Best organic, fair trade coffee 8/11
(This article is adapted from ConsumerReports.org.)
Americans consume about 25 percent of the world’s coffee. The average coffee drinker enjoys 3.3 cups a day, or about 1,200 cups a year. Maybe that’s why there seems to be a coffee shop on every corner.
Arabica and robusta are the two main types of beans for all coffee. Robusta beans are less expensive and easier to grow. Arabica beans tend to make better coffee. Roasting is what turns green beans into coffee that is ready to grind and brew. The type of roast is often listed on the label—you may have to experiment before finding the one you prefer. And different brands may characterize their roasts differently.
Like wine, coffees come in different varietals, meaning from a single region. While blends are still the best-selling type of coffee, when Consumer Reports last tested blends, none were rated excellent or even very good.
In fact, more and more people are sampling other types of coffee from regions such as Columbia, Kenya, Sumatra and Ethiopia. In taste tests on these varietals, several organic and fair trade brands were high-rated and recommended.
Columbian: Newman’s Own Organics Colombian Especial, 10 oz., about $8.50
Kenyan: Allegro Kenya Grand Cru (Whole Foods), 12 oz., about $12.99
Sumatran: Green Mountain Coffee Organic Sumatran Reserve, 10 oz., about $8.49
Ethiopian: Caribou Ethiopia Finjal Organic, 16 oz., about $14.99
Coffee label terms to know
Fair trade certified–Part of a nonprofit, international program that advocates sustainable production and fair prices for small farmers. TransFair USA, the certifying organization, also works for safe working conditions (and no forced child labor), limits the use of harmful pesticides, and supports credit plans and training for farm workers.
Organic–Means that the coffee was grown without synthetic fertilizers and most industrial pesticides.
Rainforest Alliance certified–This nonprofit group has determined that chemical pesticide use was limited, water and soil were conserved, and workers were treated fairly.
Tips on storing coffee
Decorative glass canisters may look great on your countertop, but they are not the best way to store coffee. To maintain freshness and flavor, coffee must be kept away from moisture, heat, light, and strong odors. Coffee can pick up strong odors from other foods stored near it. Refrigerating your daily supply of coffee is not ideal because moisture will quickly deteriorate its quality. Instead, try these tips:
Keep it airtight–Invest in an airtight ceramic, glass, or non-reactive metal container. If you buy coffee in large amounts, divide it between two containers, keeping the larger, unused portion airtight until it is needed.
Keep it cool–Store your coffee in a dark, cool location away from the oven. Don’t pick a cabinet on an outside wall if it gets a lot of sun during the day.
Purchase smaller quantities–Coffee loses its freshness quite quickly after it has been roasted. Buy fresh roasted coffee in amounts that will last one to two weeks to preserve its freshness and flavor.