Organic Coffee Cultivation: what you should know

Organic coffee is on the shopping list of more and more people concerned about consuming ethical and healthy coffee. However, few really know the work behind its cultivation and production. And you, do you think you know the difference between organic coffee, specialty coffee, origin coffee and conventional coffee? The difference between organic coffee and conventional coffee An organic or ecological coffee is one that has been grown without using chemical fertilizers or pesticides. In addition, the production process must guarantee the sustainability and conservation of natural resources. This implies a greater effort for the producer who must modify the way in which he grows coffee:
      • Organic coffee cultivation must grow under regulated shade
Only organic fertilizers can be applied The control of pests and diseases must be done through the application of bio inputs. The preparation of fertilizers and bio-inputs on the same farm requires a great expense in labor. Certified bio inputs for organic agriculture found on the market are much more expensive than agrochemicals. Weed control work should be done by hand, with a machete or scythe. The use of chemical herbicides is not allowed.
Producing organic coffee is more expensive than producing conventional coffee.

The cultivation of organic coffee must be established under shade.
This characteristic is one of the most important when growing organic coffee if you want to obtain a good quality production.
Since no chemical fertilizers are added in the cultivation of organic coffee, the plants only have the nutrients that are naturally available in the soil.
To boost nutrient cycling, it is necessary to grow coffee under agroforestry arrangements with at least 30% shade.
        • The presence of trees within the coffee farm helps to achieve a balance in which the nutrient cycle works similar to how it does in a natural forest ecosystem.
Thus, coffee plants can obtain from the soil the nutrients they require for their growth and development.
On the other hand, cultivation under shade prevents deforestation and increases biodiversity, contributing to the fight against climate change.
Shade trees provide other ecological services necessary for organic coffee production:
They regulate environmental humidity and create a more stable microclimate inside the crop.
They help regulate the hydrological cycle.
They promote nutrient cycling by extracting nutrients from the deepest layers of the subsoil with their roots and returning them to the surface in the form of litter.
When the litter decomposes, it turns into nutrients that are available for the coffee plants.
The leguminous tree species provide the coffee crop with an extra source of Nitrogen thanks to the action of nitrifying bacteria that symbiosis with their roots.
Shading also helps regulate weed growth.
Cultivation under shade could allow the intercropping of other crops that would help increase the economic yield per square meter of the farm.
An organic coffee farm may produces less coffee than a conventional farm
Coffee production depends on the climate that regulates blooms.
But the abundance of flowering also depends on other factors:
The amount of direct light that the crop receives affects the production volume of the coffee plants.
Under favorable weather conditions, coffee plants that grow in free exposure have a higher percentage of flowering than those that grow under shade.
In organic coffee crops that grow under shade, as there is a lower percentage of flowers, there will be less fruit production
The quantity and quality of coffee production depends on the nutrients available in the soil for the plants.
Once the coffee blossoms and the pods are formed, the coffee plant needs to extract enough nutrients to fill the pods and form the pods.
On average, the amount of macronutrients removed by 1,000 kg of almond coffee, equivalent to 1,250 kg of dry parchment coffee (100 arrobas), represents 30.9 kg of N, 2.3 kg of P, 36.9 kg of K, 4.3 kg of Ca, 2.3 kg of Mg and 1.2 kg of S. [Cenicafe 2013 avt.0429]
One hectare of conventional coffee with an average annual production of 2,500 kilos of dry parchment coffee requires:
80 kilos of Nitrogen
8 kilos of Phosphorus and
100 kilos of potassium,
in addition to other elements such as Calcium 12kg, Magnesium 7kg, 4kg of Sulfur and micronutrients.
These amounts of nutrients are never naturally available in the soil and that is why it is necessary to provide them in the form of fertilizer.
This taken to terms of chemical fertilizer, is more or less equivalent to:
380 kilos of Urea,
100 kilos of di ammonium phosphate and 340 kilos of Potassium Chloride per year per hectare.
If you wanted to provide the same amount of nutrients in the form of organic fertilizers, it would be necessary to add 12 kilos of organic fertilizer per plant annually. That equates to 90 tons per hectare per year, which is very difficult and very expensive to provide.
The amount of fertilizer obtained during the processing of those 2,500 kilos of dry parchment coffee is equivalent to only 2.5 tons of compost.
Summarizing: In an organic coffee crop, coffee production will initially be between 30 and 60% less, compared to that of a conventional crop.
This will be a consequence, on the one hand, of a decrease in the number of blooms when the crop grows under shade.
And on the other, because the amount of nutrients available in the soil, added to the amount of organic fertilizer that is economically feasible to provide to the crop, would never be enough to cover the requirements of high grain production.
  • Organic coffee can easily be an outstanding cup.
The organic coffee market has been growing in recent times thanks to more and more conscious consumers willing to pay more for organic products free of pesticides.
However, many organic coffees have exceptional cups and this happen for a number of reasons.
– If the organic coffee crops are established with controled exposure
This means that plants have a physiological balance between the nutrients they require and those that are available in the soil.
This is reflected in a nice acidity, body and fine notes as far as flavor is concerned and in a smaller amount of poor quality pasilla grain.
– If the crops grow naturally without any type of intervention
In this case, shading, since it is not regulated, may be excessive.
The compost is minimal or non-existent.
Pests and diseases such as rust and coffee borer, which directly affect the quality of the grain, are not controlled.
In this case this results in coffees with very flat cups and some defects.
– If adequate grain processing practices are not carried out:
The quality of the coffee cup depends on 50% of a good profit from the cherries.
If the benefit of the coffee is not carried out correctly in each of its stages, from pulping to drying and packaging, no matter how organic the crop is, the result will be a dirty cup or one with too many defects.
Therefore, it must be taken into account that:
A specialty coffee is one that has unique and exceptional qualities in the cup.
Although specialty coffees are produced under clean agriculture standards and GMP Good Management Practices, they are not organic unless they have a seal that certifies it.
Organic coffees are not always specialty coffee in terms of cup quality.
  • Not all “origin” coffee is organic coffee.
Denomination of Origin coffees are those that have unique characteristics and are restricted to a specific geographic area.
These coffees are sold pure. They are not part of any mix and their sales volume is very low.
However, the fact that a coffee has a designation of origin does not imply that it is organic.
For example, Colombian mild coffee is a Denomination of Origin. This differentiates it in the international market from the rest of mild coffees produced in other countries.
Another Colombian coffee with a more specific denomination of origin is Café Sierra Nevada. Many private brands are protected under this seal.
Although in essence the crops are managed organically, not all of them are certified as organic coffee.
This coffee is grown exclusively in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia.
Another example is Anei brand coffee.
In addition to being covered by the Denomination of Origin Café Sierra Nevada, it has the USDA organic, JAS, UE, BSC organic coffee certifications and the FAIRTRADE seal.
These are some examples that illustrate how a coffee of origin is not necessarily an organic coffee and how some coffees, although they are produced organically and have a certificate of Origin, are not certified organic.
Organic coffee must have a seal that accredits it.
The issue of certification of organic products arises from the need to give consumers the assurance that when they buy a product called “organic” it really is.

 Standards for organic products.
Each country has its own standard for the certification of organic products, which they have developed based on the guidelines established by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).
IFOAM is also the one that accredits the certifying bodies in charge of reviewing compliance with these standards together with the competent entity of each country.
Organic Coffee Certifications in Europe
The standard established by the European Parliament in Regulations EU 834-2007 and EU 889-2008 is applied.
As of 2021 these regulations will be replaced by a new standard established in Regulation EU-848-2018.
Certified products are recognized by the Euroleaf seal.
Organic Coffee Certifications in the United States
The standard established by the National Organic Program of the Department of Agriculture is applied. It corresponds to the USDA-NOP standard.
Certified products are recognized by the USDA Organic seal.
Organic Coffee Certifications in Japan
The Japanese Agricultural Standard JAS standard created by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Agriculture of Japan is applied.
The seals of independent certifying companies for organic products
In addition to the seals established by the regulations of each country, there are also seals from independent private certifying companies.
These certifiers must be authorized by the governments of the different countries.
Its standards are conceived under the guidelines established by IFOAM and the regulations in force in each country.
It is the most important independent European certifying company at an international level. It is authorized by the French government.
In order for a product to obtain the seal, it must comply with the Ecocert EOS organic standard.
This standard has been approved by the European Commission as an equivalent to the European regulation for organic certification in a large number of third countries (outside the European Union) and for various products, including coffee.
OCIA International:It is a private, non-profit organization that operates as an international certifier for the main organic production standards (EU, USDA-NOP, JAS, COR).
It also has its own regulations and grants its own OCIA Certified organic seal.
It is also authorized as a certifier for the UTZ Certified, OCIA Shade Grown and Smithsonian Bird Friendly standards for coffee.
When you buy a pound of coffee that has one or more of these seals, you can be completely sure that you are paying for 100% organic coffee.Seals or certifications for coffee that are NOT synonymous with organic coffee
Different types of coffee certifications that are not synonymous with organic coffee
There are many coffee seals such as standards and certifying houses and we believe it is important that you know the difference between them.
Whether you are a consumer or a producer, you must know which labels best represent your values, to understand what you are investing in.
The UTZ, FLO, FairTrade, Bird Friendly, 4C, Euregap or Rain forest alliance seals are NOT synonymous with organic coffee.
These seals obey other types of standards that promote, among other things:
A clean productionThese seals obey other types of standards that promote, among other things:
A clean production
The use of good cultivation practices
Environmentally sustainable production practices fair trade and production conditions with social justice.
When you buy a certified organic coffee it is because you are willing to pay a higher price for:
100% organic 
Free of agro-chemicals, be sure that
Labor rights respected 
Process has been environmentally sustainable.


 is made to support colombian coffee growers life and happiness, for a sustainable regenerative organic agriculture,  so they assume production costs and obtain deserved price for their product.

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