Going Organic

by Kari Guddeck @ Barista Pro Shop

Coffee shops are leading the charge by meeting the demands of their conscience and customer requests by going organic. The organics industry is booming - here are some tips to get you started.

There's a movement sweeping the nation, the globe. What may have started as an idealistic approach to food and eating existing only in isolated "naturalistic" communities, has since broken out of these confines and made the plunge into the mainstream. We're talking organics. Walk into your local supermarket and you will find organic food options available in almost every aisle and every department. Consumers are shopping for food armed with scientific and dietetic statistics steering them toward organic choices. Supermarkets have responded by adding more selections and brands at affordable prices; including their own house brands. It's not surprising that coffee shops are following suit, and in some cases, leading the charge by meeting the demands of their conscience and customer requests by going organic. Manufacturers are heeding the call and releasing more and more organic products for café use. The organics industry is booming, and what follows is but a tiny snippet of information to get you started.

A Quick Word on Terminology

Defining "organic" in terms of the USDA's certification can get complicated. However, as a general rule, all natural (non-synthetic) substances are allowed in organic production and all synthetic substances are prohibited (stuff like conventional pesticides, bovine growth hormone, petroleum-based fertilizers, etc.). Animals used in organic food production must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors1.

It can also be confusing deciphering the difference between "natural", "organic", "100 percent organic", and the seemingly never ending list of labels. Labeling standards in the United States, as set by the USDA, are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

Here are the basics:

Many products claim to be "natural". The term "natural" generally refers to foods that are minimally processed. Natural foods usually do not include ingredients such as refined sugars, refined flours, milled grains, hydrogenated oils, sweeteners, food colors, or flavorings. However, the term 'natural' has not been defined by law2 and producers utilizing the term do not have to adhere to the strict USDA Certified Organic guidelines.

The Goods

Using organic and natural foods and products can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it. Some may decide that they only want to change their coffee and tea to organic varieties, while others will go further and opt for organic dairy products as well. Then there are the die-hards; the ones who seek out as many organic and natural ingredients as possible. Luckily, manufacturers are keeping up with the trends and releasing scores of new products.

Barista Pro Shop is proud to offer the following organic products to help you get started:

Tea and Maté
Mighty Leaf Tea: 11 organic varieties including flavors like Organic Earl Grey and Organic Hojicha Green.
Numi Tea: All varieties are organic (excludes the flowering teas).
Novus Tea: Sencha Green, Jasmine Green, and South Indian Select.
Pixie Maté: All products including Maté Latte concentrates.
Guayaki Maté: All products including liquid concentrates.

Flavored Syrups
Monin: Organic flavors include Caramel, Chocolate, Hazelnut, Raspberry, and Vanilla.

Oregon Chai: All products except Kashmir Green, Sugar Free, and all flavors of Super Concentrates.
Third Street Chai: All varieties.

Frozen Coffee/Frappés
Mocafé: Organic Belizian Vanilla Frappé, Organic Dominican Cocoa (also Fair Trade) Frappé, Organic Dominican Mocha Frappé, and Organic Vera Cruz Latte.

Silk: Plain and Vanilla.
Pacific: Soy Blenders are not certified organic, but they do use organic soy beans to make milk.

Why Organic?

Nicki McDonald, owner of The Funky Brewster espresso catering business in Denver, is thinking of her kids when she buys natural and organic. "I have two kids and I care about their health," says McDonald. Speaking of growth hormones and pesticides, she continues "if I wouldn't want to eat it, I wouldn't want [kids] to eat it". Many people choose to carry their personal views about what to eat over to their business decisions as well. Others are responding to customer requests. Depending on your location, you may have several customers requesting natural/organic options. McDonald experiences this first hand as she travels around the state offering up her brew. "If I'm in Boulder or Fort Collins people ask if I'm using natural/organic products, other areas in Denver are new to organics".

The major drawback to organic and natural products is price. The increased cost of organic/natural production is passed on to the consumer. You will pay a premium price for premium goods. These goods are generally viewed as tastier, healthier, environmentally friendly, and higher in quality. This will probably translate to a price increase on your drinks and food items. If you are only carrying a few organic items and are giving your customers a choice, you can upcharge for your organic offerings. Make sure to let your customers know that you are serving natural and organic products, you will probably be surprised at how many will appreciate your choice and buy them.

Whether your decision to serve organic products is based on customer demand, the quality of products, or personal beliefs about the environment; you should know that the organic trend is only expected to grow. As awareness increases and products become more readily available, consumers will seek out those who are embracing the movement. You might just find yourself ahead of the curve if you start adding organics now.


  1. USDA Organic Certification Information
  2. "Organic vs. Natural" by Food Product Design
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