What Do You Mean By Shade Grown Coffee?
So, it’s a little play on words, ok? This article is to help you find great tasting shade grown coffee. This is because shade grown coffee helps the birds, the small growers and the the planet at the same time.
I got an email from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It featuread a video with Amanda Rodenwald doing research in Central and South American coffee farms. In it, she talks about how migratory birds are losing their wintering refuges. These places are being destroyed to grow sun grown coffee. As a result, Colombia has lost 75% of its mountain forests! And birds are not the only ones affected by this either.
Short History of Coffee
Up until 1972, almost all coffee was harvested from shade grown plants. That’s how they naturally occurred and the ecosystem was perfect for it. Shade trees dropped leaves which helped retain soil moisture and the birds took care of insects. This meant these crops were grown with little to no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
In 1972, hybrid coffee plants were developed to produce more beans per plant, were easier to harvest and did best in direct sunlight. These plants also require high doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Because of this only the smaller, low-tech farms to preserve their shade trees because they could not afford the chemicals needed.
This caused most coffee producers to clear land for this new type of coffee crop. Of the 6 million acres of coffee growing lands, 60% have been stripped of shade trees since 1972. This has caused an estimated 20% decline in migratory bird populations in the last ten years.
Why Buy Shade Grown Coffee?
Here are the main reasons to seriously consider buying shade-grown coffee:
- Bird Habitat
- Sustains Rainforests
- Better Tasting and Healthier
- Healthier Environment
- Support Small Growers
Common birds like the Baltimore Orioles and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks spend their winters in the most productive coffee growing countries. We are already seeing sharp population declines in these and many other birds who overwinter in these countries. To date, as many as 150 species of birds have been identified on shade coffee farms.
Sun grown coffee plantations suffer from soil depletion and increased erosion. This means rainforest is stripped to provide growing area for sun coffee.
Better Tasting and Healthier
Shade grown coffee beans are larger, less bitter and more complex in flavor compared to their sun grown counterparts. Shade grown is normally grown organically.
Shade trees help filter carbon dioxide to reduce global warming. Also, their help with moisture retention reduces soil erosion.
Support Small Growers
The smaller growers are the ones who were left behind by the sun grown coffee movement. By purchasing shade grown, you help the little guys prosper and keep quality coffee production alive.
How to Buy REAL Shade-Grown Coffee
Here are four main ways to make sure your coffee is shade grown.
First, select coffee plantations that state in their literature or on their website that they produce shade grown coffee.
Second, the coffees that come from Southern Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala are almost certainly shade grown. Coffee grown in Sumatra, Timor, New Guinea and Ethiopia are very likely shade grown.
Third, scan for the words “bird friendly”, “fair trade” or “certified organic.”
Finally, you could just go to my friend Penny’s site, Honest Grounds and read the full list of bird friendly coffee brands to see how your current brand stacks up.
Do you want the healthiest, tastiest, most sustainable and human-centered coffee in your cup? Then, you want to buy shade grown, fair trade coffee! Please leave me a comment below and tell me about your experience with shade-grown coffee!
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A Couple of Places to Find Shade Grown Coffee
Thanks to Tatsiana Thomson from Brome Bird News for these sources!