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Best Organic Coffee Beans in the UK (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 best 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 flavour 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.

IMAGE PRODUCTS DETAILS
Best Overall Best Overall Two Chimps Unicorn Resource Locator Two Chimps Unicorn Resource Locator
  • Light roast
  • Berries, vanilla, chocolate, bergamot
  • Ethiopian origin
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Budget Pick Budget Pick BIRD & WILD RSPB COFFEE Bird & Wild RSPB Coffee
  • Medium roast
  • Dark chocolate, floral aromas
  • n/a origin
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Best Dark Roast Best Dark Roast London Grade Coffee Espresso Roast London Grade Coffee Espresso
  • Dark roast
  • Dark chocolate, caramel
  • Indian origin
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Best Medium Roast Best Medium Roast Charles Liegeois Mano Mano Subtil Charles Liegeois Mano Mano Subtil
  • Medium roast
  • Nuts, chocolate
  • Bolivia, Peru, Mexico origins
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Best Decaf Best Decaf Clumsy Goat Peruvian Decaf Clumsy Goat Fairtrade Peruvian Decaf
  • Dark roast
  • Peanuts, chocolate, mild citrus fruit
  • Peruan origin
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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.

1. Two Chimps Unicorn Resource Locator – Best Overall

Specifications:

  • Roast level: Light

  • Tasting notes: Berries, vanilla, chocolate, bergamot
  • Origin(s): Ethiopia

The Unicorn Resource Locator coffee from Two Chimps doesn’t just have our favourite name of any coffee this year; it’s also one of the most delicious organic coffees we’ve laid our hands on.

It’s a single-origin, shade-grown Ethiopian coffee from Guji, one of the most prized coffee growing regions worldwide. For this reason, Two Chimps has opted for a lighter roast to really show off the unique flavour profiles for which Ethiopian coffee is known. These coffee beans are naturally sweet, with juicy berry notes dominating the palate, but added complexity comes in the form of marshmallow-y vanilla, creamy chocolate, and a hint of bergamot acidity. It’s like drinking dessert for breakfast!

Because of the lighter roast and subtle flavours, we recommend brewing this one as a pour over or drip coffee. Even if you typically add milk and sugar to your morning brew, try the Unicorn Resource Locator black first. You will be pleasantly surprised.

2. Bird & Wild RSPB Coffee – Budget Pick

Specifications:

  • Roast level: Medium

  • Tasting notes: Dark chocolate, floral aromas
  • Origin(s): n/a

Bird & Wild Coffee goes well beyond simply being organic. This is a brand firmly committed to sustainability, both environmental and socioeconomic. All their coffee is certified Bird Friendly (one of the most rigorous environmental certifications), Fair Trade, Organic, and Shade Grown. Plus they donate 6% of sales to their charitable partner, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. As a result, they were awarded the prize for top Ethical Coffee by Ethical Consumer Magazine in 2019 (1).

But what about the taste?

Luckily for the consumer, growing coffee sustainably also leads to a more delicious product. The ample shade and healthy soil of the coffee farms lead to rich and flavourful beans. This medium roast offers balanced flavours of dark chocolate and bright florals, with a moderate acidity to keep things exciting. It’s very versatile, so try it as a drip coffee, French press, or Moka pot brew.

3. London Grade Coffee Espresso – Best Dark Roast

Specifications:

  • Roast level: Dark

  • Tasting notes: Dark chocolate, caramel
  • Origin(s): India

Looking for that totally classic dark roast flavour? I’m talking about dark chocolate, sweet caramel, maybe a hint of toasted nuts. Then add these beans to your shopping list. Pull a shot of espresso with London Grade Coffee’s espresso roast, and you’ll feel yourself transported to the streets of Rome. This is authentic Italian-style espresso.

The deep flavours come from the fact that this coffee is made from a blend of 30% Robusta and 70% Arabica coffee beans, both grown on the same estate in India. While Robusta beans can have the reputation of being lower quality, they are in fact a traditional addition to Italian espresso blends. They add an earthy depth of flavour, an extra boost of caffeine, and produce a heavier body and richer layer of crema.

This coffee is best enjoyed as an espresso or an espresso-based drink like a latte. But if you don’t have an espresso machine, don’t despair. It’s also delicious from the French press, Aeropress, or Moka pot.

4. Charles Liegeois Mano Mano Subtil – Best Medium Roast

Specifications:

  • Roast level: Medium

  • Tasting notes: Nuts, honey
  • Origin(s): Bolivia, Peru, Mexico

Medium roasts are often crowd-pleasers, and this one is no exception. Charles Liegeois pairs Arabica beans from Bolivai, Peru, and Mexico to produce a nicely balanced blend that makes an excellent daily drinker. This pleasantly sweet coffee goes down easy, with gentle notes of almond, peanut, and syrupy honey, plus a light acidity.

The name Mano Mano means “hand in hand,” and refers to the sustainable way in which the coffee was grown and produced. The tagline “Hand in hand for a fair future” is well suited to this certified Organic and Fairtrade coffee.

Like many medium roasts, this coffee is suitable for every brewing method. It makes a unique espresso or a delicate drip coffee. In the summer months, its sweet and smooth flavours are fantastic prepared as a cold brew.

5. Clumsy Goat Fairtrade Peruvian Decaf – Best Decaf

Specifications:

  • Roast level: Dark

  • Tasting notes: Peanuts, chocolate, mild citrus fruit
  • Origin(s): Peru

Finding good decaf coffee is always a challenge, let alone good organic decaf, but these coffee beans from Clumsy Goat fit the bill – and they’re certified Fairtrade to boot. 

The Clumsy Goat Decaf beans are grown in the north of the country by the Cenfrocafe cooperative. It’s thanks to Clumsy Goat and the Fairtrade initiative that growers in the region were able to upgrade their processing equipment and make the switch to organic farming. And now we all get to reap the benefits!

This is a delicious darker roast brew that you can enjoy any time of day, offering the compelling flavour combination of chocolate and peanuts backed by a mild citrus acidity. It can be brewed with any brewing method, but I’ve particularly enjoyed it from the French press, which gives it a heavier body and creamier mouthfeel.

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 but leaves behind all the flavour.

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.

Related links:

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 (2), no matter where in the world it comes from.

international certifications of organic coffee beans

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.

What’s involved?

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 (5). If you want to be labelled USDA Organic, coffee sold cannot have been grown using synthetic substances (6), which is very often found in the fertilizers and pesticides used on typical coffee plants. Using GMOs is also off-limits (7).

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 (8).

NOTE: Keep in mind that organic does not automatically mean “entirely ethical.” Things like labour 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 labelling 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 (9) 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 (10) 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 (11) 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.

fair trade coffee produce

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.

Organic Processing

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.

Drying fair trade coffee beans under the sun

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.

Organic Roasting

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 favourite 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…

Benefits of organic coffee

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 flavour!) but you are ensuring a home for birds, bugs and beasts.

Decaffeinating

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.

The Verdict

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 has the most delicious organic coffee is Unicorn Resource Locator from Two Chimps. Let us know what you think about it in the comment section.

Two Chimps Unicorn Resource Locator

FAQs

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 flavours.

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.

  1. Bird-friendly coffee wins ethical award top spot Retrieved from https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news-original/news/stories/bird-friendly-coffee-wins-ethical-award-top-spot/
  2. Organic Standards | Agricultural Marketing Service Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards
  3. Organic Labelling | Agricultural Marketing Service Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling
  4. What is organic coffee? Retrieved from https://www.ethicalcoffee.net/organic.html
  5. United States Department of Agriculture Retrieved From https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/OrganicGMOPolicy.pdf
  6. Organic Coffee Roasters: Ensuring Safe Coffee – Food Safety Magazine Retrieved From https://www.food-safety.com/articles/3858-organic-coffee-roasters-ensuring-safe-coffee
  7. International Trade Partners | Agricultural Marketing Service Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/international-trade
  8. eCFR – Code of Federal Regulations Retrieved from https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-7/part-205/subpart-g
  9. National Organic Program Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/NOP_Contacts%5B1%5D.pdf
Julia Bobak
I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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