When you hear the word "coffee", what comes to mind? A delicious drink, warm aromas, liquid energy, getting cozy with a good book, rushing to work, or maybe you're having trouble thinking because you haven't had your morning cup yet.
But chances are, you didn't picture the plant your cup of joe actually comes from. And as it turns out, many coffee drinkers can't identify what a coffee plant actually looks like.
Pictured above: The Coffea plant. There are over 120 species of Coffea with the most prevalent and commonly known being Coffea Arabica, which is typically just called "Arabica". Sounds familiar, right? These plants are small trees or shrubs, some of which produce fruits called coffee cherries with seeds inside. The seeds inside of the red-colored fruits are actually coffee beans.
Just like any other crop, coffee trees can be grown "conventionally" or organically. Today we'll explore the vast difference between the two and why you as a consumer should care about how your coffee makes it to your cup.
With over 12 billion pounds of coffee consumed annually worldwide, it's also one of the most pesticide-sprayed crops in the world.
In fact, it IS the #1 pesticide-treated food or beverage crop, #3 overall behind tobacco and cotton. So, what are the crops being treated with? Well, that depends. Some farmers use "conventional" farming methods while others grow their crops organically.
Conventional coffee crops
With such a high demand for this commodity worldwide, "maximized production" is the name of the game when it comes to conventional coffee farming. Unfortunately, this has come at the expense of human and environmental health. Conventional coffee crops are heavily treated with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals- not only does this have a negative impact on the crops themselves, but also the people spraying the crops, the environment, surrounding communities, water supply, and so on. When crops are sprayed with these harmful chemicals, they leach into the groundwater and runoff into nearby water sources. This is no issue of choice for the community members who are experiencing the slew of negative effects and now consuming heavily polluted water.
In addition, most conventionally grown coffee plants are hybrids that happen to thrive in the open sunlight. A crop grown in thick forest is more difficult to tend and harvest and cannot be planted as densely, so, forests are cleared in order to grow large amounts of this sun-loving variety. This is an issue not only because of the ecosystem destruction that takes place but also the fact that natural pest-deterrents will be gone along with a lack of tree cover. This kills populations of certain animals such as birds, who eat crop ruining insects and creates increased runoff. Consequently, soil, natural nutrients, and any harmful chemicals being used are washing away, leading to heavy pollution and even more pesticide use.
Don't want a cup full of chemicals? Want to support those who make human and environmental safety a priority? There are lots of options...and they're even better tasting.
USDA Organic coffee crops
The most common certification for an organically grown product, and the certification awarded to our Oasis coffees, is USDA Organic. You've likely seen this logo on products throughout the grocery store- but what does it mean for coffee? Let me start off by debunking a myth. Organic coffee does not mean that the crops were grown without fertilizers at all. When buying certified organic coffee, you are assuring that the crops were grown on soil that had no prohibited substances (like synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides) applied to it. Fertilizers and pesticides must be all-natural substances. This makes for cleaner beans, air, water, and soil! When a coffee farm is committed to organic practices, more natural vegetation will remain intact due to the bulk of organic coffee being shade grown among existing ecosystems. In addition, organically grown coffee is richer in healthy antioxidants. Antioxidants work to prevent molecules called free radicals from causing oxidative stress in your body. Free radicals and oxidative stress have been linked to the aging process, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer among others.
So if you're looking for an all-around superior cup of coffee, you're going to want to purchase organic!
As always, let us know if you have any questions! We make it our mission to continue education and inform you as a coffee consumer. As with anything, there's more to organic coffee farming than meets the eye. If you are interested in collecting more detailed information than we have provided here, drop a comment and let us know!