Our Coffee Conscience
In recent years consumers, roasters, and growers of coffee have given increased attention to the larger dynamic of the coffee economy, focusing on the effects of coffee production on the environment, human and animal health, as well as the rural and often fragile farm economies where coffee is grown. Since 1985, Old City Coffee has been instrumental in bringing greater Philadelphia coffee drinkers high quality Arabica coffee, and is at the forefront of providing a troika of specialty coffees: Organic, Shade Grown (Bird Friendly), and Fair Trade.
In addition to Old City Coffee’s in-house expertise in selecting fine Arabica coffees to roast, some of our coffees receive certification credentials from third party organizations, which can provide additional assurance of a coffee’s integrity and quality. We are listing the certifications as a guide in helping you make informed coffee purchasing choices. We caution however that organic, shade grown, or fair trade certification is not a measure of a coffee’s taste. While it is reassuring that many great tasting coffees are produced with certified eco-friendly methods, great tasting coffees can also be grown on large commercial non-organic or “sun” farms. Additionally, there are many coffees grown with organic and traditional shade methods that we highly recommend but are not certified as such. Old City Coffee’s retail displays are clearly labeled.
FLO: Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International is one of the biggest international social economic certification bodies worldwide. It regularly inspects and certifies about 350 producer organizations in over 45 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, embracing around 800,000 families of farmers and workers. www.fairtrade.net
Old City Coffee is approved to produce/distribute kosher certified products under Kosher Service. Our coffees are certified Kosher by Rabbi Amiel B. Novoseller. View our Kosher Certification.
Organic Crop Improvement Association
OCIA is a farmer-based “grass-roots” organization and is committed to a demonstrably independent and neutral third party verification system. The certification mechanism insures that certified members adhere to a unified set of stringent production and handling standards, backed up by an audit trail through which a product can be traced from the final consumer, back to the farmer and field. The ongoing crop improvement activities of the local chapters work to provide not only organic compliance monitoring but also educational and technical assistance to farmers for crop improvement.
The Standard encompasses all three pillars of sustainability—social, economic, and environmental. Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms are audited regularly to verify that farmers are complying with the Standard’s comprehensive requirements, which require continual improvement on the journey to sustainable agriculture. The Standard is built on these important principles of sustainable farming:
• Biodiversity conservation
• Improved livelihoods and human well-being
• Natural resource conservation
• Effective planning and farm management systems
Old City Coffee’s shade grown Costa Rica is one of the very few Rainforest Alliance certified coffees available.
Shade grown means that the coffee plants grow under a canopy of larger trees mimicking coffee’s growing habit in the wild. These wooded farms create habitat for a diverse range of migratory and native bird species, a variety of insects, reptiles, and other plants and animals. This type of agroforestry creates an ecosystem of healthy plants and crops that require little or no fertilization or pest management.
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Bird Friendly
This certification takes the label “shade grown” one step further. Although shade grown in practical terms can mean one and the same thing as bird friendly, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center set forth a set of criteria for “SMBC Bird Friendly” coffee based on 12 years of Neotropical study of domestic and migratory birds.
The criteria for Bird Friendly coffee were designed to save domestic and migratory birds by reducing their loss of habitat due to cutting of shade trees. The SMBC recognized the need to preserve the forest shade canopy with traditional coffee trees that require shade and provide habitat for migratory birds. SMBC Bird Friendly certification is accompanied by annual third party inspections, which examine for the percentage of shade trees, plant diversification, and accommodating habitat for birds.
The International Women’s’ Coffee Alliance (IWCA) grows a rich tasting Brazilian heirloom coffee that makes up our Reading Blend and Bulk Coffee. It’s a UTZ Certified estate in Minas Gerais, Brazil. “The mission of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is to empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.”
UTZ Certified products have been sourced, from farm to shop shelf, in a sustainable manner. Their farmers are certified on a range of criteria including environmental, agricultural, and labor practices. In 2020 UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance are merging as a singular certifying organization for sustainable practices. Our Reading Blend, Old City Blend and 1893 Blend are made from UTZ Certified, shade grown beans.
India offers one of the world’s most diverse and best cupping coffee selections, with over 25 different varietals harvested yearly. Old City Blend, our best selling coffee, includes a base of beans directly sourced from the India state of Tamil Nadu, a pristine area bordered by jungle near the Arabian Sea, an ideal landscape for two-tiered shade grown coffees. The Arabica Typica Kent heirloom plants are intercropped with orange and black pepper trees whose aromatics can be detected in the cup! These beans are hand-picked and sorted on this UTZ Certified plantation which means that workers are guaranteed safe conditions and are fairly paid. We continuously scout for similar shade grown coffees from all growing regions. Our African coffees, and many others are minimally processed, grown and hand tended in the shade.
The Departamento de Agricultura in Santurce, PR supervises the production of coffee in Puerto Rico. Our Yauco Selecto is certified!
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture enforces green coffee quality and species standards and certifies the Island and plantation origin from within The State of Hawaii. All of our Kona, Maui, Kauai coffee is stamped and certified by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.