[Note: This review is over eight years old. I hoped to update it, but haven’t got around to it]
Yesterday I stopped by my local Peets (Walnut and Vine, the original) to see if they had organic decaf beans (about 7:00 pm, very slow inside). The bean counter worker looked at the selection and said “No, not certified, but they’re all basically organic except for the certification.”
I said thanks and left the store, but a few doors away I was upset enough about his response that I decided to go back. I asked him what he had meant by “basically organic.” He said that they don’t really use any pesticides, that Peets is careful who they buy coffee from, and implied that therefore they used no/fewer pesticides. I asked if he could show me this in writing, and he went in the back to see. When he came out, he said they had nothing. I asked if the manager was in, and he went and got someone.
The shift leader (“I’m not the manager”) repeated his claim that all the beans are grown with “almost no pesticides.” I again asked if they had this in writing. She said no, but that was what they were told in trainings. (Peets website “Lean: How Coffee is Grown” make no mention of pesticides or organic farming practices.) I left with three of the workers there wishing me a good evening in tones that didn’t seem to convey any real sense of sincerity.
After this experience, I thought I’d see what response I got at the Starbucks down the street (Cedar and Shattuck, “Mortuary Mall” for those who’ve been in town a while). I asked if they had any organic decaf. The woman at the counter told me that no, while they had organic beans that were decaf, the decaffeinating process made them not organic. I said that the “Swiss water process” didn’t make it not organic, and she replied that Starbucks doesn’t use the water process, and she wasn’t sure why. We had a good, short discussion about how at least the beans were being grown in an organic matter, so it was better for the farms and farmworkers, even though at the last minute some chemicals got added to it.
I must say that I was pleased about the honesty I got from the worker at Starbucks. She said that she had convinced many people to get the chemically treated, formerly organic decaf beans, but was very clear on what made them non-organic.
By the way, both companies sell organic regular coffee, just not organic decaf.
So, bad marks for both companies for not carrying organic decaf. Peets gets serious bad marks for not even admitting that their coffee isn’t organic unless they can say so in writing, essentially trying to sell me that there’s no real difference except for the label, what I would consider deceitful marketing–and this all the way up to the top person in the store. Good marks to Starbucks for honesty and knowing what actually happens to their beans, and not trying to sell some that weren’t grown organically as “almost organic.”