3 to 5 years the coffee trees must be dug up and transplanted to another plot so that the previous plot can be re-surfaced and given time to become fertile again. This destruction of soil is not only a watse of time but creates an inconsistency of flavor in the coffee over a ten year period. Along with the issue of the soil and the flavor many people would argue that the chemicals, as there designed to do, kill many of the nitrates and other organic chemical substances that are found in the soil. This is bad because those compounds would normally be consumed by the coffee tree and then be reflected in the taste, so by doing so you are hindering the natural flavor of the coffee and restricting the potential of the coffee.

    3. The third point I have is about the social responsibility of using chemicals to protect the coffee trees and create higher yields. A good friend of mine told me about his trip to brazil where he saw amazing coffee plantations that were nothing but coffee trees in rows like vineyards. He also told me that this was the problem (for creating specialty coffee’s). The problem with this is that coffee trees naturally grow like any other tree in rainforest areas where they are mixed in with other types of vegetation. Also coffee plots are typically grown on hillsides and at the bottom of the hill is usually a river or revine where water from the hillside trickles down and gathers. Also coffee as we know is grown in mostly grown in third world countries where they do not have sufficient water systems and many times is taken strait from the rivers or creeks. The conern is that the runoff from the non-organic coffee plots containing chemicals is leaking into the water system and making people sick and killing wild life surrounding the area. This is obviously an economic problem as much as it is social if people are starting to become seriously sick.

    Finally I just want to say that not every coffee I drink is organic by any means but there are strong incentives to use organic growing for the farmer and the consumer. As well as concerns, mostly cost. The argument about organic coffee really is about cost and benefit rather than which is a better method because if we could all afford to grow and buy organic then why spend time and money on the application of chemicals. The fact is that there are two different markets for coffee and they have their methods because that’s what works best economically.

    Gianni Assam
    Open Source Project
    Tempe, Az

  4. Wow Gianni. Great insight and nicely explained. I strongly recommend you guys to get to know the actual farmers. this is possible by looking for there info online. The coffee grower is not a mythological figure that exist only on the other side of the world were only few (mainly coffee brokers) can get to know them. We have a list of 14 growers listed on they will love to tell the story and explain the quality, social and organic causes used on each farm.

  5. Psyd

    Minor nit; all coffee is organic, some of it is not grown with organic compounds to nourish it, promote it’s growth, and defend it against insects and other annoyances.
    That semantic tic out of the way, there are a whole lot more organically farmed (or organically grown, the two grammatically correct indications, yeah, I know, it’s a thing…) coffees out there than there are certified organically farmed coffees.
    You have to have lawyers, agents, bookkeepers, and seriously anal retentive and literate overseers to be certified organic. Oh yeah, and money, lots of money. AND, in quite a few places that coffee is grown, it’s cheaper to come by organic pesticides and fertilizer.
    Of course, this is just what I’ve been told by a few people that talk to coffee farmers, and one farmer, so, take that with as many grains of organically sourced NaCl substitute as you need.

  6. most of the coffee i roast is organic, but i do carry few varietals of non-organic certified coffees. i’m more concerned with they way the coffee cups than the certification.

    while traveling to origin, i spoke with a number of fincas whose coffee is organic, but they can not afford the certification process.

    some is fair trade and some is direct trade.

    my coffee is available at the roastery of cave creek, the herb box, oakville grocery & la grande orange.

    good luck

  7. Nice post to ponder on. Indeed most of the time, only the large scale coffee players have the capacity of boasting their organic coffee. But organic coffee should be seen as it is – a kind of coffee grown with available natural resources without employing synthetic procedures – and not as a product of some pricey certification tests which surely small-time coffee growers can’t afford.

  8. Peter Johnson

    i question; i want ot plant a half acre in pima county for a hobby and personal use..anyone got advice??



  9. There are many pros and cons to organic production of coffee. We choose to roast organically grown coffee in the hope that we are supporting the farmers that are taking care of our planet. It is simply never a good idea to spray chemicals if there are alternatives which there are. Organically grown coffee may prove to be healthier for you as well. We would just like to mention though that in order for a coffee roaster to sell organically grown coffee, the roastery where the coffee is produced and packaged must be an organically certified roastery approved by the USDA. Just because a coffee bag has an “organic” stamp on it means nothing unless the roaster is certified. Yes this is a pain in the butt but that is federal law and promotes the traceability of our products. The USDA regulates the practices at all certified coffee roasters to insure that the product remains uncontaminated during processing. There must be dedicated equipment i.e. coffee roasters, weigh and fill machines, separate storage areas etc. This can be daunting but insures the consumer is getting exactly what they expect. We would be happy to answer any questions about the USDA certification process. Firehouse Coffee Roasters is a certified organic coffee roaster by CCOF/USDA.