There are so many stories about coffee, interpretations about its aroma’s, flavour profile, brew methods, rituals, origins and varieties that one could consider coffee to be a religion. It will be hard to find agreement on any if all subjects above but there is one fixed difference that would be hard to argue. It’s the difference between conventional and organic coffee. Approximately 97% of the world’s total coffee production is conventional, using synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides. Conventional coffee is planted in full, direct sunlight yielding more coffee per hectare but not without the many associated negative consequences for the planet, people and product.
The other 3% is grown organically and even less than 3% offers a fully traceable supply chain with a bush to cup quality and integrity assurance. Our coffee beans are grown in forested ecosystems where native trees, canopy shade, and an abundance of insect and bird life all contribute to healthy plants in fertile soil, producing full-flavoured coffee beans. When you choose IncaFé Organic Coffee you don’t just choose coffee, you choose the finest 1% of coffee beans available, roasted to perfection in New Zealand’s first Toitū carbonzero certified coffee roastery.
For thousands of years farmers in China, India, Middle East and South America, in particular the Inca’s with their highly advanced biodynamic systems, knew that when you work with nature you can produce beautiful food in abundance whilst leaving a minimal footprint. The Inca’s were not dumber or smarter than us, but with the absence of TV’s, computers and even books they had all the time in the world to observe nature. And that is what they did.
The Inca’s knew exactly at what gradient to build irrigation channels to ensure the water would just flow fast enough and they were masters in understanding biodynamics whereas there is no evidence that following moon cycles was a religious thing. They knew crop rotation and land resting. The Inca’s produced huge crops from relatively small areas of land. One thing they did not and could not do is to force exotic species to grow in their environment. This is a big problem of modern agriculture; at great cost we force things to grow and live in environments that are not really suited to them.
Organic agriculture produces food with amazing flavour and it provides much needed jobs and companion crops for local food production. The very care and consideration that goes into the soil that grows IncaFé Organic Coffee’s beans lives on through to the final product. We know that all sounds a bit “trippy” but to be honest to stand in the middle of our growing area and feel the sense of nature working in harmony really is quite a phenomenal experience. For nature to work best we should respect the soil, its water and all that lives in it. For the land to produce best we should respect the hands that care for it. That’s why we support our farmers, visit their operations, assist with production methods and ensure that together we can create a sustainable business partnership.
Coffee is mostly grown in developing countries with often poor government oversight on chemical use and often poorly educated/informed workers with few rights. Coffee is not subjected to chemical testing in exporting or importing countries unless organic certified. These factors combined, makes it easier for farmers to overuse chemicals, use chemicals in the wrong way and use prohibited chemicals. Cases of drinkwater pollution, poisoning and exploitation of coffee farmers by forcing them to buy expensive chemicals are unfortunately no exception.
A natural biodiverse ecosystem does not require chemicals and the presence of trees make it hard to involve heavy machines in the process. This creates much needed jobs for growers and communities whilst creating a safer work environment. On top of that organic farmers have access to clean drinkwater and crops for local food supply and construction materials. We pay our growers well above set Fairtrade market rates and commit to the next harvest well before the harvesting season. For them it means financial stability and less dependence on other sources of income allowing communities to stick together. For us it means we get the first pick and work with the best coffee beans available.
Coffee is originally a shade plant which makes it perfect for organic agriculture. It is one of the easiest crops where organic growing with the right companion plantings can produce a higher income for the grower, better coffee for you and a better environment for all, so the question is why not organic?
Coffee is grown at altitude in the tropics and in the subtropics. It is almost always grown in undulating or mountainous areas. The best coffee is grown at altitude often against fairly steep mountain slopes/hill sides. Being in tropical or subtropical countries these areas are subjected to heavy rainfalls and potentially frosts, heat and drought.
Heavy rainfall in those environments can cause massive erosion if there are no trees with natural terracing around the roots and leaves that reduce the impact of droplets on soil. Highly organic and loose soils can absorb huge amounts of water. The erosion and compaction of topsoil in many coffee growing areas is a massive problem that affects coffee taste and causes an ever-increasing use of fertiliser killing the soils further. Monoculture soils always get tired, having taste effects. When there are trees in a plantation and when they connect up large areas, microclimates are formed creating more stable growing conditions reducing the effects of heat, drought, heavy rainfall, heavy wind and frost.
Moreover coffee beans ripen quickly in direct sun or high heat, leaving them smaller and without full flavour. With more shade they are less subjected to growth bursts and a more fully flavoured bean is developed.
Organic coffee tends to develop slower as it is mostly shade grown and plants have stronger/deeper roots providing a more consistent water and nutrient supply without growth bursts and rapid ripening even in times of drought. Slow-growing things always appear to taste better.
Especially now that it is predicted that 50% of the area used for coffee growing won’t be suitable for coffee growing by 2050 due to climate change, the solution is to go back to more shade growing. Once back at shade growing, organic production is only a relatively small step.
With trees there is continuous form of fertilising the plantation. The trees take nutrition from the deep soil and shed those nutrients in the form of leaves and fruits. It attracts a range of birds and insects such that no species can get out of control and create plaques. The external inputs can be reduced enormously.
Coffee evolved as a shade-loving plant. Great tasting heirloom species like Geisha respond really well to organic/shade growing. Add to this that you want to pick specialty coffee by hand to make sure you get only the ripe and good cherries. It makes organic growing of specialty coffee a logical solution.
Thank you for your interest and please get in touch if you like to learn more about us,
Team IncaFé Organic Coffee
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