Common Coffee Certifications
Here at Sandwich Coffee Roasters we always offer coffee that is organically grown and people friendly. At times our supplier will purchase coffee from individually-owned farms and estates that meet or exceed Organic and Fair Trade Standards but because they are privately owned, or can not afford the cost of certification, are not eligible for USDA certification.
The only true “shade-grown” certification, developed by ecologists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Criteria include a canopy at least 12 meters high, a minimum of 40% shade cover, and 11 species of shade trees. Additionally, must also be certified organic. Bird-Friendly certification has the most robust shade/habitat standards of any coffee certification.
The Rainforest Alliance is an NGO with programs in several areas that promote standards for sustainability. Their sustainable agriculture program certifies many crops, including coffee. Not exclusively an environmental certification, it covers a number of ecological issues as well as community relations and fair treatment of workers. Certification is awarded based on a score for meeting a minimum number of an array of criteria. There are no required criteria for shade management, but they are included in optional criteria; these shade criteria are not as strict as Bird-Friendly standards. Therefore it is important to note that Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee may not be shade grown. There is no organic requirement.
Coffee sold as "Organic" in the U.S. must be produced under U.S. standards established by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Verification is carried out by accredited certifying agencies. Requirements for this seal include no use of prohibited substances on the land for at least three years. This includes most synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Other certification requirements include a buffer between the coffee and any other crop not grown organically, a plan that demonstrates methods that prevent soil erosion, and other sustainable agricultural criteria. Other Criteria for use of the Organic Certified Label is documentation of USDA’s National Organic Program standards from the farm, the export facility, the import facility, the US distributor, and finally from the roasting and selling facility. All of the farms and estates that grow our coffees and Sandwich coffee roasters meet or exceed Organic USDA's requirements, but because they are privately owned, or can not afford the cost, are not eligible for certification. Consequently we do not use this label, but please know that we only purchase organically grown coffee beans.
Fair Trade is primarily concerned with alleviating poverty through greater equity in international trade. Fair Trade is governed in most of the world by the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International. In the U.S., it is governed by Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade certification is only available to democratically-organized cooperatives of small producers, not individually-owned farms, estates, or farms that use hired labor. Although they are not eligible for certification, there are many individually-owned farms, estates, and farms that use hired labor that meet or exceed Fair Trade Standards..