Improving Coffee Quality Through Coffee Certifications

By Timothy S. Collins

What is all the talk about Organic, Fairtrade Certified and other Coffee Certifications? There is much talk about coffee certifications in the news and other consumer communications.What does it all really mean?

The Certifications or Verifications are mission statements for specific markets and countries that influence the coffee farming communities and cultures. Some of these Certifications or Verifications date back to 19th century practices while others started in 2003. To understand these certifications, let us review each of them:

1. Organic

  • The mission of Organic Coffee production is to create a verified sustainable agriculture system that produces food in harmony with nature, supports biodiversity and enhances soil health.
  • "Organic" certification traces back to 19th century practices formulated in England, India and the US.
  • Since 1967 it has developed into an internationally recognized system with organic coffee production throughout the world.
  • This certification has more than 40 nations supplying the global market with organic coffee, more than any other certification.

2. Fairtrade Certified

  • The mission of Fairtrade Certified is to support a better life for farming families in the developing world through fair prices, direct trade, community development and environmental stewardship.
  • Fairtrade Certified began as Max Havelaar in the Netherlands in the 1970's.
  • Now the German-based Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) collaborates with more than twenty national branches throughout the world. In addition, the coffee is also certified organic.
  • Prices vary by coffee type.
  • This certification has participation from countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua, New Guinea, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, Thailand, and Uganda.

3. Rainforest Alliance

  • The mission of Rainforest Alliance is to integrate biodiversity conservation, community development, workers' rights and productive agricultural practices.
  • The objective is to ensure comprehensive sustainable farm management.
  • Rainforest Alliance was started in 1992 by Rainforest Alliance and a coalition of Latin
  • American groups and networks.
  • Farmers earn more through gains in efficiency, improved quality and controlling costs.
  • This certification has representation from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Tanzania and Vietnam.

4. Smithsonian's Bird Friendly Label

  • The mission of Smithsonian's Bird Friendly labeled certified coffee is to conduct research and education around issues of neotropical migratory bird populations.
  • This means promoting certified shade grown coffee as a viable supplemental habitat for birds and other organisms.
  • This certification was founded in 1997 with criteria based on scientific fieldwork.
  • It involves multiple organic certification agencies for certification management purposes.
  • This certification has representation from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Tanzania, and Vietnam.

5. UTZ Certified "Good Inside"

  • The mission of UTZ Certified "Good Inside" is to achieve sustainable agricultural supply chains where producers are professionals implementing good practices in order to enable better businesses, living standards and environments.
  • The idea is for consumers to buy products meeting their standard for social and environmental responsibility.
  • This certification was started in 1997 from industry and producers in Guatemala.
  • This certification has representation from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Birundi, Brazil, Peru, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

6. 4C Code of Conduct

The mission of 4C Common Code is to achieve global leadership by emphasizing the economic, social and environmental factors in coffee growing.

  • This leads to enhanced production, processing and trading conditions for coffee sector members. It was started in 2003.
  • This certification has representation from countries such as Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua, New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

The coffee trade is an important sector of the economy worldwide. All these certifications and the focus on quality across all markets are very beneficial to coffee growers, producers and consumers alike. Bottom line, all the efforts lead to providing the best possible coffee for that enjoyable and unforgettable cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon! So, are you now ready to enjoy a cup of specialty coffee?

Timothy S. Collins
Article by Timothy S. Collins
Timothy ("Tim") S. Collins, the author, is called by those who know him "The Gourmet Coffee Guy." He is an expert in article writing who has done extensive research online and offline in his area of expertise, coffee marketing, as well as in other areas of personal and professional interest. Come visit the author's website:

© Copyright - Timothy S. Collins. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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