A New Year, a New Certification for Blue Bottle Coffee

December 29, 2010

sites/default/files/blue_bottle_beans_smaller.jpgThe next time you buy beans from Blue Bottle Coffee Company, you might notice something new; as of the first week of January, the popular brown bags will be stamped with the words “Certified Organic.”

“The thing is, there’s been no real change in the products themselves,” says Blue Bottle owner James Freeman. The company has always roasted over 90% organic beans, but now that the roastery is certified organic they can label the final product as such.

“It’s a measure of our crew that it was so easy,” says Freeman, whose staff have a tight system in place. “We had to show that there’s a process for separating the organic from the non-organic beans. We use separate pallet racks and two roasters — one roasts only organic and the other is used for both, but gets cleaned out. You have to keep a log and use batch numbers, wipe it out with approved soap and water, and raise the temperature to 400 degrees while it’s empty.”

Freeman says the hardest part — and the aspect that he thinks keeps others from going through the certification process — was the cost. “It’s like a $10,000 rubber stamp,” he says. But, as Blue Bottle grows (the business now has six different locations around the Bay Area) and becomes an example for other small roasters, he says it’s especially valuable to have a third-party certificate. “I buy organic and I want other people to, so it’s worth jumping through the hoops to communicate clearly,” he says. 

Blue Bottle will continue to carry some varietals from small farms that aren’t certified; these batches won’t carry the organic label. Many small coffee growers in the developing world aren’t able to afford certification, but Freeman trusts their growing practices and is committed to supporting them anyway.

Blue Bottle will also be switching to a new brand of compostable coffee cup with compostable lids in the coming weeks.

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