What is Rainforest Alliance Coffee and is it worth it?

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Coffee is an indispensable beverage and millions of people drink it every-single-day. Yet, drinking delicious coffee does not end there. Like all consumer products, coffee cultivation and processing takes a toll on our planet. So when you’re choosing which coffee to drink, it’s important to choose one that does the least amount of damage. We believe that drinking Rainforest Alliance Coffee could be one of the best drinking coffee decisions that you can make. It’s not just coffee with a certification, it’s a coffee with a purpose.

What is Rainforest Alliance Certification?

The coffee market is an enormous industry and the $100 billion industry in the United States is just one of the slices in the industry pie. The Rainforest Alliance’s mission is critical in keeping coffee farmers properly informed and educated about the methods of sustainable farming that guarantee an increase in the yields and protection of the environment.

The Rainforest Alliance works hand in hand with coffee farmers by administering annual auditing against rigorous standards that feature detailed economic, environmental, and social criteria. The criteria are specifically designed to protect and preserve biodiversity, secure, and deliver financial benefits to farmers while fostering a culture of respect for workers and the local communities.

Why is Rainforest Alliance Certification so Important?

Generally, Rainforest Alliance intends to protect the planet and provide labor rights to the workers. It works with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), an institution that sets a separate standard for farms and other standards. One of the most important environmental standards that the Rainforest Alliance emphasizes is deforestation. 

SAN sets a standard on farms that coexist with the natural forest that serves as its cover, wherein a coffee farm, for instance, has to maintain 40% of canopy coverage that consists of at least two strata. On these strata, at least 12 species of trees should be cultivated per hectare of the farming land.

Aside from this, farmers are prohibited to alter the natural waterways. Although SAN allows the use of pesticides, it is only applicable for use if there’s natural vegetation that serves as buffer zones between the crops and the areas where humans dwell.

In terms of labor standards, SAN follows the recommendations of the United Nation and the International Labor Organization. Reasonable minimum wages, maximum workweeks, and the right to organize are some of the articles of the local laws that farms must meet.

Cost Difference

The Rainforest Alliance doesn’t regulate the cost of the audit services. The audit cost depends on the certification body that farmers chose to assess their farm. The fee depends on the farm size, farm location, and organization size. Oftentimes, smallholder farmers seek certification as a group to reduce audit expenses.

Other than the audit service fee, the farmers are also responsible for covering all the associated expenditures to meet the Sustainable Agriculture Standard.

Generally speaking, it’s worth spending more money on Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee. You know your money is going to improve the eco-welfare of the environments in which the beans were grown and processed. To me, this is worth the extra cents compared to more industrial generic coffee. 

Does it Taste Better?

The coffee’s delightful taste comes from the fact that Rainforest Alliance coffee is harvested from coffee plants cultivated in healthy soil. A healthy soil by definition of Rainforest Alliance is a soil that has a diversified ecosystem. Meaning, the soil was not exploited for farming use but also became a habitat for animals. Such diversity allows restoration of the soil to its natural condition. 

For years of intensive farming, such farming practice exhausts essential minerals and nutrients that a plant needs to grow healthy. If a plant is cultivated in polluted soil, the effect is obvious with the quality of coffee beans produced.

Yet, much difference is observed from coffee plants cultivated in Rainforest Alliance certified coffee farms. Most of these farms use shade-grown techniques in farming coffee. The technique preserves the carbon in the soil and replenishes the soil’s nutrients. No chemicals are used. Thus, these techniques allow coffee farms to continuously produce high-quality coffee beans that are delicious up to the last drop.

Benefits of Rainforest Alliance Coffee

“The price of discipline is always less than the price of regret” (Nido R. Qubein) 

Qubein’s quote about discipline is more profound if related to the proper ways of using the earth’s natural resources. The auditing and certification process might be daunting with the paperwork to complete and the requirements to fulfill. However, once a coffee farm is certified and the policies are implemented, the end result is sustainability.

What benefits does the Rainforest Alliance certification give? There are several perks in Rainforest Alliance certification to count and here are some that can make you feel proud for the decisions you’ve made to get a Rainforest Alliance seal. These are:

  • Coffee farms with sustainability certifications have better environmental performance compared to non-certified farms.
  • Sustainable farms tend to receive higher market value than noncertified farms and show promising net value with adequate farm investment strategies used.
  • Economic, environmental, and social tradeoffs can be mediated through various levels of productive investment.
  • Trade-offs between income and biodiversity can be mitigated with certified farms that receive higher market value for their produce.

Missing the opportunity to get a Rainforest Certification for your farm to reap these benefits is certainly a price of regret to pay.

Certification

If you’re all out to support the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods through responsible land-use practices, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade are sustainable movements worth following. Yet, before you put all your hands down to these environmental campaigns, you must know the difference between Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.

Rainforest Alliance Coffee vs Fair Trade

Although both certificates champion the welfare of the planet and its inhabitants, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance still have differences that are worth considering.

Fair Trade certification aims to support the people behind cultivating the coffee beans that you love – the farmers and workers. This certification focuses on improving the lives and the communities of the people cultivating the farm. 

Fairtrade certification highlights its campaign on connecting the disadvantaged producers and consumers, promoting fair trading conditions while empowering the producers to fight poverty and exploitation to improve their quality of life.

Learn more about our favorite 8 Fair Trade Coffee Brands that support social justice and environmental efforts.

Rainforest Alliance, on the other hand, aims to protect the planet through the implementation of standards and policy for a sustainable world while improving the lives of the farmers and their forest communities. It gives more emphasis on the improvement of the earth’s social, economic, and environmental conditions. 

Rainforest Alliance Coffee the Solution?

Rainforest Alliance Coffee may not be the one-solution-fit-all in protecting the environment. However, its existence helps in protecting the environment, the farmers, and the consumers while improving their quality of life at the same time. 

There’s no perfect solution to fully counter the damages that man has inflicted on our planet. Yet, one small act can make a difference. Likewise, there might be loopholes in some of the policies and standards that Rainforest Alliance implemented but this can be fixed with constant updates. 

In our opinion, Rainforest Alliance Certification is a step in the right direction. We’ve written about Direct Trade before and feel this is where brands need to get to as it supports the farmers and workers directly, not just the planet. 

Best Rainforest Alliance Coffee Brands

Our Favorite Selections of Rainforest Alliance Coffees
Volcanica Rainforest Alliance Coffees

The Rainforest Alliance is an international organization that works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming coffee farm land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. These coffees have received the Rainforest Alliance certification. Kosher Certified.

Images and pricing from https://volcanicacoffee.com/
Large Variety of Selection
Fresh Roasted Coffee Rainforest Alliance Options

USDA Organic options from Bali, Sumatra, Brazil, Honduras, Half-caf with Swiss Water Process, and much more. Highly recommended.

***10% coupon code already included in link below***

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

FAQ

What is Rainforest Alliance Coffee?

The Rainforest Alliance coffee is a coffee product that follows the policies and guidelines set by the Rainforest Alliance committee in place of protecting the environment, the farmers, and the forest communities. It’s a non-profit, tax-exempt institution with headquarters located in New York.

Is Starbucks Coffee Rainforest Alliance Certified?

Yes. Starbucks has five primary coffee certifications particularly Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Utz, Fairtrade, and Smithsonian Bird-Friendly. The coffee giant is dedicated to helping farmers overcome the challenges that most small coffee farms encounter. Thus, the company commits itself to buy 100% of the ethically sourced coffee.

Is the Rainforest Alliance legit?

Yes. However, this certification institution is different from Fair Trade. Rainforest Alliance certificate aims to improve the economic, social, and environmental conditions of the planet while helping farmers and their forest communities.

What does Rainforest Alliance Certified mean?

When you buy products with Rainforest Alliance seal, it means that it is produced by farmers, foresters, or companies that are committed to working harmoniously to protect the earth and its people.

In Summary

Buying Rainforest Alliance certified products can be one of the best buying decisions a consumer can make. Not only does it provide jobs to people, but such purchases means a lot in helping farmers win in life and protect the planet. 

Products certified by Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, and Direct Trade also show commitment to consumers and the environment because proceeds go to important projects that can help improve the condition of the environment, educate farmers, protect remaining natural resources and fight poverty and labor exploitation.

Bottom line: don’t buy shitty coffee that doesn’t have any certification. You’re just throwing your money away while destroying the planet.

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