It’s becoming increasingly frequent for customers to request organic menu items, even at non-organic restaurants. This is particularly true for coffee. Unfortunately, coffee is one of the most heavily exposed crops, when it comes to the use of commercial chemical pesticides and herbicides. This puts it at the top of the list, for your diners’ organic alternative requests.
So when you are choosing an organic coffee, what do you need to look for? When it comes to coffee, there are certain guidelines that must be met to be certified as organic. Below you will find the specific rules that must be followed to receive an organic label.
The first guideline is that any and all fertilizer that is used while growing the bean used to make coffee must be organic itself. This means that chemicals can not be used as the fertilizing agent. Some approved fertilizing methods include chicken manure, bocachi, coffee pulp and general compost. Additionally, in most cases, even though some exemptions do exist, the land that the beans are grown on should be free of chemical use for at least three years. This regulation is monitored and enforced by the USDA and compliance must be met to receive the certification.
However, when it comes to production, the restrictions and regulations are rather lax. While there are organizations working hard to create certain standards, they are not being abided by. Even though the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 sets some very clear guidelines, they aren’t strictly adhered to, and there isn’t an organization that ensures that they are. A former vice chair of a board of organic standards has stated that just because a product is labeled as organic does not mean that it is safe, healthy or provides true nutrition.
You can have the highest confidence that your coffee is organic if it comes from Honduras, but other countries do produce organic coffee. Some of these include Columbia, Brazil, and Mexico. The key, however, is to understand what happens to the coffee once it leaves the field and goes to its processing plant. Various chemicals could be used at that point that would deem it to no longer be organic in the hearts and minds of those that are truly concerned with its legitimacy.
Due to the concerns about the post-growing handling of the coffee, we choose only to select organic coffee that is processed in the US, under closer scrutiny. Currently, we feature Java Planet Organic Coffee as our supplier of organic coffee. Their beans are imported from the various growers and then roasted in their own facility in Tampa, FL. They have a fairly wide variety of beans, from many countries. Their coffee is also fairly traded, which many consumers also prefer.
In the past, the number of organic growers had been declining due to competition. Due to the use of chemicals the production could be higher, making non-organic products cheaper in the end, but over time there has been an increased awareness of the benefits of a continuing of the organic approach. It has been found that bulk production can deplete the nutrients in the soil. Additionally, using organic fertilizer can also reduce soil erosion by a great deal. Eliminating these components has been shown to be beneficial to growth and have lead to a steady increase in organic growers.
There are some issues with growing the coffee bean organically. The main problem that growers face is that organic fertilizers tend to have issues with releasing the nutrition the plant needs at the right time. They release nutrients at a slower pace, making the growth process slower than it is when other methods are used.
In the final analysis, the benefit of being certified outweighs the extra costs associated with growing the coffee. The market for organic coffee will certainly continue to grow. For that reason, we’ve taken pains to make sure we can provide the best selection for our customers to serve in their restaurants.