Organic coffee berries untouched by Roya.

The Most Organic Coffee Grown Today: Under The Shade In Honduras

In Honduras, coffee farmers are so serious about organics that they’ve got a biospheric buffer zone around their community with signs reading something like No chemicals come in here! Members of COMSA coffee trading company are truly alchemizing their native soil in ways that are the envy of farmers in other nations.

What makes coffee truly organic?

The concept with organics is it all starts with the soil, so if you’re building the healthiest soil you can build, the plants are going to be stronger and can protect themselves and the crop tastes better. If the soil is dusty, used-up dirt, then you have to put in artificial chemicals to feed the plants because the natural chemicals they depend on aren’t in the soil, so soil health creates plant health. Who’s going to argue with super healthy soil resulting in better-tasting, more nutrient-rich food?

All month we’ll feature COMSA coffee from Honduras, a world leader in organic soil processes. In the race for ecological balance, they’re often visited by other countries who want to see how to do organic the best way. COMSA’s coffee farms remain healthy and thriving under the canopy shade of trees from above and with nutrient-rich organic compost from below. Neighboring conventional farms not employing their same stringent regulations risk their entire enterprise in a constant state of damage-control. Weak soil and sickly plants attract disease and pests, endlessly eroding in a vicious cycle until significant investments are made to enrich the land and cultivate thriving colonies of microorganisms responsible for the chemical reactions that sustain life.

Organic farming processes have been shown effective warding off invaders such as the airborne virus Roya (“rust”) which continues to wreak havoc across Central America’s coffee crops, costing farmers so much that it has cut some areas’ available jobs in half between 2012 and 2014. The Roya virus makes the coffee’s leaves unable to soak in sunlight.

Biodynamic preparation the COMSA coffee farmers call Minerals of the Mountain

COMSA is a coop that strives to live within nature’s constraints, instead of trying to conquer nature. All their coffee is organic, and to be certified, it has to be shade grown. Internal inspections within the cooperative make sure the shade trees are present and then an external inspection happens once a year for organics.

Organic coffee has to be grown in the shade because it’s an understory crop and doesn’t like full sun. If coffee is in full sun, you have to pump it with chemicals to keep it alive, because the sun stresses the plant. In addition to shade, COMSA’s Honduran coffee farmers are using a powerful, all-natural mineral fermented spray that they call MM, for “Minerals Of The Mountains.”

“They’re collecting rotten leaves and they’re collecting rocks and pulverizing them and putting minerals in this brew and fermenting this brew,” Cafe Campesino’s Bill Harris said. “It’s a highly concentrated superspray for any kind of plant, it’s the best naturally-fertilized coffee you’ve ever seen.” Apparently, it is so non-toxic you can drink it, but it’s really strong, so when Bill tried the concoction he got sick. It’s made for the plants Bill!

Coffee is a great test crop for organics.

Organic farming methods undoubtedly rate higher for ecological health and diversity, so when people say the “organic” label makes no difference, they might be referring to how they don’t trust marketing tactics. But as COMSA has shown, their way of organic farming is the best thing you can do to protect and invest in rural areas that depend on agriculture like in Honduras. Some also challenge the commercial practicality of feeding the world with organics. Maybe you can’t organically grow all the world’s corn and soybeans we use in processed foods, but all the world’s coffee? With the threat of climate change and frightening diseases like Roya risking the livelihoods of coffee farmers around the world, it isn’t such an unreasonable demand that we grow all the world’s coffee organically.

“Coffee could be the lead product to change people’s minds that think that way about organics because people are compassionate about coffee,” Bill said. “You rarely run into someone who says, ‘Oh, I don’t know what it tastes like, its just the caffeine.’ Even people that drink bad coffee like the taste of it and they’re passionate about that.”