Organic Coffee Certifications: Certified Organic vs Non-Certified 'Organic' - NORLO

Organic Coffee Certifications: Certified Organic vs Non-Certified 'Organic'

As you might imagine, organic coffee is far better than non-organic, conventional coffee. This is because organic coffee is free from harsh chemicals that include pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, fungicides and more. These harsh substances not only leach in to the coffee fruit and ultimately the coffee bean, but they also seep into nearby community water supplies and surrounding farmland. Conventional coffee is, in fact, one of the most chemically treated foods in the world!

We also know that from a health perspective, inorganic produce is far from beneficial to our health & wellbeing, and coffee is no exception, especially when you consider that the UK consumes over 95 million cups of coffee every day! Despite what some consumer coffee packaging may claim, the only way to guarantee that you're consuming 100% organic coffee is to look for the Soil Association (in the UK) logo on the pack. It gives you certainty that you're not ingesting any nasties on a daily basis.

Only 3% of the world's coffee is organically grown.

With Norlo coffee being packed full of natural antioxidants, we'd hate for anything artificial to negate this great benefit when you're after your daily coffee fix. So, organic coffee is better than conventional coffee - that's a given, but can organic coffee be improved further? Yes, it transpires that speciality organic coffee is better than just organic coffee in more ways than one.

What is Speciality coffee?

Whilst organic certification educates us to the fact that the coffee is free from harmful chemicals and harvested in a more sustainable way, speciality-grade coffee alerts us to the fact that the coffees make-up is fundamentally superior in quality, taste and smell amongst others. Speciality grading follows the bean far along its journey from plantation to cup. Speciality-grade coffee is grown in ideal climates and the resultant coffee bean itself has near zero defects. In order to be classified as speciality-grade, the coffee beans must score an 80 or higher, up to the maximum of 100.

While only 3% of the world's coffee is organically grown, less than 1% is speciality organically grown.

Ideal Climates

In order to receive speciality-grading, the coffee fruit must be grown in ideal climate and soil conditions in the first instance. This means speciality coffee is always grown at altitudes of greater than 2000ft, and most regularly between 4000-6000ft, on nutrient-rich mountainsides. Then, only be hand, the coffee is picked sorted with any defective beans being disposed of. The moisture content of the bean must be between 9-13% which aids to reduce mould mycotoxin onset as well as other negative fermentation processes. 

Shape & Quality

Considering the title of speciality-grade will only be awarded to beans that have near zero defects, prior to any sampling of the beans themselves, the superficial external properties of the beans need to be examined. No unripped beans (quakers) are allowed beyond this point in the grading journey, and any beans that are either too large or too small (+/- 0.5% of a predetermined size) are removed from the batch. Any orange-tinted beans (foxy beans) are also removed as this is a sign of potential sourness.

Why is the shape and size of the coffee bean important? Well, put simply, if the coffee beans within a particular batch are different sizes, then when it comes to roasting, the beans will roast at different levels. The larger beans will not roast as much as the smaller beans and vice versa. As a result, the resultant cup of coffee will not taste as balanced as it should and the smaller beans could become burnt, which is far from good. Burnt coffee beans develop elements called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These hydrocarbons have been proven in scientific studies to cause cancer in rats. Even dark-roasted coffee is far from healthy which is just one reason Norlo coffee is very lightly roasted - in order to taste great but also be as healthy as possible. Think of it as cooking vegetables that are different sizes - the larger ones will under-cook whereas the smaller ones will over-cook.

Aroma, Flavour & Defects

Now the beans have been hand-picked and hand-washed, members of the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) come in to the fold. often referred to as "cuppers" owing to a process called "cupping" that sees these members sample taste the cup. Having been carefully measured to specific ratios then roasted to a maximum of 8 minutes, the coffee is sampled multiple times both right after roasting and after a set time period. The SCA members then taste the coffee for numerous things such as taste, aromas, body, balance, acidity, sweetness etc and after a tally-up of the various elements the coffee is given a score, with anything above 80 warranting the coveted classification of speciality-grade.

In summary, although rare in the retail sector, speciality organic coffee ensures that you're drinking the very best coffee on offer not only from a taste perspective but also a health perspective.

(Source: Coffee: Production, Quality & Chemistry,