by Paul Massard, Bean Hunter
There have recently been articles published condemning the consumption of coffee that is not organic. I will say that I agree 100% on the facts that organic coffee is better for the environment, as well as marginally better for your consumption but will disagree 100% with the allegations that conventional coffee is bad for you because it is covered with chemical pesticides and herbicides. Having some firsthand experience visiting many of these farms down at origin, I will say that when a farmer needs to use these chemicals on his coffee trees, they are used very sparingly. The reasons for this are; that they do understand the environmental implications and trust me, these guys want to preserve their land just as much or even more than we want them to…it’s their livelihood, it’s what feeds their children. But the main reason that these products are used so sparingly is that these products are crazy expensive, first they are imported into these countries, then once they make the journey from the larger cities to the small agricultural supply stores in the towns or villages that these farmers do their shopping in, we can only expect that the price has exponentially increased. In other words, these products are treated like gold.
When we look at coffee, it grows just like any fruit that grows on a tree, but the coffee that we are consuming is the seed or pit of the coffee cherry: very similar in structure to a cherry you would buy at the store, not the jarred or canned ones, but the ones in the produce aisle. Inside of that cherry is a pit and what we are consuming when we drink coffee is a product made from the roasted seed or pit of the coffee cherry. When the coffee cherry is processed, the outer skin as well as all of the fruit is removed from it, leaving us with a coffee “bean”. This outer skin and fruit protect the seed from it ever coming in contact with any of these chemicals.
I would also like to talk about the process a farm must go through to become organic. This process takes 3 years and tends to be very costly for the farmer, not only in certification fees but in the loss of yield. As a farm that has grown conventional (non-organic) coffee is converting to organic processes, they will lose 1/3 of their yield due to the trees not receiving the same amount of nutrients that it’s used to. Sure, that yield will return once the trees become accustom to not receiving those fertilizers, but for that time, the farmers income decreases by an average of 1/3. This is until he is certified organic and can receive the premium that that coffee demands. So getting a farmer to convert and grow coffee organically is ridiculously hard, unless he or she partners with a roaster, who commits to paying more for his coffee for those 3 years and in return has the 1st shot at buying the coffee once it is organic .
Again, I will agree that Organic coffee is better for the environment, I am just writing this to fight the chastising going on against conventional coffee.