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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - November 2007

Coffee with a Conscience

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Coffee beansOrganic brew is brimming with benefits, and flavor is only the beginning.

Java lovers, take note: Organic coffee is a piping hot trend. "A lot of people make the decision to purchase it because they want to support organic production," says Sandra Marquardt, coordinator of the Organic Coffee Collaboration. "But once they taste it, they get hooked on the taste and the quality."

The coffee group was founded two years ago by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). According to their latest figures, U.S. sales of organic coffee reached $89 million in 2005, a 40 percent jump from the previous year. Today it's getting more shelf space at your neighborhood Publix but is even sold at some national parks and fast-food restaurants.

"The whole point of organic [coffee growing] is ‘take care of the soil, and it will take care of you.' It will reduce the number of pests and weeds," Marquardt says. "Whatever you do to help the soil's health will help the quality of the product."

Fair Trade LogoWhen it comes to growing coffee, that soil is often fragile, prone to erosion and found in tropical forests. And because coffee is a shade-loving shrub, most organic growers are committed to preventing deforestation and loss of the forest's protective canopy. They also:
  • Boost soil fertility through natural methods such as composting.
  • Avoid toxic, long-lasting chemicals to control pests and weeds.
  • Practice water conservation by cleaning and reusing the wastewater used to process coffee whenever possible.
When you shop, look first for the USDA Organic seal on the packaging. There also should be a reference to the organization that has certified that the coffee is indeed organic.

A Fair Trade Certified mark indicates that growers received a set minimum price for their coffee and were part of a co-op linked directly to importers, helping them hold on to more of the benefits of their labor. About 85 percent of Fair Trade Certified coffee is organic. Conversely, many organic coffees sold under fair economic conditions aren't Fair Trade Certified. The seeming disconnect exists because growers who aren't members of a co-op may not be eligible for certification. "While I respect Fair Trade, it's not the only indication that the farmers are being paid a good wage," Marquardt says.

USDA OrganicA third logo, a Bird Friendly mark, indicates the coffee has been certified as shade-grown by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center of the National Zoo. "Shade-grown" indicates that coffee is planted under a natural canopy of trees rather than on cleared land, providing a bird habitat and protecting the soil.

That first cup o' joe in the morning already makes you feel good. Why not choose an earth-friendly organic coffee that's also something you can feel good about?

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