While the first organic certification appeared in 1967, its roots trace all the way back to nineteenth century practices formulated in England, India, and the US. Today, certification "… assures that organic growers and handlers are, in fact, adhering to the organic regulations and it allows you to sell, label, and represent your products as organic," according to the Organic Trade Association.
As a crop, coffee falls into one of four categories — the three others are livestock, processed products, and wild crops — that must be certified to be labeled organic. To receive that certification, producers must ensure that the land coffee is produced on has had no prohibited substances (that's pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides) applied to it for the past three years. Unless that period is met, coffee may not be sold, labeled, or represented as organic. "Beyond that, certified requires that it never leaves the possession of a certified chain of custody. That means everyone, from farm to roaster, is certified organic," one of Trade's organic fair trade coffee brands, Groundwork Coffee, further explains.
Groundwork, the first certified organic coffee roasters in Southern California, is among the Trade roasters offering a wide selection of organic coffees for you to enjoy every morning. In addition to Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and other certifications, you can look for a seal on your bag to help indicate that the coffee you're consuming was made conciously.
Still, if you don't see a sticker, that doesn't always mean your coffee isn't sustainable. "We use organic and Fair Trade coffees for all of our signature blends and many of our single origins. When our coffees are not organic or Fair Trade, they are of premium quality, transparently sourced from estates and farms that are known to treat workers equitably and take care of the land," Red Rooster Coffee says. "In many cases we buy coffee from farmers and traders in the country of origin, meaning more money flows into the country and farmers can take better care of their coffee trees and their families."