What Do Coffee Certifications Really Mean?

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Today, coffee certification is everywhere -- in grocery stores, restaurants, and even offices! Marc Schonland, our vice president of coffee strategy says, “Today the consumer wants to know where their purchases are coming from. This is especially true in the food supply chain, and coffee is no different."

So, should you care if your coffee is certified? Schonland says, "Certifications offer various third-party assurances to the consumer. They can attest to environmentally friendly farming practices and can go all the way up to organic certification. They can provide assurances that no child labor was involved in the production of the coffee. Some programs focus more heavily on the prices paid to the producers. Certification programs typically have different focuses and consumers should educate themselves on how they differ and make a personal selection based on the quality of the product and program’s focus."

Schonland stresses that while there are many options out there for the “certified-minded consumer”, it's also important to recognize the many additional sources and supply of coffees that are not certified but are still produced in environmentally-sound ways with excellent and safe labor practices. 

Types of Coffee Certifications

Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certification

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center developed the only 100% organic and shade-grown coffee certification available: Bird Friendly. According to the Smithsonian website, "the seal of approval ensures tropical "agroforests" are preserved and migratory birds find a healthy haven when they travel from your backyard to those faraway farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning."

Fair Trade Certification

Fair Trade coffee helps support a better life for farming families in the developing world by guaranteeing farmers a minimum price, linking them directly with importers, and creating long-term environmental stewardship and sustainability. According to the Fair Trade website, "farmers earn better incomes, allowing them to hold on to their land and invest in quality."

Our Fair Trade coffees: Villa Rey Agua Azul 100% Fair Trade coffee; Bella Vista 100% Fair Trade coffee; Royal Cup Sumatran Mentawai Fair Trade Organic K-Cups

Utz Certification

Utz is the largest coffee certification program in coffee and cocoa. Utz aims to make sustainable farming the norm by encouraging farmers to implement good agricultural practices and manage their farms profitably with respect for people and planet.

USDA Organic Certification

Being USDA Organic certified means that coffee farmers must use an agriculture system that produces food that supports biodiversity and enhances soil health by using only approved substances and organic farming methods.

Our organic coffees: Royal Cup Sumatran Mentawai Fair Trade Organic K-Cups; 100% Organic Caribbean, 100% Organic Espresso; 100% Organic Mayan Roast; Aztec Organic; Inca Decaf 100% Organic; Mexican Organic.

Rainforest Alliance Certification

Rainforest Alliance certified coffee helps integrate biodiversity conservation, community development, and the implementation of effective planning and farm management systems to improve the livelihood of farmers and their families in coffee growing regions.

Our Rainforest Alliance coffees: Rainforest 30% Blend; Rainforest Bold 30% Blend; Royal Cup Rainforest Reserve K-Cups; Villa Rey Rainforest Blend; Villa Rey Rainforest Blend Whole Bean; Villa Rey Rainforest Blend Decaf; Villa Rey Rainforest Blend Decaf Whole Bean