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What Is Rainforest Alliance Coffee? Everything You Need To Know

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Coffee is enjoyed by millions of people across the globe every single day. But, just like any consumable food harvested, coffee cultivation can negatively affect the planet and the surrounding environment if sustainable practices are not adhered to.

With such high demand for coffee, it’s understandable that many farmers and plantations in developing countries try to cut corners to speed up cultivation or increase their bottom line, which often leads to damaging long-lasting effects on planet earth.

If you enjoy a cup of coffee, it’s probably in your best interest, and that of future generations, to ensure that your coffee is responsibly sourced.

Rainforest Alliance Coffee aims to do just that, and their certified coffee beans have been grown in sustainable areas and do not encroach on existing rainforest areas.

If you want to make a difference with each bag of coffee you purchase, keep on reading, and we’ll explain everything there is to know about Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee and what they’re trying to achieve.

What Does Rainforest Alliance Mean?

The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization that started over 30 years ago in Central America.

Their initial mission was to build an alliance to help protect the quickly depleting rainforests that were being destroyed to make way for coffee farming and production.

However, they have since expanded their reach.

Along with fighting deforestation and protecting the environment, they now work alongside farmers to improve sustainable livelihoods, human rights, provide better working conditions, and help them adapt to improve their cultivation practices further to be more environmentally friendly.

Since its inception, the Rainforest Alliance organization now provides sustainable agriculture training and certification for rural farming communities.

They manage vast landscape projects, and they are currently present in over 60 countries around the world.

rainforest alliance certified coffee

What About Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee?

Now you have a better understanding of the organization behind the Rainforest Alliance, what impact does that all have on the coffee you buy.

Each bag of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee beans comes through the supply chain from certified coffee farms and plantations that follow the sustainable agriculture practices set by the Rainforest Alliance.

Is There An Increased Cost?

For the farmer, the additional auditing costs for the certification are not regulated by the Rainforest Alliance. The farmer chooses a certification body and the costs associated with auditing their plantations.

Typically, the fees and costs will be determined by the size of the coffee farm and the location. To help spread the cost of audits, smallholder farmers will often join together to gain Rainforest Alliance Certification as a group to reduce the expense.

For you, the consumer, yes, there is a slight price increase. But, if you care about where your coffee comes from and the impact growing it has on the environment, it’s worth spending a few cents more knowing that your money will go towards improving the conditions in which the beans were grown and processed.

Does The Coffee Taste Any Better?

Intensive coffee farming can take its toll on the soil, and over only a few years, the essential minerals and nutrients that plants need to grow healthy diminish, and the soil can become polluted.

Because Rainforest Alliance certified coffee is grown in healthy soil with farming practices that are actively trying to put back in what has been taken out, the taste of the coffee benefits too.

What’s healthy soil?

The Rainforest Alliance defines healthy soil as being a diversified ecosystem.

This can be further characterized as soil that hasn’t been exploited for farming use but has become a habitat for animals. This type of growing environment allows for diversity and natural restoration of the soil.

Coffee grown in such environments will always taste better than coffee cultivated on large-scale farms where harsh chemicals are used, and no thought is given to the environment and the long-term effects on the planet.

The soil is where the coffee begins its life. If that’s not maintained or nourished, your coffee will grow and inherit the flavors of its growing environment.

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The Benefits Of Rainforest Alliance Coffee

The actual process, requirements to fulfill, and costs involved in the certification and auditing process can be daunting for any small rural farming community.

However, once these farms have qualified to be Rainforest Alliance Certified, they have a sustainable future in the farming industry. They can also charge a small premium for their coffee that other farms that fail to become certified cannot.

As a consumer, when you purchase Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, you are giving a small percentage back to those rural farming communities.

You should feel proud that the coffee you’re drinking has been grown with biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability in mind – but, most of all, there has been no deforestation to make way for coffee production.

And let us not forget, there is a noticeable taste difference with coffee grown in Rainforest Alliance environments.

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Are There Any Negatives?

As we’ve highlighted in this article, the main benefits of Rainforest Alliance certification are geared towards sustainability for both the environment and the farming communities.

But, to really understand the environmental impacts, we should look at what transpires when you buy coffee that’s not from a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm.

When you purchase regular coffee that isn’t certified, there are no guarantees that the workers and the environment where the coffee has been grown haven’t been exploited.

It’s not uncommon for “regular” farms to use harmful pesticides, GMOs, cause mass deforestation, and forced child labor to produce the coffee that you drink.

Specific protocols have to be followed on a Rainforest Alliance certified farm, standards met, and the environment and sustainability come first.

Aside from the actual farm, one of the most common criticisms is that a bag of coffee can have the Rainforest Alliance seal even if the coffee inside is only 30% Rainforest Alliance Certified.

As a buyer, you have no idea about the growing conditions of the other 70% of coffee inside the bag. This can be confusing. Do you actually know how much of your money is going where it should?

The good news is you can avoid buying the “unknown” by looking at the labels to make sure they clearly state 100% Rainforest Alliance certified.

Conclusion

Hopefully, if you’ve gotten this far, you now have a clear picture of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee and its impact on the local farming communities and the larger environmental impacts.

Whether you’re a group of farm workers or coffee growers looking to possibly gain Rainforest Alliance certification or just a person who wants to make a more informed choice when buying their coffee, we are sure you’ll feel better once you’ve made the shift.

It’s the small things such as choosing one type of coffee over another at your local store which can have long-lasting implications.

Here at Bean Ground, we know that an extra few cents won’t break the bank, especially if we know it’s going towards sustaining the future of coffee growing for generations to come.

📌 You might also like to read: Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade Coffee: What’s The Difference?

Mark Morphew

Mark is the editor and writer of the popular coffee blog Bean Ground. He's been active in the catering and hospitality industry for many years. When he's not fiddling around with a new coffee gadget, you'll find him busy doing DIY projects around the home and taking his German Shepherd for a walk, who funnily enough is called Kona! You can discover more about Mark here.