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Why Organic Coffee is So Important

Why Organic Coffee is So Important

A girl I used to know in New York City was so fanatical about recycling that she would literally take empty bottles home from bars because she feared that they would be tossed in the garbage. I’ll never forget the time when we were out one night and she started filling up her designer handbag […]

Coffee Drinks Environment

cup of coffeeA girl I used to know in New York City was so fanatical about recycling that she would literally take empty bottles home from bars because she feared that they would be tossed in the garbage.

I’ll never forget the time when we were out one night and she started filling up her designer handbag with empty beer bottles, which weren’t even hers!  She was that committed to the environment.

Yet, when she drank her coffee each morning, organic coffee was never even a consideration.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this didn’t make much sense.  Why?

Because conventionally-grown coffee is incredibly unhealthy for people and the planet.

* In terms of chemicals, coffee is one of the most heavily treated crops of any agricultural commodity.

* In order to mass produce coffee, traditional growers often clear wide swaths of land, predominantly in the rainforest, where the crops receive direct sunlight all-day.  This all-day exposure to the sun weakens the immune system of the coffee crops and makes them more vulnerable to pests and insects.

Hence, it is one of the reasons that coffee requires such large amounts of pesticides and insecticides.  This also explains why shade is very important.

* Many of these pesticides and insecticides sprayed directly on the crops end up in the coffee that people drink on a daily basis and therefore harm our bodies.  These chemicals also cause damage to the soil and pollute the local water supply.

Furthermore, workers who have tremendous exposure to these chemicals suffer greatly.  Flower growers in Ecuador are a prime example of this.

* When the beans are harvested, they are washed with water.  This water, which now contains many different toxic chemicals, is released back into streams, rivers or whatever source it came from, possibly the soil.

* The clearing of fragile rainforests, where coffee is grown, represents an incredibly serious threat to global warming.  Read what Tom Friedman of the New York Times has to say about this.

Over the last forty years or so, approximately 2/3rds of the rainforest in Central America and Mexico has disappeared.

My apologies for all the bad news…..but here’s the good news.

* Organic farmers do not use harmful or super-toxic chemicals on their coffee crops.  The coffee that you drink is as “clean” as possible.  This means you are not putting dangerous pesticides or insecticides into your body each morning.

* The lack of pesticides do not destroy the soil, a critical factor in the nutritional value of all organic food.

* Most organic coffee is shade-grown and this directly impacts taste.  According to Silvia Covelli, CEO of True Origin Organics and a member of the Organic Coffee Collaboration, “the best tasting coffees are the ones that are shade-grown.  This is because coffee is a very aromatic plant and absorbs all the flavors and aromas from surrounding trees, such as plantains, cacao and fruits.  The exotic aromas come out when not exposed to chemicals.”

* Organic farmers nurture the environment and minimize soil erosion through re-forestation, the use of ecological methods to control pests, the recirculation of water whenever possible and the propagation of different species of native trees, which also provides an important refuge for migratory birds.

* When you buy organic coffee, you are supporting farmers in many third-world countries who are committed to the environment and are helping to promote biodiversity.

Just as recycling glass bottles is important, so is the choice you make each morning at the coffee counter. For you and the planet.

While there are many, many brands of organic coffee and each person is partial to a specific flavor profile, one excellent company is Equal Exchange.

Click HERE for their fair trade, certified organic, whole bean breakfast blend.


  • Al says:

    Question is, is coffee non GMO? I heard that back in the late 1990’s that many coffee producers were told to go with GMO or their coffee would no longer be bought by the buyers. Anybody know about this??

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Al,

      There is no commercially available GMO-coffee. The main issue with coffee is all of the pesticides. That is why organic is so critical.

      Live well,

  • Om te weten welk pakket het finest bij je past biedt KPN je tot slot de mogelijkheid om een zeer eenvoudige, maar verhelderende vergelijking
    uit te voeren.

  • Katie says:


    I truly appreciate that information. I love your website, but love even more that you are accessible and reply back on comments. I can’t thank you enough for that information. I buy the Organic coffee from Trader Joes and it’s from Honduras. I will start researching to make sure it meets my criteria!

    Thank you!!!

  • Katie says:

    Thank you for posting about this. I buy organic and am wondering if the brand you are recommending tests for mycotoxins and fungal by-products? I follow David Wolfe and his website says “What they don’t know is that since organic coffee uses no chemical sprays, it has no protection against mycotoxins like T-2 toxins, ochratoxins, vomitoxins, and rubratoxins.” I am guessing that would be from being in the shade as opposed to direct sun exposure. So his point is that while its free of chemicals, the organic process still has some pitfalls. The coffee can be tested though to ensure that it doesn’t contain harmful by-products although I have yet to find an organic brand (besides Longevity Warehouse) that mentions testing for this.

    His video can be seen here:

    You are one of my trusted sources for organic living and so I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thank you!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Katie,

      Thanks for writing. The mycotoxins have more to do with where the beans are grown, what kinds of beans you are buying, and the processing of the beans. The fact that an organic brand does not do mycotoxin testing would NOT dissuade me from buying it.

      Why? Because there are some things that you can do/look for which will help you buy safe organic beans.

      1) Buy beans that are grown in dry climates. Humid climates allow toxins to grow, similar to peanuts grown in Georgia. It is better to buy peanuts grown in New Mexico. Beans grown in the mountains of Central America are good places – very dry there.

      Related to that is don’t buy blends because you’ll never know where all of the beans come from if it is a mixture of different beans.

      2) Try to get beans that are made via wet processing because mycotoxins form during the drying process.

      3) No decaf coffee. Caffeine protects against toxins.

      4) Buy arabica. I have heard that robusta has more toxins than arabica.

      I hope this helps!

      All the best,

  • Max, thank you for an insightful article and let us know if there is anything we can do to help support your cause.

  • Andrew says:

    Look at Tesla – they are successful because they brought an awesome car to the marketplace that happened to be all electric. The roasters we partner with are doing the same thing with coffee – producing exceptional single origin coffee coffees that happen to be organic. This product-first approach is really the best way to get folks onboard.

  • Max; Great article, as usual. The beginning of this article struck a chord. I’ve often wondered about people who are tremendously environmental yet do not eat or support organics. For instance, I know a wonderful couple who are all about saving the oceans yet they don’t commit to organics despite the fact that pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer runoff ends up in the streams, lakes, rivers and oceans. I have another friend who is all about alternative transportation to reduce the carbon footprint. He, too, can take or leave organics. In my opinion, many people suffer from reductionist thinking; they are too focused on one aspect of clean living but ignore other important aspects.

  • Lois says:

    I love the article and would love to buy organic. Tea has the same issues. Yet when you go out into the marketplace it is almost impossible to find organic coffee at a reasonable price! Or find it at all. One comment listed a source. Please, provide more sources to these specialty organics that are so hard to find!

  • Patrick says:

    I love coffee and one of the best sources for organic / fair trade coffees is Strongtree Oganic Coffee. They source from the world over and only carry organic fair trade beans. They are a roaster and Chris the roast master is one of the best on the east coast. You can order from their website at

    Purple Dragon Food Co-op member.

  • Lorraine says:

    If you’re ever upstate in Sullivan County, NY, drop into Samba in Jeffersonville. You can’t look a coffee farmer in the eye, but you can look the coffee farmer’s sister-in-law in the eye! The Do Brazil coffee they sell in the shop is from a family plantation – all organic, clean coffee. Direct source without living in a coffee growing area – doesn’t get better. 🙂

  • Hi Susan,

    Thanks so much for your kind words!!

    Unless you live in Central America, South America, Africa, Indonesia or some other place where coffee is grown, it is impossible to look a farmer in the eye and know whether chemicals are being used or not.

    Therefore, the best we can do is to look for the USDA organic seal. Is this a 100% fool-proof system? No, it isn’t. But, it is the best we have, and we have to keep working to tighten and improve the standards.

    I appreciate your interest in the site!

    Live well,

  • Susan says:

    Max, I’m loving your blog, which is off to a roaring start. But how can you tell in the case of coffee? Which “organic” is really organic? Are there brands you recommend?

    I’m sitting here with my first cup of the day–from Starbucks.

  • Max Goldberg says:

    Hi Russ,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion in this matter.

    You are not alone in having doubts about the organic label. There are many people who share your skepticism, precisely for the reasons that you have given — they don’t trust the government, the system, the certifiers, etc.

    That is why it is so important that people who are concerned about this issue stay involved. Organizations like the Organic Consumers Association ( are keeping a close eye on what is going on in Washington to keep the standards as high as possible. As you can imagine, there are powerful lobbyists who are trying to compromise “organic”.

    Buying food from a local farmer, who you know and trust to be growing “clean” fruit and produce, is certainly a great way to go. When I go to the farmer’s market and I can look the guy in the eye, I, too, have a good deal of comfort that what I am getting is top-notch organic quality.

    But, you are right, just because a tomato has an organic sticker on it, can we say with 100% certainty that it is truly organic? No, we can’t.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Live well,

  • Max Goldberg says:

    Hi Jenn,

    Thanks for positive feedback. And, yes, many people don’t want to give up coffee, so isn’t organic a great alternative??

    Have the best night!

    Live well,

  • Russ says:

    Unfortunately, I have troubles trusting the organic label. Much like the ‘Excellent Source of Calcium’ on my breakfast cereal, or the AAA ratings that were on many subprime CMBS bonds, people will put any label that makes a buck, without a moral compass or fear of consequence. Add in the challenge of monitoring growing and harvesting conditions by third-world growers and you have a very unreliable claim of organic. For me, the only organic is local organic, where the farmer may have to look me in the eye when he makes his claim, or where I can investgate for myself how he conducts his affairs.

  • Jenn says:

    Great article Max! I love that it ends with positives! so few food articles do. Seems we are always being told what not to eat and why instead of what is good and who wants to give up coffee, right? I read just today,
    “Instead of telling myself what I cant eat, I tell myself what I can and that helps a lot”. I love it!

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