Grown without petroleum-based chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. Look for a certification agency logo on the package or bulk bin. It is essential that a third party federal (USDA) or private (Demeter, OCIA) certification agency put their stamp of approval on the coffee.
Because you can’t grow organic coffee in direct sun, all organic coffee is shade grown. Why is this?
Without the forest canopy, there are no birds to eat the insects, so pesticides are needed to keep the bug level down. (An average forest has about 100 species of ants and even more spiders, both of whom eat bugs. A clearcut forest loses 90% of those species.)
Without shade, the forest floor grows undesirable brush that requires herbicides to keep them in check.
Without the canopy’s annual left litter deposits, the soil would become depleted of nutrients in just a few years, requiring fertilizers to keep the coffee trees producing.
These chemicals poison the groundwater, cost a lot of money, and kill the soil and the biodiversity it supports.
Buy organic coffee, it’s better for you and the farmers, and the planet.