What does it mean to be Organic?

fazenda building in Bahia. Brasil

This is a post I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but then Joe McCanta (owner of Saf Restaurant, excellent cocktail place in Shoreditch, London) wrote a really good treatise about it on his blog. It’s about where the idea of organic spirits came from, and why it’s important.

The trend really started in the wine industry with many of the world’s finest vineyard owners realizing the negative effect that chemicals were having on their highly valuable land. Starting first with the ancient vineyards of France and Italy, word began spreading that maybe the ‘steroid-like’ pollutants that Agro-Chemical companies were pushing on farmers all over the world in the ‘80s and ‘90s were actually poisoning the land and making grapes that were weaker in flavor and lacking a certain subtlety or depth they once had.  At the same time as more and more vineyard owners who embraced natural methods began winning awards and vocalizing their success with bio-growing, the word ‘organic’ became associated with ‘fresher’, ‘more taste’, and just plain higher quality.

This gets to the heart of why we use organic methods – quality and taste. Essentially, most non-organic farming techniques are about shortcuts. They’re a quicker way to get more yield, but at the expense of other qualities, for example:

  • burning sugar cane fields prior to harvest, making it quicker (cheaper) to cut, but damaging the cane
  • using a laboratory single-strain yeast to ferment because it works quicker than a natural yeast, but it doesn’t produce the same flavours
  • using artificial fertilisers and pesticides to get a bigger crop, but a lower quality of cane

Organically producers are generally much more open about their methods, firstly because they’re scrutinised more by inspection bodies, and also because they’re proud to be using natural farming techniques that generate better produce.

This level of transparency is also really important to us – we want to be happy with every little detail about the ingredients, their provenance and the production process. At the end of the day though, the proof is in the taste, and we’re happy that Abelha is a naturally full-flavoured traditional ‘alembique’ cachaca. Try it and see!