The Daily Scoop Answers: What Is Organic Coffee?

Cafe Altura Organic Coffee

Ever wonder just what is organic coffee anyway? Here’s the scoop.

What’s in That Cup?

In short, organic coffee comes is coffee grown without pesticides. But to really understand what makes some coffee organic, it’s important to first note what makes non-organic coffee, well, non-organic. Most of the chemical pesticides used in coffee production are used to ward off common pests and diseases from crops.

The good news for coffee drinkers is that the roasting process dilutes or eliminates most of the harmful effects of these chemicals. However, that doesn’t take the risk away from the farmers who are exposed directly to these harsh chemicals – but more about that later.

Here are just a few of the worst chemicals that are used in the coffee-growing world:

  • Methyl parathion: The most toxic pesticide of all, methyl parathion is banned in many countries and is highly toxic to humans, birds, fish, and mammals. Despite being banned in many countries, it is still highly (mis)used.
  • Endosulfan: Used to ward off the coffee cherry borer, Endosulfan is toxic to most animals and takes years to break down in soil. It attacks the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, and reproductive organs.
  • Chlorpyrifos: Used against common coffee pests, Chlorpyrifos has been banned in the U.S. for household use because it has caused human death and birth defects. Needless to say, it’s quite detrimental to delicate ecosystems.

The Good News

There are ways to combat pests without using harsh chemicals, and if fact, many coffee growers use them. That’s where organic comes in. Organic coffee is coffee grown without the use of synthetic substances such as most pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. If coffee is labeled “organic,” at least 95 percent of the beans must have been grown under organic conditions. Most organic coffee farms are small and farmer owned—which means smaller crops and easier management of pests.

Many organic coffee growers keep pests and diseases away by using natural fertilizers such as poultry manure and bocashy, a mix of coffee plant pulp, manure, molasses, leavening, and other seemingly random ingredients. Another common tactic for keeping pests away is the use of the parasitic wasp, a beneficial insect that eats the larvae of coffee-plant-eating pests.

What to Look For in the Grocery Aisle

When buying organic coffee, look for the USDA Organic seal, which will certify that the coffee contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients and has been certified as organic by a certification agency accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To get you started, here are a few of our favorite organic coffee beans:

A good cup of joe that’s also good for the growers and the environment—count us in!

How Many Blondes Does It Take to…Decide That Starbucks Blonde Roast Is the Best?

Everyone’s got their own favorite type of coffee, but for the blondies out there, Starbucks blonde roast is one solid option. It’s mellow and soft, and made with ethically sourced Arabica beans that have been lightly toasted to perfection.

Starbucks Veranda Blend - Blonde Roast

Starbucks Veranda Blend – Blonde Roast

Plus, there’s obviously no denying that Starbucks guys know what they’re doing when it comes to roasting coffee. They’ve only been doing it for 40 years plus, after all…

So when it comes to light roast options, we give the Starbucks Veranda Blend Whole Bean Coffee two enthusiastic thumbs up, thanks to it’s pleasing balance of gentle flavor and mellow acidity. And with subtle notes of cocoa and a fresh, understated body, this blend is perfect for warm summer evenings—or just any time you want a steamy cup of not-super-intense coffee.

One-cup coffee maker fan? Check out Starbucks blonde roast for Keurig here.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Coffee for a Latte

Is it latte o’clock? If frothy hot (or iced) espresso drinks are your thing, then treat yourself with the best coffee for a latte. Go on, you deserve it.

Best Coffee For a LatteThere are a few key things to look for on the quest for the perfect latte-appropriate bean: First off, it’s gotta be dark and bold. You’ll also need one that creates a thick and velvety crema (that’s the creamy top layer you get in good cappuccino). And as with any coffee, freshness counts.

The very freshest option will most likely be one that’s roasted locally, so before you head to the grocery store (online or otherwise), check your favorite local coffee shop to see if they’ve got anything roasted that day or week.

There are some exceptional options in the international marketplace as well. Try illy iperEspresso Capsules Dark Roasted Coffee for a robust flavor that will compliment the milk’s froth perfectly. Lavazza is also a critics’ choice—try their Super Crema Espresso for rich flavor and serious crema.

Coffee Lingo 101: What Is Kona Coffee?

If you’re like the rest of us coffee-philes, you’ve learned your way around the coffee aisle at the grocery store. You know the kind you usually buy…and you know to steer clear of the ones you’ll just spit out. But you may not know the ins and outs of all the other varieties available.

That’s why we’ve come up with the Coffee Lingo 101 series, to help you learn what makes what, what, when it comes to coffee. In a recent post, we covered the difference between robusta vs Arabica. This time, it’s all about Kona coffee.

So, Just What Is Kona Coffee?

Hawaii Roasters Kona Coffee

Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee

Here’s the mind bender of the moment: Kona coffee is actually Arabica coffee—but it’s from Hawaii. Arabica coffee makes up 60 percent of the world’s coffee consumption, and is typically less caffeinated than other types of coffee. The Kona district is on the Big Island of Hawaii, and that lush landscape is the only place this expensive coffee is grown. Considering how small the stretch of land is (hello, 50 square miles), you have to admit this is one very fruitful area.

Wait, back up. So Kona coffee is just Arabica but from a fancy island origin? Sort of. But it’s more complicated than that.

Here’s the deal: A very unique set of environmental factors contribute to the unique properties of this special bean. We’re talking a consistent weather pattern of sunny mornings and rainy afternoons, coupled with a dark, mineral-rich volcanic soil—this is not a formula you’ll find in most Arabica-producing regions. That very specific set of conditions is why only coffee from this particular area can legally be designated as Kona coffee.

Keep in mind that, like any coffee, Kona coffee can be roasted in different intensities. So whether you’re a light, medium, or dark roast fan, Kona coffees and blends may be just what you’ve been looking for.

Ready to give it a shot (or gulp)? Try any of these top picks:

Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee: These hand-picked, farm-roasted beans have been featured everywhere from the Hawaii Governors Export Awards to the Food and Wine Radio Network—and for good reason. Certified by the state of Hawaii as 100% Kona, these sun-dried beans yield a wonderfully delicate flavor.

Magnum Kona Blend Coffee: This is the budget-friendly way to get a taste of Kona without the higher pricetag. Kona blends are required to have at least 10 percent Kona beans, which can be mixed with any other beans, typically Columbian or Brazilian. Magnum’s full-bodied blend has a light taste with medium acidity, and is decidedly less expensive than its 100% Kona competitors.

Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee: Fresh coffee is yours when you go with this small-batch provider. Expect a chocolaty aroma with hints of almonds and vanilla. And if you’re looking for toxins, look elsewhere. These growers skip the herbicides and pesticides that may be found in other coffee crops.

Whichever product you choose, Kona coffee is a must-try for any coffee lover. If you like it, you’ll have just stumbled across a delightful new option. If you don’t, you’ll at least know one less thing to buy!