We’ll be honest — there are a lot of different terms and labels to know when it comes to buying coffee. It can make reading a typical coffee bag seem like deciphering a foreign language (don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered). The reality, however, is that many of these labels do indeed have a very valuable meaning, and understanding them can help you make better decisions about which coffees are best for you and our planet.
In this blog, we’re focusing on one label tag we’re sure you’ve heard of before: organic.
What does certified organic mean?
You’ve no doubt seen products proudly showcasing organic labeling on their packaging—but not every organic label means the same thing.
In fact, there are 3 distinct categories for organic products: 100% Certified Organic, Certified Organic, and Made With Organic. Let’s take a look at these three:
100% Certified Organic
In order for a company to legally advertise its products as “100% Certified Organic,” it must be approved by the USDA through a certifying organization. This is a rigorous process that involves multiple levels of inspection and verification to ensure that every standard is met before a product can be labeled. Furthermore, for a product to be “100% Certified Organic” every single ingredient in that product must be organic.
Like “100% Certified Organic” products, “Certified Organic” items must also be approved by the USDA. The difference here is that a minimum of 95% of all ingredients in a “Certified Organic” product must be organic.
Made With Organic
Products that advertise “Made With Organic” have a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. Additionally, these products have to specifically list which of their ingredients are organic (i.e. they can’t just say “Made With Organic Ingredients”).
How Does Coffee Become Certified Organic?
The USDA issues organic certifications through third-party organizations that are qualified to inspect and verify that a company is upholding organic standards of practice. When it comes to certifying coffee, this is no easy feat. Each stage of the coffee supply chain must be strictly controlled to ensure that everyone involved complies with organic practices. This ensures that there’s no cross-contamination with coffee that doesn’t meet the standard. In other words, not only must the coffee farmer hold an organic certification, but also the cooperative or mill that processes the coffee, the importer that transports it, and finally the roaster that roasts, packages and sells the coffee.
Why Is It Important To Drink Organic Coffee?
Simply put, organic coffee is better for your health, the health of the farmer, and the environment. Conventionally grown coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops in the world — up to an astonishing 250 pounds of harmful agrochemicals and fertilizers (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc.) are used per acre of coffee plants.
Organic farming prohibits the use of these toxic inputs, opting instead for more natural sources. There are a lot of standards that businesses have to follow in order to be considered organic. In the words of the National Coffee Association, these standards “impact anything from the health of the soil and nutrients it contains, the types of plants grown (e.g. no GMO crops are used in production), management of pests and weeds, and impacts benefiting the surrounding environment such as carbon sequestration and improvement in biodiversity.”
How To Know If You’re Purchasing Certified Organic Coffee
Buying organic coffee is easy - just look for the USDA seal. Only products that are “100% Certified Organic” or “Certified Organic” are legally allowed to display a USDA organic seal on their packaging. “Made With Organic” products are not allowed to use the seal.
Is Bean & Bean Coffee Certified Organic?
In addition to Kosher, non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free certifications, Bean & Bean has been certified organic through Natural Food Certifiers since 2020. We’ve successfully maintained our certification every year since! While not all of our coffees are organic, we’re proud to partner with several excellent coffee farms who are organic certified.