As of this week, Flight Coffee Co, is now certified to sell coffee labeled as 100% organic (provided of course that it was grown organically).
Organic coffee is a bit different from the organic fruit you find in your grocery store. Both coffee and fruit start out the same way - they are grown in a field that has been certified to be free of non-organic pesticides and fertilizers and during the growth can only be treated with organically approved products. All harvesting must take place using equipment that either has not touched conventionally grown products or else has been sanitized to remove all traces of conventional treatments. The organic products are then sealed and sent to market.
To retain its organic character, it is imperative that organic products never come into contact with equipment or other surfaces on which conventional products have been processed. If they do, they immediately lose their organic character and must be marked and sold as conventional products irrespective of their organic pedigree.
This is where certification of the coffee roasting company comes into play. If, for example, I have one coffee roaster and process both organic and conventional products on it, what comes off can never be characterized as organic since the organic products lose that designation once they touch a surface that has processed conventional products. This idea continues as you move to storage of the green and roasted coffee as well as packaging. If organic coffee ever comes in contact with a surface that has been contaminated by a conventional product, it is no longer organic.
Other than having an entirely separate production flow for organic coffee (or simply converting your roasting plant to handle organic coffee exclusively), the way to address this is to create a process to keep organic and conventional products separate throughout the production process.
This is where the organic processor certification comes in. Flight Coffee Co. has demonstrated to Organic program auditors that we have an effective process that segregates organic from conventional coffee from start to finish including a process that eliminates all conventional residue from our roasters prior to roasting organic coffee.
There is definitely more to selling organic coffee than simply buying organically grown coffee and slapping on the USDA label. If you want to be sure that the coffee you are drinking is truly organic, look for the organic declaration on the package and check out the supplier in the USDA Organic Integrity Database just to be sure!