Why Choose Organic Coffee? | IncaFé Organic Coffee


Why Choose Organic Coffee?

Posted by Joseph Verbeek on
Why Choose Organic Coffee?

Why choose organic coffee?

Where do we start? There are so many reasons, take to your pick! 


The consensus is that shade-grown coffee gives a richer taste. That is why up to 10% of coffee is shade-grown and countries like India mandate it.

Coffee evolved as a shade-loving plant. Great tasting heirloom species like Typica are found mostly in organic and shade growing conditions.

Monoculture soils get tired and many are exhausted of trace minerals and completely dependent on fertiliser to feed the plant.  The lack of minerals have taste and nutrition effects.

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.


Most organic coffee is shade grown as trees are needed for an essential symbiosis.

Canopy trees break wind and rain and together with natural terracing from the roots, they limit soil erosion (major problem in monocultures). They also protect the coffee plants from the elements.

Trees act as a nutrient pump taking nutrients from deeper in the ground and depositing them at surface in the form of leaves or fruits, helping to reduce the need for fertilisers.

Trees help mycelium to thrive. Mycelium binds carbon and frees up and distributes minerals to plants and trees.  We also recommend to watch the documentary Kiss the Ground to understand soil health and ability to absorb carbon.

Healthy, damp soil contains fungi that combat leaf rust fungi, a major problem in coffee. A good variety of fungi maintains a balance of power. Leaf rust is consistently less of a problem when there is shade on the plantations.

Trees and especially native trees offer habitats for birds and insects, creating a balance of power where no pesticides are needed.

Trees maintain native biodiversity.

Water retention is much higher in organic soils and with canopy trees micro climates are formed. The cooling effect of connected forest and the trapping of moisture could prevent savannah forming in the entire coffee growing area of South America.

Organic plants have more natural defenses and therefore needing less human intervention.

Fertiliser and pesticide free soil maintains healthy water for dinking and aquatic life.

All what we ever claimed is expressed in this documentary.  There is one dark side though to shade-grown and organic coffee.  Still forests are being penetrated to start growing coffee. We have seen it a lot in Peru. That is not what we want. We want better use of existing plantations, many have been deforested over the years. Use the best of local knowledge and reforest them with the best tree species that will give farmers additional income through specialty wood, fruit and nuts.

Climate change

Organic coffee plantations have the ability to sequester anywhere between 2 –6T of carbon per ha or even more. That is more carbon per kg sequestered than carbon emitted in the entire supply chain, including you making coffee. How cool is that! On the other hand, the largest emission in coffee growing is Nitrogen fertiliser, which is eliminated in organic coffee. Given where most coffee is grown, in the tropics and subtropics, we can start connecting forests. Millions of hectares in coffee monoculture could become agroforestry.  See our blog on decarbonising coffee. 

Socio economic

Organic agriculture is more labour intense. It can vary a lot but say overall an organic coffee farm requires 4 times more labour. In most countries where coffee is grown there are plenty of people needing work.

On organic farms, work is more all year around, creating a more stable income and allowing stable families. 

Coffee yield per hectare on an organic plantation is less, partly because of the space required for companion trees, but with the right companion plantings the overall net yield per hectare in terms of different products, like wood and fruit but also chickens, and in Peru, Guinea Pigs, is more than you would get from a mono culture plantation.

Small community, organic farming provides housing, own food, healthy water. They lose all that when selling up to move to town. Families have the opportunity of an independent, modest yet healthy lifestyle.


Of the workers

Coffee is mostly grown in developing countries with poor government oversight on chemical use and often poorly educated/informed workers with few rights.

Coffee not subjected to chemical testing in exporting or importing countries unless to prove it is organic. Presence of chemicals could be unnoticed for a long time which makes it easier for farmers to overuse chemicals and use prohibited chemicals.

We know from documentaries, reports and anecdotes that chemical use in some coffee growing areas can be very high and that there are widespread health effects associated with some of the very toxic chemicals.

Cases of drinking water pollution affecting communities. Just nitrogen leaching into drinking water can effect health.

Of the consumer

There is very little research into and verification of chemicals in our food, let alone coffee, and most research is around caffeine.

Some chemicals are likely to survive a roasting temperature of 200 deg, although very little research is available and it is quite dated. 

However, coffee is a stone which is the part of a plant least affected by chemicals and coffee is not consumed directly but an extraction is made of it. On top of that one uses relatively little coffee for one extraction.

So the danger on consumers from chemicals used in non-organic growing is likely limited.


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