What Makes a Coffee Organic?

The world consumes more than two billion cups of coffee a day. In the USA more than 50% of the population drinks coffee. Statistics are hard to come by but organic coffee makes up only a small percentage of total coffee output or consumption. What makes a coffee organic and why would you want to drink healthy organic coffee and not regular java?

Healthy organic coffee has been around for a long, long time. Unfortunately in the modern era the use of pesticides and herbicides has entered the picture in growing many crops, including otherwise healthy organic coffee. Although non-organic contaminants do not necessarily reduce the beneficial health effects of a healthy cup of organic coffee the non-organic contaminants cause problems of their own.

A study by the Australian Food Standards Authority revealed that as many as 133 contaminants may be in a cup of commercially available coffee. These contaminants include metals such as aluminum and zinc, pesticide residues, ochratoxin A, acrylamide, furan, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are found to cause cancer. Furans have been associated with skin disorders, liver problems, certain kinds of cancers, impairment to the reproductive, endocrine, and immune system, as well as effects on embryonic development.

Drinking organic coffee probably does not increase the health effects of drinking coffee that come from antioxidants and caffeine. But organic coffee does not contain residues of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers. What makes coffee organic is that is grown in uncontaminated soil, processed and stored separately from regular coffee. The end result of organic coffee farming is preservation of the soil and the water table by a process referred to as sustainable agriculture. But, how do you know your coffee is organic?

Organic Coffee Certification

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certifies organically produced food including organic coffee. Because the only coffee grown in the USA is grown in Hawaii the USDA uses other certifying agencies who work on the USDA’s behalf. In Latin America where the majority of the world’s organic coffee is produces Bio Latina is a certifying agency for the USDA.

If your organic coffee originated in Latin America it is likely that it was subject to Bio Latina organic coffee certification. Bio Latina is located in Lima, Peru. The company certifies farms, ranches, and forests for sustainable practices on behalf of organizations throughout the world. Bio Latina certifies in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela as well as in Panamá, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador Ecuador and Mexico. The label on a bag of healthy organic coffee from Latin America may say that it is USDA certified. However, it may be Bio Latina organic coffee certification on behalf of the USDA that guarantees a pure cup of organic coffee.

Whether your organic coffee is certified by Bio Latina or another agency on behalf of the USDA you should see a USDA Certified sticker on the bag. Other certifications such as UTZ or Rainforest Alliance let you know that coffee was grown under sustainable agricultural conditions although the coffee might not meet the strict definition of organic coffee.

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