When we have certified organic coffees they have “organic” or “FTO” (fair trade and organic) in the coffee’s name. You can view our current organic offerings here.
Much of the coffee we source is grown without fertilizer or pesticide or fungicide. We know this because we travel to origin and we see the farming practices personally. Certified organic coffee, however, is a different matter. While there are many cases where organic certificates benefit farmer groups, we’ve probably seen as many cases where it doesn’t. Certifications are not a guarantee of stewardship of the land.
Specialty coffee of the arabica variety (what we sell through Sweet Maria’s) is generally traditionally grown – so sparse use of pesticides, if any. It is the robusta variety coffee grown in the mega-agri-business coffee areas like Brazil, Vietnam, and China that are more worrisome.
A lot of coffee farmers in Ethiopia and Yemen are essentially organic simply because the farmers are too poor to afford pesticides, but on the other hand, they also can’t afford the official organic certification. Kenya is a different story – while still not mega-agribusiness style farms, they do use pesticides and other more western methods of pest and weed control and so it is rare to find an organic Kenyan. Most Central and South American coffee farms will use some fungicides due to Roya, the coffee rust disease, but such use is targeted and occurs long before any fruit begins to grow on the tree.
In terms of how much pesticide reaches the cup – we think roasting, grinding and brewing could eliminate almost all traces of pesticide. It’s much more likely you could be exposed to pesticides via fresh produce like beans or tomatoes if those are not organic. We don’t want to minimize the importance of organic farming – it is a real concern for the health of the farm workers and the environment of the farms, but certification isn’t necessarily the best way to identify good farming practices.