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Product Certification Symbols – Help for the Conscious Shopper

Apr 16, 2015



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While we try to be a conscious consumer and shop locally, buy organic, fairtrade products free from GMO’s, sustainably produced and not tested on animals (sheesh!) it can often be a little overwhelming trying to understand what the acronyms and symbols all mean!

Here is a quick guide to some of the more recognisable certification symbols to assist the consumer and conscious shopper in making the right choices:

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives. For a product to display the FAIRTRADE Mark it must meet the international Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards which are set by the certification body Fairtrade International. These standards are agreed through a process of research and consultation with key participants in the Fairtrade scheme, including producers themselves, traders, NGOs, academic institutions and Labelling Initiatives such as Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.

Products bearing the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal originate on–or contain ingredients sourced from–Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests. These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.

Purchasing products that carry the Australian Certified Organic logo guarantees the product to be free range, non GM (genetically modified), pasture-fed, water efficient and biodiversity friendly as well as grown free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. To be labeled “organic” 95% of the ingredients must be organically grown, and the remaining ones must come from non-organic ingredients that have been approved on the National list.

NASAA is the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia. This organisation focuses on developing and maintaining organic standards; assisting operators in gaining organic certification; and conducting ongoing compliance supervision and inspection of certified operations.

Based in the UK, Soil Association Certification Limited (SA Certification) is a wholly owned subsidiary company which inspects and certifies farmers and processors to the symbol scheme using Soil Association standards. Australian Certified Organic (ACO) undertake inspections on behalf of Soil Association Certification in Australia.


You may notice the FSC label on the packaging of products you purchase – paper, books, tissues and toilet paper, furniture, cosmetics, even honey or rubber gloves! Well FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. By choosing an FSC certified product, you can be sure that the forest where the products are sourced from are managed to ensure that high conservation value areas and endangered species wildlife habitats are maintained or enhanced, key stakeholders have been consulted, workers & Indigenous peoples’ rights are respected, whilst ensuring that the production is economically viable.

Remember also that while a product might not be certified organic ie 95% organic ingredients, it may be made be ‘made with organic ingredients’. to make this claim a product must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients. The remaining 30% of non-organic ingredients must be approved on the National List. In Australia these products do not display a certifiers logo, they are only permitted to use the wording “made with …% organic ingredients”.

These are some of the symbols we like to look out for when we are stocking the Organic Bean pantry. We wholeheartedly support the organisations and charities behind these certifications and the great work they do assisting shoppers in understanding how to purchase honest products.



Coffee Storage Tips – Get the most out of your Organic cuppa

Mar 12, 2015



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If you love your coffee like I do chances are you spend a little extra time and money to find ‘the one’. And once you’ve found that coffee with the perfect strength and flavour of course you want it to remain at peak freshness for as long as possible. So how do we get the most of this wonderous beverage that gives us so much pleasure? These coffee storage tips are integral to maintaining optimum flavour.

Keeping your beans and grounds away from air, moisture, heat and light will ensure your coffee stays fresher, longer. The more coffee is exposed to oxygen, the more it will deteriorate.

Cool, dark, dry places (such as pantries and cabinets) are best for coffee storage. Fridges and freezers should be avoided because they are moist. Also avoid warm spots, like above/next to the oven or in cabinets that get hot from exposure to sunlight or cooking equipment. Countertops that are away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat can be appropriate if you use opaque, airtight storage vessels.

Freezing Coffee

Freezing is not good for coffee’s freshness because it causes some of the flavorful coffee oils to break down. Furthermore, if the packaging isn’t airtight, then the porous, hydrophilic (“water-loving”) coffee beans will begin to taste like the inside of your freezer. (Yuck!) If necessary, airtight foil or heat-sealed film bags of coffee may be stored for up to one month in the freezer. No matter what you do, do not return bags of coffee to the freezer once you’ve opened them, or your coffee will lose coffee flavor from repeated freezes/thaws and gain the flavor of your freezer.

Vacuum-Sealed & Valve-Sealed Coffees

Vacuum-sealed coffee is allowed to age before it is sealed. (This is because coffee releases gas as it loses freshness, causing the packaging to expand and potentially even burst.) Vacuum-sealed coffee is intended for grocery store shelves and is not of the same caliber as fresh-roasted coffee. Valve-sealed coffee allows gasses to escape from the coffee packaging, but doesn’t let any gasses in, so coffee can be packaged in it immediately after roasting. Valve-sealed coffee can be fresher than vacuum-sealed coffee, but fresh-ground coffee usually has the freshest flavor. Vacuum- and valve-sealed coffees are best within one to two weeks of opening.

Coffee Container Types

Once coffee’s original packaging is opened, coffee loses its freshness quickly. Glass, ceramic or non-reactive metal containers with airtight gaskets are ideal for storing coffee. Coffee can be stored fresh in clear, glass canisters or clear plastic ware only if the canisters are kept in a cool, dark place. For countertop storage, opaque, airtight containers are best.

Coffee’s Freshness Over Time

Coffee begins to lose its freshness as soon as it is done roasting, and is at its peak in the first few days after it is roasted. Ground coffee is best when consumed within one to two weeks of roasting. Whole beans are best within one month of roasting. To keep your coffee fresh, buy just-roasted coffee often, in quantities that will only last you one to two weeks, and then store your coffee properly. If you want to buy a larger quantity of coffee, store the bulk of it tightly sealed in an airtight container in a cool, dark area and keep a smaller quantity in a smaller container for daily use. Only open the large container to refill the smaller container. Storing coffee this way will reduce air exposure for the larger portion coffee.


In the market for a coffee machine? Here’s the lowdown…

Feb 18, 2015



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So you love your coffee but don’t love paying $4.50 each time for the privilege? Maybe you should look at investing in a home machine.

There are basically three types available: the pod machine, where you pop in a coffee pod press a button and you’re in business; automatic machines which grind the beans, froth the milk and extract the espresso for you at the touch of a button; and manual machines for those who prefer to be in the drivers seat and control the whole process.

Prices vary enormously but you can pay as little as $100 for a pod machine. Pro’s – cheap, small. Cons – limited to specific coffee brands (unless you buy reuseable pods and fill them with your own coffee), difficult to control coffee strength. Set aside anywhere from $100 to around $800 for a manual machine. Pro’s – you get to be your own barista. Con’s – can be a bit high maintenance for some. A decent fully automatic model can be upwards of $1500. Pro’s – minimal elbow grease required to produce a quality cuppa. Con’s – cost, size. If you want to go hard core and impress the bejesus out of your friends you can pick up a commercial machine from around $4000.

Keep in mind, as with everything, you get what you pay for so look for stainless steel if you want to invest in a machine that lasts and a good quality grinder is a great investment if you go for a machine without one built in.

Lastly, make sure you use a good quality organic coffee bean to optimise your coffee experience.

5 Reasons to LOVE Organic Coffee!

Nov 14, 2014



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1. NO CHEMICALS OR PESTICIDES – Did you know that unlike organic coffee beans, conventional coffee beans are washed in a bath of chemicals before they reach your cup? Organic coffee is never treated with any chemicals

2. IT HELPS OTHERS – Coffee growers that grow organic coffee aren’t exposed to the harsh chemicals and toxic pesticides that conventional coffee growers are. In return, their health is better, along with their quality of living.

3. ITS SAFER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT – Organic coffee is much safer and more stable for the land, people living there, the animals and the future of the environment surrounding coffee production sites. An even better option is buying organic, Fair-Trade coffee, which ensures sustainable and healthy living conditions, along with proper pay and economic growth for coffee farmers.

4. IT TASTES BETTER! – Organic farming methods produce a quality bean with a pure tasting flavour and fabulous depth that conventional coffee just cant produce. Dont take my word for it – You be the judge!

5. ORGANIC IS AFFORDABLE – While organic coffee is usually marginally more expensive than traditional coffee, more and more people are opting for the many benefits of the organic cuppa. This means organic coffee and other organic products are more affordable than ever. Its also higher in antioxidants, so worth a few cents more i say!