Editors’ choice: organic, fair-trade coffees

Many of us view our morning caffeine fix as a necessity akin to brushing our teeth, but we also want to be environmentally and socially responsible. With the increase in popularity of fair trade and organic coffees, you can sip your morning brew guilt-free. Coffee is produced in some of the poorest and environmentally fragile regions in the world, and organic and fair trade coffees have health, environmental, and humanitarian benefits that regular, often less-expensive coffees don’t.

Fair Trade certification guarantees coffee farmers fair prices for their crops, thereby increasing their standards of living. Although not necessarily organic, Fair Trade certification prohibits use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hazardous pesticides. Sixty percent of Fair Trade Certified coffee imported to the US is organic. Organic coffee is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is produced in 40 countries, and 89 million pounds of organic coffee were imported into the US and Canada in 2008. Try these nine organic and fair trade coffees from the Organic Coffee Collaboration, recently tested by the Delicious Living staff.

1. Logan, Utah’s Caffe Ibis boasts mountain grown, mountain roasted coffee. They are certified organic and fair trade. Deputy Editor Radha Marcum cold brewed the Organic Café Femenino, a blend of whole beans produced by Andean women-owned farms along the Inca Trail. She described the result as, “so smooth when added to milk it tasted like coffee ice cream. Not a trace of bitterness.” Find out more about cold brewing coffee.

2. Chiapas Farms of Austin, Texas, specializes in importing fair trade foods such as their Café de Chiapas coffee. Offered in dark and medium roast, the beans are grown and harvested by an organic and fair trade cooperative in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. It was introduced to the market in June 2009. Delicious Living’s Photo and Production Coordinator, Erin Manning, describes the brewed coffee, “I really like this one. Bright acidity, smooth flavor. A good cup to ease you into the morning with a gentle nudge, as opposed to the hard kick-in-the-rear that some coffee gives you.”

3. Crimson Cup Coffee and Tea in Columbus, Ohio, imports only Specialty Grade Class 1 beans, which are the top five percent of the world’s coffee beans. Crimson Cup serves over 350 coffee houses, colleges and universities, and grocers. They sell four organic fair trade coffees, including Jungle Love, a blend from Central America and Indonesia offering balanced flavor with full body and a smooth finish.

4. San Diego’s Elan Organics imports organic coffees through partnerships with village co-ops in over 20 coffee-producing countries. Some of the proceeds from each pound of coffee go to fund projects to improve living and working conditions in coffee-producing regions. Their Costa Rican Pastora Tarrazu comes from the mountainous Southern Pacific region and boasts a sweet chocolaty aroma, rich body, a hint of berry notes and a pleasant aftertaste.

5. Equator Estate Coffees and Teas of San Rafael, California is a women-owned company with over 60 percent of their coffees certified organic, fair trade, or Rainforest Alliance. Renowned chefs such as The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller serve Equator in their restaurants. Keller says he has worked with Equator for over 10 years to create the distinctive blends served in his restaurants. Kelly Delia of Delicious Living’s parent company, New Hope Natural Media, tried the Mocha Java Ethiopian Harrar with Sumatra and Brazil. She describes the coffee as a light bodied, well-balanced, medium acidity coffee with no bitter aftertaste, and suggests it as an after dinner coffee.

6. Green Mountain Coffee of Waterbury, Vermont provides certified organic and fair trade coffees under the Green Mountain Coffee and Newman’s Own Organics labels. They roast over 100 high-quality Arabica varieties and donate five percent of pre-tax profits to social and environment projects. One of their more popular flavored coffees, the fair trade organic Wild Mountain Blueberry, is an ode to summer, with a sweet, blueberry flavor.

7. S&D Coffee, founded in 1927, is the second largest coffee roaster in the US and supplies both organic and non-organic coffees. Their coffee is kosher certified and serves more than 70,000 customers nation-wide. The fair trade Buffalo Spring Earth Song coffee comes caffeinated or decaffeinated, and has a balanced flavor of dark chocolate with a sweet finish.

8. True Origin Organics offers single-origin Columbian coffee from the Santa Marta and Tierradentro mountains. It is harvested, roasted and packaged where it grows. Delicious Living’s photo editor, Erin Manning, says of True Origins Medium Jungle Roast, “Nice, clean, simple flavor. Slight acidity. Good with food because it doesn’t overpower much.”

9. Pura Vida offers certified organic, fair-trade coffee from Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Sumatra. The company operates social and environmental programs in coffee-producing areas such as programs for at-risk children and water sanitation projects. The Café Kilimanjaro is a blend of beans primarily from Ethiopia with a powerful aroma and full-bodied taste.

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