The Best Organic Coffee Beans (True 100% Certified Organic)
We’re all here to find better coffee, but better can mean different things to different people. Are we talking about better taste? Better compensation for growers? Better for the environment? The right organic coffee can provide all that in one aromatic cup.
In this article, we’ll educate you on the organic coffee industry and recommend six great organic coffees to try. They have a variety of flavor profiles and roast levels, so one is sure to be to your taste.
Don’t risk getting sucked into some marketer’s organic coffee slogan. Stick with us, and we’ll steer you right.
|Life Boost Organic Coffee||
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|Tony’s Coffee Cafe Carmelita||
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|Volcanica Organically Grown Ethiopian Yirgacheffe||
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|Peet’s Yosemite Dos Sierras Organic||
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|Gimme! Sumatra Gayo Highlands||
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|Volcanica Peru Decaf||
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Best Organic Coffee Brands This Year: Our Top 6 Picks
Here are the best picks we found for this year. In case you’re wondering how to find the bean that suits your particular needs, don’t skip the buying guide below the reviews.
Dr. Charles Livingstone embarked on a mission to find coffee that he could enjoy every day, without making any sacrifices to his health or the environment. When he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he decided to tackle the problem himself, and Life Boost Coffee was born.
They offer a wide variety of organic coffee beans at all roast levels, each with an impressive number of coffee certifications and features: USDA certified organic, single origin, mountain shade grown, spring water washed, and 3rd party tested for mycotoxins.
Their motto is “Helping you achieve the healthiest, tastiest cup of coffee possible, using sustainable farming and protecting our wildlife”. And do they hold up to their promise? The reviews online are very promising, with a common thread being that taste has not been sacrificed at all during processing.
In fact, they are so sure you’ll love their beans they offer a 30-day money back guarantee – no questions asked. You’ve got nothing to lose so click here to try some (50% off if it’s your first purchase). Read our full review of Lifeboost Coffee.
We took a deeper look and made a video review for you here:
This year’s runner up is an organic blend from Tony’s Coffee, winner of Roast Magazine’s prestigious Roaster of the Year award in 2021. The Cafe Carmelita is their top seller, thanks to its crowd-pleasing sweet and chocolatey flavors. Though it’s a medium roast, it has a bit of a toasty dark roast vibe, but without any bitterness.
The Cafe Carmelita is ultra smooth, with a full body and creamy mouthfeel. It makes a spectacular espresso, and if you add steamed milk for a latte, you’ll swear you’re drinking a mocha, even with no chocolate added. It’s a perfect winter warmer, though I’d venture it will make an exceptional chocolate-y iced coffee come summertime as well.
Tony’s Coffee is somewhat of a legend in the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1971, they were one of the first to prioritize sustainable coffee, putting an emphasis on organic, fair trade, bird-friendly, and GMO-free coffee beans. Lately, they’ve turned their focus to their carbon footprint, becoming entirely carbon neutral as of 2023. Drinking this coffee will make you feel good for all sorts of reasons.
The majority of the world’s organic coffee is grown in Latin America, primarily Mexico and Peru, but if you can’t get enough of the complex and juicy flavors of an Ethiopian brew, then you’re in luck. This organic single-origin from Volcanica coffee, one of their best sellers, will be right up your alley.
It comes from the famed growing region of Yirgacheffe, known for coffees with bright acidity and sweet fruit and floral flavors. The beans are given a light-medium roast that maintains all the subtlety of the flavor profile. Expect to taste juicy blueberries and blackberries at the fore, backed by a surprising hit of citrus acidity that makes your taste buds jump up and take notice.
We recommend preparing this coffee as a pour over brew, which will yield a clean cup that allows you to truly explore the complexity of the flavors. Try drinking it black first before adding any milk or sugar, as this is a unique coffee that shines on its own.
This rich medium-dark roast from Peet’s coffee is compelling for many reasons. Let’s start with its flavor. The Colombian-grown beans are deeply sweet and chocolatey, with hints of toasted almond and a fruity apricot top note. A brewed cup has a heavy body and creamy mouthfeel, making this a fine choice for an espresso, moka pot, or French press brew.
But this sustainable coffee has more to recommend it than just being a delicious start to your day. Grown high in the mountains of the Sierra de Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, this coffee is not just certified organic but also meets the more rigorous environmental and socio-economic standards of being Bird Friendly and Rainforest Alliance certified.
Each bag of Yosemite Dos Sierras is roasted to order and shipped on the day of roasting, so you’re guaranteed an optimally fresh cup. For every bag purchased, Peet’s will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Yosemite National Conservancy, a non-profit that works to protect Yosemite National Park.
This is a big, bold dark roast, the epitome of what a dark roast should be. It’s strongly flavored, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, plums, sugary caramel, and toasted walnut, but it never goes so far as to taste charred. Instead, the wet-hulled Sumatran beans lend it a natural earthy, smokiness independent of the roast.
This coffee is just begging to be an espresso or Americano, as it delivers a rich crema and creamy body. Then again, its powerful flavor holds up very well to milk, making for an equally fine latte or cappuccino.
These beans come from the Aceh region of the Sumatran Highlands. Known for its beauty, remoteness, and incredible biodiversity, this is a region of the world in which it is well worth supporting organic practices.
It’s rare to find a good decaf coffee, and it’s rarer still to find a good organic decaf, but I’m happy to report that these tasty beans from Volcanica coffee are the exception to the rule – and they’re Fair Trade to boot.
The Volcanica Peru Decaf beans are grown high in the Andes, in the Chanchamayo region, which lends them a pronounced acidity and complex sweetness. The flavor profile is lemongrass, plum, and light nougat, and the resultant coffee is light and clean, with just a hint of toasted flavor from the medium roast. I’d recommend brewing them with a pour over method to tease out the more subtle flavor notes.
The beans are decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process, considered to be one of the cleanest methods as it is chemical-free. It removes 99.9% of the caffeine without taking all the coffee’s flavor at the same time.
Things You Should Know When Choosing Organic Brands
So, what is organic coffee? What’s the difference between organic coffee vs regular coffee? Organic means grown without pesticides. It’s simple, right?
Well…no. It’s a matter of where the coffee is grown, where it’s sold and how it has been processed along the way. If that all sounds complicated, you can just skip to the part where we make our recommendations.
If you’d like to truly understand organic coffee, keep reading.
Organic Standards (are not all the same)
There are different organic standards around the world, which makes things complicated when you look at the regulations on selling something with the ‘Organic’ label in any given country. In the US, for example, the USDA organic certification can only be used where the crop has been grown to US organic standards (1), no matter where in the world it comes from.
If that makes your head spin, imagine being a coffee farmer.
You need to make sure that you’re not only growing to the organic standards of your country, but to those of any other country you might want to sell to. For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to use the common USDA organic standards in the US in our buying guide. Simply follow the same principles outlined here with your own country or region’s rules when dealing with other organic labels.
To sell organic in the US, you must be certified to put the organic label on your coffee — unless you’re selling $5,000 or less per year (2). If you want to be labeled USDA Organic, coffee sold cannot have been grown using synthetic substances (3), which is very often found in the fertilizers and pesticides used on typical coffee plants. Using GMOs is also off-limits (4).
However, that green and white label only needs to show that 95% of the beans were grown this way. You can get a more comprehensive idea of the intensive details of growing organically here (5).
NOTE: Keep in mind that organic does not automatically mean “entirely ethical.” Things like labor standards and environmentally safe growing conditions are not part of the certification.
Can the organic stamp always be trusted?
The USDA takes careful pains to ensure that their standards are not only up to snuff, but that all organic labeling comes through a process of approval by a certified agent. Not only that, but anyone caught selling under their label without certification can be fined $11,000 for each violation.
However, trading internationally (6) is a complicated thing, even for the USDA. If you’re uncertain about an organic label, though, you’re not entirely stuck.
How to do your own extra research if you’re not sure of the label
Here is the National List (7) of USDA-approved substances that can be used in Organic farming. This is a great tool to use in your inquiries. You can also contact a farm directly or, if you’re in the U.S., you can try to contact the National Organic Program (8) department of the USDA.
Organic Growing: The Fine Print
The part of organic that most people are familiar with is farming that doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. There are some differences around the world in how long land must have been chemical free for the crop to be considered organic.
Some countries ask for a wait of 3 to 5 years, to allow residues to work their way out of the soil. For others, it’s only how you treat that particular crop which counts.
It’s a popular misconception that organic crops are grown without any fertilizers or pesticides. To ensure the health of the crop, both are needed. The difference is that the plants will be given a nutritional boost using natural fertilizers such as chicken manure, coffee pulp or compost.
When it comes to pest control, it’s a little more difficult. Modern coffee production has moved to growing in the open sun, to maximize the crop. This leaves the plants and cherries vulnerable to pests.
Organic growers generally choose ‘the old way’ and grow their plants at least partially in the shade. This encourages natural insect and bird life to thrive, and make a meal of crop-destroying pests.
Whether the coffee is wet or dry processed, the producer must be careful to make sure that the beans don’t get contaminated at any stage.
That includes things like the bags that the pickers put their harvest into, and the sacks the processed beans are sent around the world in.
In terms of processing, the simplest way to organically process is to use dry processing.
Wet processing takes a lot longer unless chemical additives are used to speed it up. It also uses a lot of water which has an environmental impact, as does disposing of the by-products.
Wherever it’s come from, if coffee is going to be sold as organic, it must be roasted in a roaster that hasn’t been used to toast anything other than organic beans.
If it’s been used for non-organic, then there could be chemical residues which are transferred into the organic beans during the process.
An organic roaster will also be sure not to add in any other chemicals or additives during the roasting process. No roaster performance-enhancing drugs. Your beans should come out as pure and untainted as when they went in.
How to Find Locally-Grown Organic Coffee Beans
Of course, if you live in a region where you have access to locally grown coffee beans, you can always try to purchase some organic beans right off the farm!
Searching for local growers can be as easy as Googling terms like “locally grown organic coffee” or “organic coffee farms near me.” You’ll likely find more than one farm’s website pop up claiming to have organic versions of your favorite beans.
Another option is to contact smaller, local Third Wave coffee shops. They’re likely to have a good deal of knowledge regarding local sources.
But, again, whether it’s a local coffee shop or farm, you’re going to want to ensure that, organically certified or not, the grower is truly sticking to those organic guidelines.
Questions to ask when inquiring locally:
- When were chemicals last used on the land?
- Does the grower have a plan in place for long-term organic growing?
- How do they fertilize and manage pests, if not with chemicals?
- Does the crop come into contact with other chemicals or GMO products?
- How do they feel about things like Fair Trade, shade grown coffee, or Rainforest Alliance? (Even if they don’t have these certifications, their opinion on them can show how seriously they take these kinds of things. Are they organic because they believe in it, or are they just trying to make a buck? The latter is more likely to lead to cutting corners.)
Benefits of Brewing With Organic Beans
Besides the fact that organic is so hot right now…
They are Much Healthier
One of the reasons many people cite for choosing organic coffee over non-organic and instant coffee is that a diet without additives is considered healthier. Organically grown coffee has vitamins, mineral and antioxidants which can also help you clear out the chemical load you picked up elsewhere.
There are plenty of health benefits to drinking good coffee, and with organic there are no drawbacks.
And Better For The Environment
As I mentioned before, most coffee grown organically, is grown in shade. To grow in the sun, the forests are cut down. Tall trees and other plants are destroyed and animals and insects lose their homes.
That doesn’t happen when plants are grown under the shelter of other plants and trees. Not only does your coffee get longer to ripen on the plant (more flavor!) but you are ensuring a home for birds, bugs and beasts.
If you need your cup of coffee to be low-caf, you’ll probably know about the different methods used to get the caf out of the bean. Of the three main methods, only Swiss Water Process and Carbon Dioxide Process coffee can be considered organic. The other methods introduce more chemicals into the mix, to get the caffeine out.
On the bright side, these are also the two methods which taste best, so you’re not losing out on anything by sticking to your organic principles.
Not long ago, organic coffee was a niche market, and chemical-free options came at a premium. Now, organic has gone mainstream and many coffee brands are offering organic blends and single origins. While that’s great for choice, it definitely makes it harder to select “the best” organic coffee.
We took it upon ourselves to tackle this problem by drinking a whole lot of organic coffee, which I’ll admit was not a huge hardship. The brand that consistently impressed was Lifeboost. Their range of single-origin organic coffees was reliably rich, flavorful, and smooth – a truly crowd-pleasing brew.
Bird Friendly coffee is a certification awarded by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. It guarantees that the coffee has been grown in a way that protects the habitat of migratory songbirds. It is one of the most rigorous certifications as it first requires the coffee to be organic but then adds a number of additional criteria around plant diversity, shade, canopy structure, buffer zones, living fences, and so on.
Shade-grown coffee is grown under a forest canopy rather than on exposed farmland. It is not an official certification, like Organic, but a descriptor of growing conditions. The main advantages of shade-grown coffee are in the growing region itself – improved biodiversity, protection of local water supply, and better soil health. However, many also claim shade-grown coffee tastes better because the beans ripen more slowly, developing more complex flavors.
Rainforest Alliance certified coffee meets a more holistic set of criteria. It demands not only that the environment be considered, but also that workers and their communities receive fair treatment and wages. Rainforest Alliance certified coffee does not strictly have to be organic, but pesticide use is considered a last resort and only specific pesticides are permitted.
- Organic Standards | Agricultural Marketing Service Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards
- Organic Labeling | Agricultural Marketing Service Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling
- What is organic coffee? Retrieved from https://www.ethicalcoffee.net/organic.html
- United States Department of Agriculture Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/OrganicGMOPolicy.pdf
- Organic Coffee Roasters: Ensuring Safe Coffee – Food Safety Magazine Retrieved From https://www.food-safety.com/articles/3858-organic-coffee-roasters-ensuring-safe-coffee
- International Trade Partners | Agricultural Marketing Service Retrieved From https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/international-trade
- eCFR – Code of Federal Regulations Retrieved from https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-7/subtitle-B/chapter-I/subchapter-M/part-205/subpart-G
- About International Organic Trade Arrangements Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/international-trade