The Benefits of Organic Coffee
In the beginning, all coffee was organic and shade grown. Coffee cultivation began in the ninth century in Africa and since most varieties of coffee are naturally intolerant of direct sunlight, coffee was originally grown under shade trees, most often fruit and nut trees which also helped to replenish the soil with valuable nutrients and allowed the land to remain fertile generation after generation.
Beginning in the 1970s, full sun coffee varieties were developed to increase productivity by allowing coffee plants to be grown closer together. As a result, chemical fertilizers and pesticides such as DDT, marathon, and benzene hex chloride had to be used to compensate for the lack of nutrients being added back into the soil. These types of chemicals harm the soil they are used on by destroying natural soil organisms, the surrounding wildlife including insects, birds and other larger species, adjacent water supplies, the farm workers themselves, and the taste of the coffee.
The increasing number of full sun coffee plantations has also led to incredible deforestation of tropical forests around the world, particularly in Central America and Mexico. This has destroyed the natural habitat of many varieties of flora and fauna, especially migratory songbirds and butterflies that fly annually between Latin America and the United States.
Fortunately, increasing consumer awareness of damage to our environment and our health through harmful production methods has led to greater demand for organic products, although organically produced consumer goods still only account for a small percentage of all grocery sales. Organically and shade-grown coffee sales currently represent about 1% of the U.S. market for coffee beans.