With the growing interest in Organic everything, there is a tremendous amount of assumed credibility placed on organic products, i.e. pesticide free. All of the organic food organizations refer to what they call the “Dirty Dozen.” This is a short list of the foods that are essential to buy organic, not only because of how the plants absorb and retain the pesticides, but also in how they are consumed. At the other end of the spectrum are the clean dozen, which are foods that don’t need to be purchased organic because the plant doesn’t retain the chemicals.
Though cherries are on the dirty dozen list, coffee and coffee beans are not. We don’t consume the coffee fruit itself, but since coffee beans are the seed of the cherry, it’s worth taking a look at. Examining the argument for organic certification, there are some truths that come out.
The first, and most important thing is to look at the roasting process. A coffee bean goes through several processes from being a seed inside a fruit until you drink it. Since any pesticide application would take place while the thick-skinned coffee fruit is still growing, it wouldn’t come into direct contact with the seed. Then, if you factor in getting the fruit pulp off the bean, soaking, fermenting, drying, roasting to over 400 degrees, grinding, adding hot water, and only extracting 20% of the soluble solids of the bean, the pesticide content in a cup of coffee is negligible.
One would think that if someone were consuming these new “green coffee bean” extracts, organic should be of greater concern.
Several studies have shown that, after roasting, the residual amount of any pesticide is virtually non-existent. Here is the abstract of one such study:
The second is the certification. The economic sustainability for individual farmers is difficult, partly because of the high cost of getting and maintaining the certification. Farmers must grow organically for 3 years before they can receive certification and pay annual fees to maintain certification. Being certified is no guarantee that farmers are able to sell their entire crop at market, which forces many farmers to sell the remaining crop to exporters who pool coffee from many small farmers. . . so it’s possible that some of it would be pesticide free, some may not. Costa Rica exports only 100 bags of certified fair trade organic green beans per year, while Columbia exports certified organic green coffee from only the Northern region of the country in the first part of the year.
In our own home, we try very hard to remain as organic as possible in those areas that really matter. We grow some of our own vegetables, and purchase organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, and even beef. We feel it’s worth the extra money to keep toxins out of our lives. We drink our own coffee and feel very confident in doing so. One could argue that it’s more risky to drink coffee made with unfiltered San Diego water, because the water is more toxic than the coffee itself!