Whoa, how’s that for a title. Despite the mouthful, I hope to keep this post simple and short enough so that you won’t get bored. Key word…hope. If you’re an avid coffee drinker, this post is for you. If not feel free to skip it, or stick around you may learn something new!
Organic vs. Conventional Coffee
I’ve been drinking coffee religiously for about six years now. It started as a once in a while habit after my friend told me she frequented the bathroom almost immediately after consumption. Let’s be honest, coffee is a surefire way to expel last nights dinner.
As I got older, my desire for coffee turned into something more. I suddenly enjoyed the flavors, the notes, the depth, the peace and quiet that came alongside my morning cup. Coffee became not only a warm beverage to get my day started, but an all around experience. These types of experiences are the ones you enjoy sharing with others.
I eat well, I workout often, I floss daily, and I pay attention to ingredient labels. I don’t buy all my produce organic, but I would say about 90% of it is. I pay attention to which products contain the most pesticides and those are always purchased organic, but what about my coffee?
Did you know: Most coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides!? If you’re interested in learning more about this hit up Google for endless articles on how coffee is grown, and the differences between growing conditions and locations. In attempts to keep this post simple I will leave it at this. Coffee is no different than most produce grown in mass quantities, it’s sprayed with chemicals, and the quality goes down. Organic coffee means less chance of chemicals, and the beans are usually grown in smaller quantities, enhancing quality.
For all you crunchy earth loving hippies out there, buying organic also helps the people/and the earth that grow the beans. Pesticide free means the people growing the beans are not exposed to these harsh chemicals (ammonia and chlorine washed..eww..) and the earth is kept closer to its natural state..big fat WIN!
So where do you find organic coffees? Most local shops carry a variety of organic beans, along with a unique experience. I love local coffee shops, and despite the fact that I work at Starbucks I sometimes prefer local roasted coffee. Here are my thoughts on the two.
Starbucks vs. Local Coffee
Let me start by saying I love my job. Starbucks is an amazing company, and they treat their employees exceptionally well. I get benefits, I have a 401K which they match generously, I have a flexible schedule, I meet great people, and I work with coffee. I have NO complaints as an employee. As a customer though, I do have a few thoughts to share.
Starbucks has a limited selection for organic coffees. The store I work at has one option…ONE. I don’t drink frappucinos (holy sugar bomb), I don’t drink flavored lattes (IT TAINTS the coffee!?), and I usually stick to one beverage when I work: black coffee..hello predictability! The foo foo drinks/food just don’t coincide with my lifestyle.
Although there are limited “officially” organic beans at Starbucks, their beans are arabica. These beans are naturally grown at a higher altitude, meaning less pests, meaning less pesticides. The beans are also said to have a better taste! This I can work with.
Local shops offer more of a “home” like experience. I also love the uniqueness that comes alongside a cup of locally roasted coffee. Starbucks is nice because universally the quality and taste shouldn’t change no matter where you are in the world, but I love experiencing new areas with different coffee. Just like I do with different food!
I love the idea of supporting local mom and pop coffee shops, but don’t ditch Starbucks just because they are a “chain.” They do good things for their communities, they support hundreds of families in third world countries, and they do good things for their employees. I need health care, and most local shops just don’t offer that. I spend my money at Starbucks and at local coffee shops. If you do go to Starbucks and are interested in the organic roasts, simply ask them for an organic pour over. Boom, problem solved.
When it’s later in the day and I want a cup of crack to go alongside my chocolate chip cookie (because there is something magical about certain coffee flavors and chocolate) I opt for decaf. I try to be conscious of my caffeine intake, and the jitters are not a good look for me. Have you ever wondered how exactly coffee is decaffeinated?
Which Decaf Beans you Should Buy
To put it simply there are two ways to decaffinate your beans: chemically or not chemically.
My go to decaf beans are processed using “The Swiss Water Process.” This is a gentle and “natural” way to extract (most) of the caffeine from your beans. The beans are soaked in hot water, allowing the caffeine to release, and then filtered until they are 99% caffeine free. The alternative to this would be something like the “basic” decaffeinating process where chemical solvents are used such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. These chemicals strip caffeine molecules from the green coffee bean..uh no thanks.
Starbucks just so happens to have a wonderful decaf Sumatra that is processed using The Swiss Water Process. The only down side is that it’s not organic. Well shit, you can’t win them all. Sometimes free coffee wins, plus I rarely drink decaf!!
Long story short is this: I still have a LOT to learn about which coffees are the best for your body, fair trade coffees, and different roasts from local shops. My coffee journey will forever be improving and updating itself. This info I shared is basic, please feel free to share with me any information you have that I didn’t mention. I love to learn new things!
Also for the record, I will not turn down coffee if it’s not organic, I’d drink hotel sludge, but when I have the option I’ll choose organic! At home coffee – always organic!
Q: Do you drink organic coffee/tea?? School me on your coffee knowledge!
45 thoughts on “Organic vs. Conventional Coffee – Starbucks vs. Local Coffee – & Which Decaf Beans you Should Buy”
I seriously want that mug. hahaha I’m addicted to coffee, so I loved this post! I actually drink half decaf, half caf now because I was trying to cut down on my caffeine consumption. Now when I drink completely caffeinated, I become jittery!
wow……::mind blown::: i had no idea there was all of this detail and expertise on coffee, but I guess like anything else in life, there is. New possible career fro you in addition to foot photographer is coffee seller – you could throw coffee parties (like a wine party, bring a bunch of different kinds and have ppl try them) and then educate others and sell your super unique organic coffee. obviously though, Starbucks rules.
i think i have mentioned this before , speedway coffee makes me happy. I am not very classy with my coffee . Also, THE LAST PHOTO —- did you take that??? with the coffee bean heart shape??? SO CUTE. I want some coffee now.
Foot photographer huh? That sounds…intense. HAHA. OH my goodness that coffee party sounds wonderful, we actually do tastings at work and now that I am doing my coffee master “studies” I am in charge of them. Love it!
AH I did not take that photo (I linked the source if you click the photo) but I LOVED IT!
I’m assuming the crunchy earth hippie you referenced was me. Is it wrong that I consider myself a #vanillagorilla along with being a hippie? Nah.
I like this post. I knew most coffee beans were heavily sprayed but I had no idea about how they created decaf coffee. Fascinating stuff and yet another reason why I probably won’t drink it.
I am presently in a local coffee shop, eating lunch and doing some blog work, so this post was perfectly timed.
Katy Thomas (@KatyMarie5)
Ha! That mug made me giggle. I agree – coffee to me is totally about the overall experience. Thanks for teaching me a little about what I’m drinking!
Wow this is seriously such an informative post and I’m so glad that you shared it!! I actually only learned a little bit ago about coffee and pesticides, so when this can runs out I’m buying organic for SURE. I just never even thought about it to be honest, but now it wigs me out when I think about all the pesticides I’m probably consuming with my 2 cup a day habit!
I drink the coffee my BFF britt send me from starbucks. It is NOT organic so she is clearly trying to kill me. NOT COOL.
I love your passion for coffee though, its such a fun quirk to have.
I CAN SEND YOU THE YUKON, it’s so good…just as good as Ethiopia (which still holds my heart, and I WILL still drink Ethiopia!!) I’m not going to 100% abandon my other Starbucks lovers. HAHA
kathy @ vodka and soda
like you, i didn’t appreciate coffee until i was much older (in the last 2 years) and prior to that, i was strictly a tea girl. then something happened in my mouth and i’m all for coffee. i look forward to waking up every morning because i get to drink coffee! while i eat organic 90% of the time, i actually didn’t even think about organic coffee but this def makes sense. how does organic coffee really taste compared to regular coffee?
I need to do some side by side tastings and get back to your question!! Since Starbucks beans are arabica though, their flavor is naturally stronger (in a good way) than non arabica beans simply because of growing conditions. Arabica beans grown at higher altitudes have more time to mature in the coffee cherry due to colder nights slowing down the growing process! These are minor details most people probably won’t notice or care about. 🙂
Great post Brittany! Had no idea you worked at Starbucks. I had to give up Starbucks as special treats for myself because I found out I’m slightly intolerant to it..wrote a post about it titled ‘I dream of Coffee’. I never thought to give organic coffee a try but I do drink organic green tulsi tea from Organic India. You can taste the difference, the leaves are way more fresh and potent. It’s helped with the pesky allergy scratchy throats too.
Boise Runner (@RunInBoise)
I think Starbucks has the best tasting decaf out of all of them that I have tried. I can tell the difference if I drink a latte or mocha with decaf but the regular drip is just fine by me. I don’t want to know details on the decaffeinated process because I know it isn’t pretty.
This is something to keep in mind for sure. When I lived on the west coast it was much easier to eat all organic, not quite as easy on the east coast but it can be done. Though there are parts of the country where you can not even get fresh vegetables or a least not easily.
Allie of ALLIE NYC
Amanda @ .running with spoons.
Ugh. I try to turn a blind eye towards the fact that my favourite blend (Pike Place) isn’t organic… especially because when I run in to grab a coffee from Bux, I kind of just like to order and get it within 1 minute so that I don’t have to hassle them for a pour over. Is that a horrible thing? It’s just one cup a day!
I love me some Pike Place too, and will not ditch it forever! I will have it still, along with my beloved Ethiopia!! Just gotta moderate myself! I completely understand not wanting to “hassle” them though…I don’t think I would ask for a pour over going to another store haha. I just do it myself at my store!
oddly enough, i’m not sure i’ve ever tried organic coffee? how strange is that? i just always say light roast and be done with it (you taught me that light roast actually has more caffeine and i always think of this). next step: try organic light roast 🙂
The Vegan 8
Wow, thanks for all the coffee insight girl!! I knew a little of that but not ALL that! I’ve mentioned before how much I love coffee. I love the taste, smell, ritual etc. BUT unfortunately, my body just doesn’t like it anymore, so I only use it for flavor enhancing chocolate desserts. I wish I could drink it, but in the past year it had started to give me major headaches and lots of dizzy spells and that was just from ONE little cup in the mornings and I was a dizzy freak all the time. Once I cut out the coffee…no more problems. Even when I eat my coffee/espresso desserts I still get dizzy, but that doesn’t stop me, LOL!! 😉
You WILD woman!! 😉
GiGi Eats Celebrities
I hate that mug. I need a mug that says: Coffee does not make me poop because my digestive system sucks at life.
I also don’t really pay attention to organic/conventional coffee. I don’t drink it enough to care.
I am scared to ever make you a cup of coffee. You might scold me with hot water out of utter shock at how poorly I make it!
Actually this was hellaciously awesome to read. I don’t have as big of a love affair with coffee as you, but I do adore a black cup of coffee every morning for that reason – the movements! And then I grew to love it and it has become a part of my routine. My co worker has that coffee mug and he is SO proud of it. 🙂 Rightfully so, I think. I have never ONCE thought about organic coffee, literally, I didn’t even think about it.
I was just pwned. 🙂 Nice.
Lauren @ ihadabiglunch
I was just listening to Jillian Michaels’ podcast and she was talking about how coffee is sprayed with pesticides. I had NO IDEA! I thought that was one of the foods that was safe and untainted 😦 how naive of me. Thanks for this information! I love small coffee shops that take five or more minutes to get you your drink. That’s when you KNOW it’s good
Heather @ HeatherRunsFast.com
Thank you for that wealth of knowledge! I love learning new things, especially about something I put into my body so much 🙂 Keep the coffee lessons coming!
Choc Chip Uru
I am not a big coffee drinker at all, so I don’t understand the intricate differences in taste but it was an awesome read 😀
Choc Chip Uru
Food, Booze, & Baggage
I’m more a tea girl myself though i worked for a local coffee shop all through my undergrad and loved it. I use to drink coffee back then at work…I think that is what ruined me because coffee made in the pot at home does not taste the same as when it is brewed in the shop and I could make it EXACTLY how I liked it 🙂 You should check out Larry’s Beans (local roaster here in Raleigh, NC) https://www.larrysbeans.com/business-practices/our-story. They run as a Corp B and he is super into the environment and being as sustainable as possible-he is quite the character. Like the Willy Wonka of coffee. For the husband’s habit we try to buy beans from local roasters and most of the time it is organic because they carry heavily organic (so it’s not a challenge). Larry’s is all organic and then we buy from Counter Culture (both are carried at our Whole Foods so that makes it easy as well).
Larry’s sounds fantastic, thank you for sharing!
Sarah @ Feeeding the Brain and Body
This post was so insightful! I am a routine coffee drinker and don’t go a day without my morning cup of warmth. I don’t really pay very close attention to where my beans come from but I really should start doing so. I never even thought about how coffee becomes decaffeinated. ..Thankfully I rarely have decaf coffee hut the next time I do I will definitely try and get the natural way!
You and I BOTH! I also love coffee… for reason *ahem, that mug says it all* and because of the flavour, aroma and I just love a good cup of coffee in the morning. It’s just a beautiful thing. I love this post – such good info and I have to confess that I don’t buy organic coffee as often as I would like to! Lets face it, coffee can be expensive so I am a huge sucker when it comes to “on-sale” coffee – within reason of course. But at the same time, there are lots of brands who have organic coffees that only cost a dollar or so more and I definitely don’t mind shelling out a bit more. HOWEVER, now that I know coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides.. I think I need to make a but more room in my budget for organic, yes please!
Rach @ This Italian Family
My sister is a manager at a local coffee shop AND my husband is a HUGE coffee snob. So between the two of them, I know way more than I ever should about coffee, haha! In fact, I could’ve written this entire post (right down to the swiss-water decaffeinated process). Though I have to admit, I’m a total froo froo coffee drinker. I do like that my sister’s coffee shop is all direct trade and nearly all organic. And their decaf coffee is all made using the swiss-water system. So I feel better about ordering coffee from them. But her coffee shop is 6 hours away so it’s not exactly ideal for a quick stop, haha! I am definitely with you on loving what Starbucks does for her employees and for the communities. 🙂
Good to know this info! I love my coffee, but have to admit I don’t know a lot about the cup I’m drinking…besides that it’s Starbucks pretty much daily;)
I have no coffee knowledge… I mean do I really need it, when I have you?!!?? One good thing about living in he middle east is arabica coffee is all around. They actually sell a lot of organic here.
As a fellow coffee geek you articulated the way I feel about Starbucks coffee in a way I never could when I worked there. I’m just going to refer everyone here when they have questions –> and then just let you explain it all to them. Such a great piece Britt!
That sure means a lot coming from a previous (fellow) partner!! 🙂 ❤
Christina Does It All
Such an informative/fun post! Love that you are obsessed with coffee too. Makes you even more of a kindred spirit! Also, I just bought one of my friends that same mug!
Which decaf coffee beans should you buy? NONE OF THEM.
Okay, okay 😉
I actually hadn’t ever wondered how they got that way… but you have educated me. Now I know something about the coffee I will never ever waste my time or emotions on.
Truth…so much truth.
I love the way you look at Starbucks as both an employee and a customer. I read the book “How Starbucks Saved My Life,” which offered a small insight as to the behind-the-scenes, but it’s probably nothing compared to your firsthand experience. So happy they treat you really well!
It’s funny you mention methylene chloride (DCM, to me) and ethyl acetate. As a chemist, I worked with both of those on a daily basis, and I’ve probably accidentally absorbed/inhaled/somehow ingested more of those from my 3 years working in a chemistry lab than any person would ever ingest drinking 5+ cups of decaf coffee every day. They sound scary, and they’re certainly not good in huge (think a cup to a gallon quantities), but the minor amounts used to decaffeinate coffee beans isn’t anything to worry about. And they evaporate about 1000x faster than water (basically if you spill a few drops on the countertop, they’re gone in about 10 seconds), so there are barely any trace amounts in the beans.
Probably more organic chemistry than you wanted to hear, but it brought back some fun memories of being in lab and my chemistry friends! 🙂
LOVE this, thank you for schooling me on the chemicals you little chemist you!! I will say…I am somewhat of a closet “granola” and although I don’t talk about it much on the blog..I am anti any chemical if I can. Meaning…even the slightest trace of something “unnatural” is not for me!
I hated taking O chem, but I love learning little things like THIS, so always feel free to share!
I totally get it! The fewer chemicals, the better. 🙂 After how much I exposed myself to them, I think I’m just a little more desensitized than the average person. But it does come in handy sometimes, and it certainly makes reading ingredient labels more amusing. I actually understand 99% of what’s in it! 😉
Davida @The Healthy Maven
I don’t drink organic coffee. I’d be down but I usually drink the free coffee I get from my sis who works at Starbucks and I don’t think I can be picky about asking for the organic kind lol. But hey! At least I’m supporting the Bucks!
You are chock full of coffee facts! Ever since you told us your dream is to have your own bakery/coffee shop I can’t stop picturing you doing it and succeeding, of course! My sister’s best friend lost her husband unexpectedly a couple of years ago. Her and her son were left to pick up the pieces. Two years later and she is the proud owner of a bakery, “Cups and Cakes” that is doing phenomenally! 🙂
Nice. Good stuff here. I forget how I ended up on your blog, but I enjoyed this and reading all about it. I just started drinking coffee recently. I still have more to learn, but really like coffee before the gym or going on a long run/race. It helps with endurance and stamina. Is drinking 1 cup every day ok? I do like green tea as well. Do you ever put anything in your coffee? I’ve tried almond milk or skim milk. I’ve heard the cream isn’t healthy for you? Does a light roast coffee have the most caffeine out of medium and dark roast?
I drink at least once cup every day. There are many studies that prove a cup of coffee a day to be beneficial! I sometimes even have TWO! With that said YES one cup is ok. Green tea is also great for you. I drink my coffee black, because I enjoy the flavor of the beans, cream isn’t for me and can definitely add up the calories if too much is used. If you like cream, just use it in moderation!! It’s said that the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content due to the roasting process! Happy drinking! 🙂
You rock! I love your blog doll! Xoxo 😃
You are too kind, thank you!! ❤
Just wanted to point out that decaf Sumatra is decaffeinated by the natural method which is different than the Swiss Water method. The natural method uses Carbon dioxide to remove caffeine.