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Facts About Organic Coffee

What is organic coffee?

Organic coffee is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic farmers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.

What does it mean to be “certified organic”?

In order for coffee to be certified and sold as organic in the United States, it must be produced in accordance with U.S. standards for organic production and certified by an agency accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. requirements for organic coffee production include:
- It must have been grown on land without synthetic pesticides or other prohibited substances for three years.
- There must have been a sufficient buffer between the organic coffee and the nearest conventional crop.
- The farmer must have a sustainable crop rotation plan to prevent erosion, the depletion of soil nutrients, and control for pests.

What is the size of the U.S. organic coffee market?

Organic Trade Association data shows that organic coffee sales in the United States amounted to approximately $89 million in 2005, up 40.4 percent from the previous year. Data collected by ACNielsen during 2005 show organic coffee sales increased 54 percent through Nov. 6, compared to the same period in 2004, while non-organic coffee sales increased just 8.5 percent. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), at least 56 percent of U.S. specialty coffee firms sell certified organic coffee.

Where is organic coffee grown?

Organic coffee is grown in such countries as Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, and Venezuela. The United States grows organic coffee in Hawaii. The leading producers include Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru.

What is the size of the world organic coffee market?

Globally, organic coffee represents about 0.6 percent of the coffee sold in the major consuming countries, according to estimates from The World Bank. Organic coffee consumption reached 700,000 60-kg. bags (42,000 metric tons) for major coffee-consuming nations in 2003, the last year for which data is available.

What organic coffee products are in the marketplace?

Organic coffee products now on the market include decaffeinated, caffeinated, flavored and instant coffees, organic coffee ice cream, coffee sodas, hard candies, and chocolate covered beans.

How is organic coffee decaffeinated?

Most conventionally produced coffees are decaffeinated by using methylene chloride. Organic coffee, however, must be decaffeinated using a certified organic decaffeination process to maintain the organic integrity of the beans. The most common organic decaffeination process is the SWISS WATER process, using only water to remove caffeine.

What labels might you see on organic coffee and what do they mean?

The USDA Organic seal can appear on any coffee product that contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients and that has been certified as organic by a certification agency accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The coffee may also carry a label saying “100 percent organic” or “Organic.”

Fair Trade

Fair Trade certification focuses on labor and trade standards to provide producers with a guaranteed price. All Fair Trade coffee is not necessarily organic. However, Fair Trade does require environmental stewardship. Approximately 85 percent of all Fair Trade Certified coffee sold in the United States is also certified organic. In the United States, coffee must be certified by TransFair USA to use a Fair Trade label. Organic producers of Fair Trade coffee received a fixed $1.41/lb in 2005.

Bird Friendly®

Bird Friendly® can only be used by operators that meet inspection and certification requirements of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. All certified Bird Friendly® coffee must also be certified organic. Bird Friendly® certification requires that the coffee be shade-grown with a wide variety of native shade trees and other shade-providing species. No synthetic chemicals can be used in the processing of Bird Friendly coffee.

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