coffee

Most people don’t think about coffee and tea when they are making organic choices. But coffee and tea can have chemical residues on them just like any other food product, and if you drink several cups a day, your intake or chemical residues can really add up.

You can purchase many different brands of organic coffee and they are all labeled by the appropriate agency for the growing region. Because coffee and tea are not grown in the United States (except for Hawaiian coffee), the USDA does not have jurisdiction over labeling regulations. The Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) is one such international organization that can certify coffee or tea as being organic. Any products that are blends, and manufactured in the United States may have the USDA label though.

A few well-known brands for organic coffee include Dean’s Beans, Green Mountain, Grounds for Change, and Birds and Beans. For teas Numi, Mighty Leaf or Celestial Seasonings offer organic options. Some of these companies may also carry non-organic lines of coffee or tea, so watch the details on what you are buying until you get to know the brand.

Making ethical choices with coffee and tea can go beyond the standard organic label as well. The classic organic is still popular but you can also get other variations that go to help the world around us for other reasons. The next biggie when it comes to coffee (and to a lesser extent, tea) is that its fairly traded. That means that the workers who tend and harvest the coffee cherries or tea leaves are fairly compensated for their work and treated well.

Another environmental type of coffee is shade-grown coffee. It’s not as often applied to tea. Traditionally, coffee is grown in open fields so it can get the most sun, but that has always meant large-scale deforestation in many environmentally valuable and delicate areas (such as the rainforest). It is quite possible to grown coffee among the trees, which means much more of the natural ecosystem can be left in place on a coffee plantation.