Why buy Organic Coffee?

It seems anywhere you go these days you have the option of buying organic. Food, clothes, even toys! Coffee, being a crop, also has an organic option. Of course, like any organic option it does cost more, which is a draw-back for some people. But, if cost were no option, is buying organic coffee really the better way to go? Here are some reasons why some people prefer to buy organic coffee:

  1. Nasty Chemicals: Coffee is treated by more chemicals than any other food in the world. The most often used chemicals in coffee production are petroleum based fertilizers. These fertilizers begin to destroy the soils fertility and nutritional value over time and also seep into the water supply, which simply keeps the process of soil deterioration going. Organic farmers do not use these harsh chemicals when growing their coffee beans. It is a cleaner more nutritionally solid crop.
  2. Protect the Rainforest: In order for the coffee bean to thrive it usually needs to be grown in the shade of the dense rainforest. The coffee crop cannot handle direct sunlight when it is its natural form. However, large coffee producers have genetically altered the coffee plant so that it can thrive in direct sunlight. This gives coffee producers more options of land to grow coffee on, which means more production and more revenue. The problem is that large coffee industries have now begun eyeing the rainforest as more possible coffee producing land, and has even begun the process of deforestation in order to gain more farmable regions. This should be a concern for anyone who calls earth their home. This has a ripple effect on the plants and animals that call the rainforest their home and many are already in danger of extinction.
  3. Healthier for you, healthier for others: Not only do the chemicals affect the crop, they also effect the communities around the crops. People are ingesting more and more chemicals through their other foods and water because of the coffee fields that are abundant around them. Consider organic the next time you buy coffee online, it is not only healthier for you, it is healthier for many other people you don’t even know.
  4. Finally, for taste! Organic coffee typically has a much purer taster overall as it has been brought back to its original state. Organic growers typically use and grow higher quality beans.

When you consider all the above reasons, the small additional cost of choosing to buy organic may seem a little more reasonable. These are not the only reasons why people lean towards buying organic, but they are some of the biggest reasons. Consider some of these factors the next time you pick out the coffee for your morning cup.

For further reading, checkout organic coffee roaster, Driven Coffee, or visit the USDA National Organic Program’s website: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop

Colombian Coffee

Some of the best coffee in the world is grown in Colombia and exported all over the world. But why is Colombian coffee so good, and how did it become such a large industry in the area? It is believed that the Jesuits brought Coffee seeds with them to South America around 1730. A Jesuit Priest is known for the cultivation of coffee in northern South America. He used coffee planting and harvesting as a form of penance for people who came to him in confession. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Colombia really began exporting their coffee, and soon after the United States became the biggest consumer of Colombian Coffee. In the 20th Century coffee farms in Colombia began to unionize which strengthened their ability to sustain the market.

The wonderful thing about Colombian coffee is that most is grown and harvested in a small family farm setting. As coffee is a delicate crop, a lot of its quality depends on the quality of the growing and harvesting process. The most ideal situation to grow and harvest coffee is on a smaller scale, with care and precision.

Another reason that Colombian Coffee is so good is because of Colombia’s unique geography. The Andes Mountains and warm tropical climate create the perfect environment for growing. In fact the Colombian mountain ranges contain 1/6th of the world’s species of vegetation in only one percent of the earth’s land area. It is the ideal place to grow coffee beans. The combination of a tropical climate, and a very diverse country side, couple together to form a paradise for coffee farmers to grow the perfect crop.

There are a few threats to Colombian coffee industry these days. One is the competitive industry has made it harder and harder for small farm families to keep up with production, and receive fair prices for the coffee they grow. Some families have had to migrate for work. Malnutrition has gone up significantly in children of coffee farmers. Another hit to the Colombian market has been global warming. The change and constant fluctuation in weather patterns has made it difficult to produce a consistent crop.

In recent history global coffee prices have begun to pick up. This is good news for the Colombian Coffee market. Another positive for Colombian growers is the popularity of Colombian coffee. The name itself has notoriety worldwide, which will aid Colombian growers in maintaining the ability to sell their crops.

A hill of beans or something else?

You’ve heard the saying “that’s not worth a hill of beans,” when something does not amount to any value. But how do we know if the coffee beans we buy are worth a ‘hill of beans’? There are some important things to know before you order coffee online (such as how and where it is grown) to determine the value and quality of the product. Here are some helpful hints to knowing what the difference and value of different types of coffee are.

Shade Grown Coffee

Coffee was originally a shade plant, meaning it would die if it was in direct sunlight. These days coffee growers have genetically mutated the plants to be able to survive in direct sunlight. This is not ideal however; the best place for coffee to grow is in a nice canopy of shade giving trees. The ecology of this system produces the best coffee in its most pure and natural form. These days coffee that is shade grown is also usually organic, and thus costs a bit more, but it is worth the price!

High Grown Coffee

This is also called Altura, which means high in Spanish. High grown coffee is coffee beans that have been grown in the mountains. Some of the best Columbian coffee is high grown coffee. Mountain coffee from tropical regions has a unique composition as the ecology in those areas is unlike any other. These beans grown at high altitudes are slower in the maturation process and grow to be harder and denser than beans grown at lower levels of altitude. These beans are also referred to as ‘hard beans’. Because of their rich flavor, hard beans are generally more expensive than others.

Strictly Hard Beans

Even better than high grown coffee, strictly hard beans are more desirable as they are grown at even higher levels of altitude.

Strictly Soft Beans

These are beans that are grown in lower altitudes. They mature at a quicker rate than the high grown coffee. They are not as dense, but they are very flavorful.

Organic Coffee

Some people buy items simply for the organic label, other people avoid organic because of price. When it comes to organic coffee, people are getting what they pay for. Coffee is one of the most chemically treated ingested items on the market today. Buying organic not only helps you prevent harmful chemicals from entering your body, but it also helps our earth, and the people who live around the growing coffee plants that are being treated.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremonies

Some people take their coffee seriously, but the Ethiopian people take it to the max. In Ethiopia coffee ceremonies are a central component of the culture and the way that the people of Ethiopia relate to one another. If you are invited to a coffee ceremony in Ethiopia, it is a mark of friendship. The process of the coffee ceremony is very time consuming. The emphasis is on the time spent with one another as the ceremony takes place. It can take up to a few hours to complete a coffee ceremony.

In Ethiopia coffee is taken with sugar, and sometimes in the country-side salt is used instead of sugar. In addition to the coffee, a coffee ceremony is usually accompanied by some sort of traditional snack (like popcorn, cooked barley, or peanuts). People surprisingly hold 3 coffee ceremonies a day. This is the time of day that they take to socialize, discuss community or world events, and life in general. The slow-paced ceremony allows for an unrushed time to spend with friends and family.

If you are invited to a coffee ceremony in Ethiopia there are some important cultural norms to follow. Remember that a coffee ceremony is not to be rushed. Expect to have it take up to three hours. Ethiopians never put milk in their coffee, so don’t ask for milk. For Ethiopians the ceremony means more to them than just a time of socialization and friendship. The ceremony itself is believed to transform the spirit by completing multiple rounds of coffee. It is considered rude to have less than three cups, as they believe that transformation only happens through the three separate rounds of coffee.

Part of the reason that these ceremonies take so long is because each ceremony begins with the coffee beans in their raw state. The ceremony is usually performed by a young woman wearing a traditional Ethiopian dress. She begins by roasting the beans. Incense is burned while the beans are being roasted and the smells mingle into a familiar ceremonial experience for people accustomed to this process. Once they are roasted to the point of the oils coming through the surface of the bean, they are then ground by hand. The coffee is then strained through a fine sieve several times. Finally, after the initial process the ceremony participants are able to enjoy their first round of coffee.

The Ethiopian people definitely take their coffee experience seriously. Perhaps there is something we can learn from this slow paced, relational society. We could all benefit from slowing down a little from time to time to enjoy the sights sounds and smells of a good cup of coffee, and to relate to the people we love.