Coffee: Organic v. regular

This Week In The HSI Healthier Talk Community

Truly committed coffee drinkers don’t want to hear about the
health-related pros and cons of coffee drinking. They’ve heard them and they’ve made their decision to stick with their java. But that doesn’t mean that the coffee debate ends there.

In the General Health Topics forum in the HSI Healthier Talk community, a thread titled “Coffee: Organic v. Regular” illustrates some of the important choices a coffee drinker is faced with every time he enters his supermarket’s coffee aisle.

A member named Timco leads off with this question: “How bad is regular coffee as compared to organic coffee? I’m not asking about how unhealthy coffee is in general, just whether organic coffee is much better for you than regular coffee.”

Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, according to a member named Cate who adds, “When you drink regular you are also drinking pesticides. I personally will buy nothing but organic, free trade coffee.” And a member named Ani agrees, noting an added bonus that the people who work on organic coffee farms aren’t subjected to pesticide sprays.

The difference between organic and conventionally grown coffees is obvious. But what’s “free trade” coffee? A member named Naturalway helps to sort things out with information she found in Organic Style magazine.

According to Organic Style, conventionally grown coffee is heavily
treated with fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, most of which are burned off in the roasting process. (Naturalway’s comment: “Yeah, sure.”) This chemical dousing affects the taste of the coffee, the environment the coffee is grown in, and the farm workers who are often grossly underpaid.

Organic coffee is usually produced in small batches and is certified free of synthetic chemicals. “Fair-trade” coffee takes organic one step further by guaranteeing that coffee farm workers are paid a fair living wage. This coffee production is overseen by TransFair USA, an independent certification agency. Most of the fair-trade coffee exported to the U.S. is organic.

For those who are as committed to the environment as they are to their daily coffee fix, there’s one more category that Organic Style refers to as “shade-grown, Rainforest Alliance certified, and bird-friendly.” When coffee is grown under a canopy of shade (as opposed to the clear-cut fields of conventional coffees), the beans mature more slowly creating a richer taste. And many birds benefit too. Scores of bird species take refuge in heavily forested coffee plantations during migrations.

Coffee farmers certified by the Rainforest Alliance are required to use environmentally sound growing methods. But does this extra care actually benefit the environment? A member named Leppert writes: “With the good prices and wonderful choices on the Fair Trade coffee, don’t know why you’d buy anything else! I read in a recent Nature Conservancy that they had done a study to see if these concerns for the environment and wildlife actually were working. The answer is yes it is working.”

As for taste, here’s how a member named Brian describes the difference between conventional and shade-grown: “I’ve been buying shade-grown coffee beans through the Arbor Day Foundation for about a year. Regular store-bought coffee smells and tastes like dishwater to me now. So as far as I’m concerned there is no comparison. The organic shade-grown coffee wins in a landslide as far as taste and aroma are concerned.”
V Other topics being discussed this week in the Healthier Talk community forums include:

*Depression: SAM-e

*Memory: Seeing is remembering

*Vision: Wheat free with greatly improved vision!

*General Health Topics: Omega 6:3 balance

*Food Questions: Fermented cabbage for avian flu

*Vitamin Questions: Vitamin/mineral supplement for my dog