Most organic coffee brands purchase their beans from "fair trade" farms. These farms don't use child or slave labor, and they pay their workers a fairer wage than others in the industry. When you shop organic, you can be proud that you're supporting good business practices instead of shady, cost-cutting measures from companies that are only concerned about their bottom line.
Nescafe is a huge multinational brand of coffee owned by Nestle. We commend Nescafe partnering with for the Rainforest Alliance, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), and the Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C) to be sure they are following internationally recognized sustainability standards but they do not offer organic certified coffees. Therefore, their coffee’s may contain chemicals and mold. They only offer instant coffees, ground coffee, or pods so again, freshness is a concern.
After taste-testing thirteen different varieties of ground coffee widely available for purchase at a chain grocery store, the winner for a solid cup were Maxwell House. In terms of flavor and cost, it ranked highest overall, though it did lose points for not being very good to microwave. Still, at $5.83/lb, it's cost efficient enough to just make another cup of coffee.
New England Coffee was the dining hall coffee at my New England college—a bit on the nose, but a strong choice. Like Green Mountain coffee, New England Coffee locates its mythology north of Connecticut; its packaging includes a covered bridge, horse-drawn carriage, red barn, mill race, and church steeple in a landscape painted à la Grandma Moses. I hardly noticed I was drinking my pour-over cup until it was half gone, which is, unexpectedly, high praise for a cup of coffee. Like inexpensive wine, inexpensive coffee is best when its flavor is innocuous. A hint of sour coffee stomach waits in the wings, but with a hearty breakfast alongside, New England Coffee is a safe and delightful option.
Occupying a vintage Quonset hut on an out-of-the-way block in the state's coolest town right now, this all-organic, sustainable, small-batch setup brings a lot of passion to the table; Montana has more than a couple of great roasters (see below) and an outsized number of destinations for a great cup coffee, but coming up on nearly a decade in business, this is the place that feels like the whole package, the all-in-one.
My wife and I are spoiled when it comes to coffee, as she grew up drinking Blue Mountain Coffee (and I started when a young adult). Whereas in Jamaica, Blue Mountain Coffee is quite affordable, it is typically beyond our budget here in the United State. Consequently, we have searched relentlessly for a quality coffee that does not break the budget. Equal Exchange Organic Coffee (Mind Body Soul) is what we view as the best of all alternatives at a mid to lower price range. While we still look forward to Blue Mountain Coffee when we go to Jamaica or when we can afford it here in the U.S., this Equal Exchange coffee leaves us quite satisfied. This coffee is much recommended for those who love a quality full body coffee.
Over the course of the year, we reviewed fewer than a dozen darker roasts. Most were medium-dark at best; some barely that. The majority of darker roasts we reviewed were sent by roasters in Taiwan and most were espressos, reflecting both the time-honored espresso practice of emphasizing chocolate and sweetness through moderate dark roasting, as well as, perhaps, a preference in Taiwan for more traditional styles of espresso as opposed to the lighter-roasted, brighter style of espresso now popular with the leading edge of North American roasters.