Our Coffees

What Is Organic Coffee?  

Organic Coffee is grown only with natural fertilizers and without chemical pesticides.  

Why Organic Coffee?

Organic Coffee is better for the environment, better for the workers on the coffee farms.  And we think organic coffee tastes better than conventional coffees.  

Chemical pesticides and fertilizers kill indigenous animals and bugs that are good for the ecosystems. The chemicals also get into the water table and foul rivers and streams.  Many of the chemicals used in Third World agriculture are carcinogens.  Since coffee is a hand-cultivated crop, the workers on conventional coffee farms are in daily contact with harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

What Is Shade Grown Coffee?

Shade grown coffee grows under the rain forest canopy.  This protects wild bird and animal habitats.  The coffee also grows slower, developing a fuller, richer flavor than conventionally grown coffee.  It's like a tomato grown in a garden, rather than in a hot house.  The hot house tomato grows quicker, but it is, by comparison, tasteless. 

What If There Is No Shade?

Many farmers are replanting the forest or, more likely, are doing symbiotic planting.  They are planting a tree crop, like fruit trees or nut trees or cacao, to shade the coffee bushes.  This way they get a second crop on the same land. 

What About Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a complicated issue. Some of our coffees are Fair Trade.  Many are direct trade with the farms.  While Fair Trade has done some good, fair trade has its problems. First, Fair Trade does not induce a grower to grow better quality coffee, it merely pays the grower more for the junk he is already growing. The Fair Trade model depends on coffee going through coffee co-ops.  In the co-ops, the growers lump all their coffee together, so a grower with superior coffee does not get adequately compensated for outstanding coffee.  

By contrast, Direct Trade coffee compensates a coffee grower for outstanding coffee.  The grower foregoes the co-op "middle man" and sells directly to coffee roasters and brokers.  If a coffee is a superior grade, the grower will be paid far more than the Fair Trade price he would otherwise get from the co-op.

Why Can't I Get My Favorite Coffee All The Time?

Coffee is a seasonal crop.  When it is gone it is gone until next year.  Roasters will try to guess how much coffee they will require for the year and purchase coffee contracts to match their expected need.  But if they guess wrong, that's all there is.  In addition, crop conditions ultimately effect the ability to get beans.  Crop disease, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis have all impacted crops in recent years.  In general, the harvest seasons are as follows.  Add two months for retail availability.
  • Central America           Sept-Feb
  • South America             April-Sept
  • Africa                         Oct-Jan
  • Indonesia                    June-Dec
  • Islands                       Sept-Nov