Certified Organic Coffee is a Big Deal!

All our coffees bear the Canada Organic logo.

Certified by Ecocert Canada

Above shows how our packages display the Canada Organic logo with reference to our certifier, Ecocert Canada.  It is not legal to display the Canada Organic logo on a package without referencing the accredited certification body.

You can be confident about the legitimacy of products sold in Canada if the product label

  1. shows the Canada Organic logo along with the certifying body; OR
  2. it shows the organic logo of one of the CFIA accredited bodies (such as Procert or Ecocert)

From the CFIA FAQ: "[Understanding] these regulations enable consumer protection against deceptive and misleading labelling practices and claims regarding organic products." The CFIA vigorously defends the use of its logo and the certifying bodies are always willing to provide credentials for any product bearing their name as a certifier.

By the way, if you ever see a product with a Canada Organic logo without the certifier, you should report it to the CFIA. Such violations are rare, and sometimes inadvertent, but the integrity of the system relies on all of us participating and being vigilant.

Our 2016-2017 Organic Certificate

When we say our coffees are Organic, we mean all of our coffees are certified organic 1 by Ecocert Canada.

All our coffees are certified organic: we offer no conventional coffee. Many coffee marketers include some organic coffees in their line, while deliberately making no comment about the conventional ones, in hopes that the organic ones will "greenwash" their line. Others claim that their coffee is organic while not submitting to the costly and rigorous verification process of certification.  Sadly, in Ontario, due to a lack of commitment to the Canadian Organic standard from our provincial legislators,  this is not prohibited and leads to much confusion and abuse.

All of our offerings bear the organic Canada Organic Logo. And bearing the Canada Organic logo is a big deal!

Organic drying patio with our Nicaragua Wood Thrush

Organic certification is a rigorous process.  Obviously starting with certified organic beens is a prerequisite. Beyond that, we are required to keep accurate, retrievable records of all purchases, all roasts, all packaging, all spoilage and all sales of organic coffee.  Our practices must comply with the  Organic Products Regulations, 2009 as governed by the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA).  We are required to comply with Canada's Organic Labeling Laws, our trade documents are subject to strict regulation, and we are subject to inspection and regulation by an accredited Organic Certifier who is responsible to ensure our compliance.

Our certifier, Ecocert Canada is one of about 20 organizations in Canada accredited by the CFIA to bestow the Canada Organic seal on compliant organic products.  At our cost, Ecocert Canada conducts an annual audit in which they review our internal documentation, trade documents, practices and procedures, labels, and inventory and more, all to ensure our compliance with the Canada Organic Standard. In our annual audits, we must prove compliance with record keeping rules and standards.  We must demonstrate compliance with record keeping requirements.  Auditors conduct spot exercises to demonstrate completeness and accuracy of all of our records. They reconcile inputs, outputs and check that all inputs arrived with compliant packaging and with rigorous documentary credentials.

All of our sales must be likewise documented and packaged. All of our labels must be approved by Ecocert who ensure they meet labeling rules, that the package claims are correct, and that internal and trade documents are all in alignment.

The system works because all participants in the chain are subject to this scrutiny.  I trust that the inputs into my process comply with the organic standard because they too were rigorously verified by independent, 3rd party accredited bodies.

We at Birds and Beans are proud to support the chain of organic certification. We strongly believe in third party certification.  Certifications are a way for us to participate in a voluntary chain of trust while harnessing third party verification.

On certification, we are soaring above the crowd™.

 

1 Certified organic products are
  1. produced in compliance with published international organic definitions
  2. traceable throughout even global supply chains
  3. are verified for compliance by accredited 3rd party auditors

Roast your Own Green Coffee at Home

Coffee beans drying in the Sun in Nicaragua
Green coffee beans ready for roasting

As Coffee Roasters, we know green coffee beans. Green coffee beans are our raw material. Great roasted coffee can only come from great green coffee.

Our beans have been carefully selected so that we can offer a full range of coffees to sell online, serve in our cafe, and deliver to our wholesale partners. We’ve spent the past 15 years refining our choices of beans so that we have the highest quality specialty grade Certified Organic, Bird Friendly and Fair Trade Arabica beans available anywhere. These are the ones that we sell for for you to roast at home.  No old crop specials, no cheap or tainted beans. People often comment how clean and defect free our beans are when they first see them. You can see the quality as much as you can taste it.

 Our prices are competitive, especially when you consider the quality, sustainability and ethical values - and you can also order the same coffee roasted by us to use as a benchmark for your roasting. We ship across Canada from our Toronto area Roastery.
 
So whether you are roasting on your stove using a popcorn popper, on a BBQ or using a small home roaster, you can easily start with the best beans and feel good knowing that with every cup, you are helping to conserve vital habitat and supporting small family farms in coffee growing regions.
 
You'll spend a lot of time roasting your coffee, make sure you start with the best beans. To see our current selection and to place your order, please click here. For those of you near us in Toronto, we stock the 1 lb and 5 lb sizes at our Café

 

A Different Cup of Coffee

More than 10 years ago, we set out to create a different kind of company - one that would give consumers a way to use their purchasing power to make the world better rather than worse. We wanted to provide a product that was green at its core - not something that just looked green or came out of a "green" facility with a super duper recycling program. We wanted to create a true "triple bottom line" company that produced tangible environmental and social benefits.

Coffee was the perfect product for our experiment - for one thing, we love really good coffee and had a hard time finding a consistent source. And, most importantly, traditionally cultivated coffee is grown in a way that preserves habitat for wildlife - including Migratory Songbirds. Coffee is increasingly being grown in partial shade or full sun, transforming what was once a thriving forest ecosystem into "Eco Deserts" capable of supporting little life: Where there was once a thriving forest ecosystem, the only living thing is the crop being cultivated.

A few years before we started Birds and Beans, The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center had developed the Bird Friendly Coffee Certification.  Its aim is to identify and certify farms that provided good habitat for migratory songbirds - or more accurately are functioning ecosystems.

So, having identified the problem and the solution, Birds and Beans was born. We bought a small Commercial Roaster, some green Bird Friendly coffee and started developing our roast profiles. After about a year of development, we were ready to launch.

We sold our first coffee at the Guelph Organic Show in January 2003. Now we are a Certified Organic Roaster and have 2 much larger roasters and a full line of Certified Organic, Certified Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffees. We offer the World's first and only Triple Certified Espresso – Commit, an espresso blend.

A decade later, we can declare our experiment a success. Birds and Beans is a going concern where every pound of coffee sold is helping to protect valuable habitat as well as contributing to a decent life for the farmers and their families. About 5 years ago, we were joined by Bill Wilson and his colleagues from New England, who wanted to use the Birds & Beans name in the USA - and out of that has grown a valuable partnership that is spreading the word to an even wider audience. Our coffee receives rave reviews from all who try it. Together, we are building a different kind of coffee brand.

This month we are undertaking a 'bird survey' in Nicaragua on the 450 farm co-op, UCA San Juan del Rio Coco, co-sponsored by York University and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. We buy a good deal of coffee directly from the co-op. The conservation biologists conducting the survey reported 21 species of migrant birds present in the first few days of field work.

Supporting this kind of work is unheard of for companies of our size as it doesn't have a commercial payoff. So why do we do it?  Simple.  Its because we have aligned our business with our true values and our business expresses them just as we do. It isn't a ploy or a marketing gimmick.  It is what we care about.  We founded this company as a vehicle to promote conservation and this is an opportunity to do just that.

The study represents new work in this region and so the findings will add to the body of knowledge of how that ecosystem functions.  This will help our growers to make better decisions on how to manage their farms in the future.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us and have enjoyed a different cup of coffee....

How Much Coffee Should I Use?

We are often asked how much coffee to use to brew the perfect cup. Well, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) provides expert advice on all things coffee and the brewing ratio they suggest is 55g of coffee for 1 litre of brew. Since we don’t usually get out the scale to brew coffee, I weighed out 55g of beans and roughly translated to volume:

  • 10 tablespoons of beans to 1 litre of brew, or
  • 2.5 tablespoons beans per cup (8 fluid oz)

For event brewing in a 100 cup perc urn, we find 14 oz ground coarse is great.

When we roast a new coffee, we start with the SCAA brewing ratio. In our experience, this brews a strong delicious cup of coffee - in most cases. Interestingly, some coffees taste much better by reducing the ratio of coffee to water. The Nicaragua Gaia Estate coffee is much better brewed at about 3/4 strength (a little less than two tablespoons per cup).

The SCAA recommends grinding the coffee at the time of brewing, so the measurements above are for beans. I measure out the beans and put them through the grinder. It makes less mess than trying to measure ground coffee too. If you are measuring ground coffee the amount needed may be a bit more or less depending on how compacted it is.

A few more tips for making great coffee:

  • use coffee roasted within the last 4-6 weeks
  • use filtered (no chlorine) good quality water
  • use clean equipment (grinders, brewers and carafes)
  • make sure the brewing temperature is between 90-96 C (195-205 F)
  • use the right grind for the method of brewing (coarse for french press, regular for filter, fine for aeropress)
  • do not leave brewed coffee on active heat

Enjoying a Great Cup of Coffee

Enjoying a great cup of coffee...  For me it represents the culmination of all the attention that has gone into growing and harvesting, roasting, brewing, and at last, tasting it.  I feel connected to the whole process and I show my appreciation by surrendering to the pleasure of the drink.

Right now I'm considering the results of a roasting experiment.  My life is full of these. Great roasting is much more than firing up the roaster and letting it rip until the beans are dark. Great roasting mingles intuition with science in a trial and error process judged by taste.

As heat is applied to the beans, molecules form and reform, much like in cooking.  The chemistry of roasting is so complex than no-one has a scientific grasp on its details.   But, the science guides our intuition and vice versa in our trial and error discovery process.

We roast our coffee with process control software.  That means that we control the temperature of the beans throughout the roast.  So the question is, what temperature profile do we want?  It turns out that, even with the same beans, two roasts that both have a final temperature of say 445 F, but that get there through different time-temperature paths can be the difference between ambrosia and bitter swill.

So science tells us the methodology to follow, and chemistry tells us some generalities about molecules that are created in the Maillard reaction phase combining and recombining to form the many-hundreds of delicious complex sugars we might taste as caramel or nut or chocolate.   Intuition and experience tell us what to try next to reward our senses, and tasting it tells us if we were right or wrong.

Today we are trying a new roast profile for the Peru Norte.  It is a new crop.  The profile we used on last year's crop is resulting in a harsher cup than we would like.  We decided to try a steeper slope with more curvature at the beginning of the roast and a slightly lower final temperature.

Then we had to wait 2-3 days.  When coffee is first roasted its flavour is "closed" and dull. Very much like red wine needs to breath before it "opens up", roasted coffee needs to "de-gas" for a couple of days sometimes longer.

So finally, after being tended on a Bird Friendly Certified coffee farm, hand harvested, milled, dried and and shipped to our roastery, roasted with our new profile, rested for 3 days, ground and finally hand-drip brewed, I'm now considering the result.

The dry fragrance of the fresh grounds is heavenly showing a touch of vanilla or almond. The cup is smooth and balanced, is slightly sweet with dominant caramel flavour and undertones of nut.  It is somewhat bright and leaves a long aftertaste that becomes increasingly sweet and fruity as the cup cools.

We'll go with this for the house coffee in the café for a while.

The pleasure in Birds and Beans coffee is total:  It is just amazing to sit in the backyard sipping a cup of phenomenal coffee that supports the continuation of songbird migration  while actually seeing and hearing the returning songbirds.  Would you like to join me?

A Bit About Coffee

We want to share with you the amazing taste experience of pre-industrial coffee.

Through the industrialization of our food supplies, we have lost the simple pleasures of exquisite taste. Flavour and quality are routinely sacrificed for shelf life and transportability and sustainable growing practices for profit. In the case of coffee we say "No Thanks!"

We take an entirely different approach from the conventional coffee industry. We pursue the best tasting coffee sustainably produced. In that pursuit, we have found through our own tasting program that:

Coffee should be brewed within 4-6 weeks after roasting. The industry standard shelf life is 1 year!

Like wine, the flavour profile is unique within each crop of boutique coffee.

The best roast for a boutique coffee, the one that reveals the best flavours during its first 4 weeks after roasting, is never charcoal and is often quite light.

We admire the experience, the traditional knowledge and hard work of our growers that result in the extraordinary quality of our beans. Our long term, mutually respectful relationships with them are the basis of our product. We feel our connection with them in each cup of our shade grown coffee and with the songs of our migratory birds.

Boutique Coffee

A richer taste.

Boutique coffee tastes amazing! It is like fine wine. When everything is right, boutique coffees can have natural flavours like chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, sweetness and even floral and citrus.

coffee cherries
Hand-picked from Gaia Estate, a mix of the rare and sweet Bourbon, Caturra coffee cherries, and yellow Catuai coffee cherries

These flavours are innate in high quality beans.  They are encouraged to reveal themselves through careful tending, and the right geographic and local  conditions. Like wine, each crop year the unique “terroir” of a single origin will produce differences in the coffees. The skill and care of the roastmaster coax out these innate characteristics by designing the best roasting profile for the crop. The wonderful flavour oils are volatile, so by brewing the coffee within a few weeks of roasting with proper brewing techniques yields the ambrosia!

The process of creating boutique coffee involves the special care and attention at every stage from growing and harvesting, through roasting and brewing. This degree of care far exceeds that in the typical coffee production process, even for specialty coffee. Instead the market has become acclimatized to industry practices at the expense of great taste. For a comparison of Boutique Coffee practices versus commodity and specialty coffee practices click here.

Releasing the roasted coffee.
Releasing the roasted coffee.

Of particular note is the industry accepted one year shelf life of coffee. Preposterous! The volatile flavour molecules oxidize over time. After about a month the flavours drop off and after about 3 months they go rancid! The bitterness most North Americans associate with coffee typically comes from the volatile flavour molecules turning rancid. The specialty coffee industry pretends to address this problem with vacuum sealed valve bags, but according to leading experts like Micheal Sivitz, even nitrogen flushing leaves enough oxygen in the package to enable oxidization at the same rate as coffee open to the air. The fact is that we have become accustomed to rancid coffee.

Another common misconception is that good quality coffee should be roasted to an oily black. In fact, while it is true that roasting coffee dark does increase body (that’s the feeling in the mouth or the texture) it actually destroys the complex sugars responsible for the yummy flavours. The chemistry of roasting is actually very complex and developing a roasting profile that yields the best flavours from a given bean uses both scientific and artistic experience in the roastmaster.

img_3194More recently, the opposite has become popular: “blond coffee”.  This has resulted in a proliferation of sour and undeveloped coffees in the market.  At Birds and Beans, we may not lead, but neither do we follow.  We just dare to roast great coffee based on what we taste in the cup!

On certifications, Birds and Beans is Soaring above the Crowd™.

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting
It takes more than a pretty picture of a bird to be
Certified Bird Friendly!

At Birds and Beans we strongly believe in third party certification.  Certifications are a way for us to participate in a voluntary chain of trust while harnessing third party verification.

We trust our growers and our importers based on our shared values and our joint support of certification programs. We earn your trust through our certification and our willingness to be verified. It is the chain of verified trust that ensures that people and the environment are protected.

Be part of the chain: Look for the certification seals.

On certifications, Birds and Beans is Soaring above the Crowd™.

All of our coffees are Certified Bird Friendly® with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to offer our coffees. See our up to date listing on the SMBC website here.

All of our coffees are certified organic by Ecocert Canada, an accredited certification body in Ontario. See our current certificate.

In addition to being certified Organic and Bird Friendly, all our coffees are purchased under fair and respectful social conditions and are certified by either Fair Trade USA or the Rainforest Alliance.  All of our coffees are Direct Trade via our import partners.