Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shade Grown Coffee Is For The Birds

A few months back, Patrick of the Hawks Owl Nest mentioned shade grown coffee in this post. It was not the first time that I had heard about shade grown coffee but it was the first time that I made the decision to look into buying some. If you haven't heard of shade grown coffee, let me summarize why it's important for the birds. Shade Grown Coffee Plantations don't cut down their trees in order to grow coffee beans. Other coffee plantations clear forests to produce their coffee beans, which has a devastating effect on the migratory bird population.

Of course the idea had to percolate in my head for a few months before I finally took action. It turned out to be a little bit of a chore trying to find the stuff. There are a lot of companies that offer shade grown coffee for sale on the Internet, but I really didn't want to purchase coffee that way. I found out that the shelf life of coffee is not as long as one might think. If I'm going to pay more money for my coffee, I want it to be fresh. I'd feel a whole lot better about buying my coffee with cash from a local coffee shop.

I thought that finding a local coffee shop that sells shade grown coffee would be easy. I talked to two businesses that specialized in selling coffee along with a health food store. None of them even knew what shade grown coffee was.I finally found a place in Glastonbury called Daybreak Coffee Roasters who assured me that their organic coffees were shade grown. The coffee I purchased their had excellent flavor. They roast their beans right in the store. I am hoping they will do a better job promoting their shade grown coffee. Nothing on their website or store talks about the shade grown aspect.

There is another coffee business in Goshen CT. called Coffee, Tea, Etc. that uses only shade grown coffee. Starbucks is also offering shade grown coffee in their stores. I tend to avoid Starbucks for my own personal reasons. Audubon offers shade grown coffee over the internet.

Here are a few things that I found out about shade grown coffee:

  • It is more expensive at $8.00 to $13.00 a pound. That doesn't bother me much because people spend $3.00 for one cup of Coffee from you know where.

  • Shade Grown Coffee beans have more flavor because it takes them longer to grow. They also come form hardier plants. I've tried it-So far, it's better than the coffee I've been buying at the grocery store.

  • Up until the 1950's, all coffee was shade grown. Over the years coffee plantations have been clearing forests so that they grow plants that produce higher numbers of lower quality coffee cherries. The Coffee plants that are grown in sunny conditions require much more fertilizer and pesticides.

I was surprised at how much there is to learn about coffee from the time it's planted until the time it makes it in to your cup. Here are some additional links if you would like to learn more: Shade Grown Coffee, Migratory Bird Center , Bird Friendly And Shade . Did you know that once coffee is opened it is supposed to be used up within a week? I didn't. Here is some information about Brewing And Storing Coffee.

The bottom line is- if you care about birds (which I know you do), and you like coffee, -think about making the switch to shade grown coffee if you haven't already. If you've already made the switch, spread the word!


NM High School Sports News said...

Very cool to see your post today. We sell shade grown coffee at the Wild Birds Unlimited I work at here in ABQ. I haven't tried it yet (shame on me), but I will soon.


Patrice said...

Hi Larry,

You've sold me. And since I live in the land of You Know Who, and other coffee companies, I don't think it will be too difficult to find it.

You are great and I am proud to know you.


RuthieJ said...

From my days of working at Wild Birds Unlimited and sharing the shade grown coffee story, I feel guilty every time I purchase coffee in the "red can." You're right, Larry, shade grown is harder to find and I guess I should be making more of an effort if I really want to do more for the birds. Thanks for the reminder.

Ruth said...

Great post, Larry. I had no idea how coffee is grown and the effect on migratory birds. I don't drink coffee, just tea. I wonder if tea growers are environmentally friendly? I will have to learn more.

deCadmus said...

It's worth the effort to get familiar with the many (very many!) third-party certifications for coffee. The Rainforest Alliance, NW Shade Coffee, and the Smithsonian's Bird Friendly seal all focus pretty much exclusively on maintaining or replanting coffee over-stories -- canopies of native hardwood trees -- to support both native and migratory bird species.

Certified Organic and Fair Trade seals *also* require that coffee farmers work in concert with the environment, and to develop sustainable land planning and conservation practices that -- as a happy result -- are beneficial to migratory songbirds.

Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia coffee has written a rather exhaustive article on the subject, at . It's worthwhile reading. ;)



Larry said...

Patrice- great! That makes at least two new Shade Grown coffee drinking converts for this week.-Thanks for the compliment-the feeling is mutual.

Larry said...

Ron & Ruthie J-I didn't think to check Wild Birds Unlimited.-I'll have to see what they have to offer.
Ruth-I haven't heard much about tea.-That's more reading I'll need to do.
decadmus-I read that link.-It shows the complexity on this subject.-I think that it's worth taking the time to become more educated on the subject. Coffee is a big part of some of our lives when you stop to think about it.-Thanks for weighing in on the topic.

Patrick B. said...


Welcome aboard! I'm so glad you did this. I can understand your desire to buy in-person, but it can be difficult to find (as you found). If you have a Whole Foods or similar food chain near you, you can usually find certified shade grown stuff there too.

Larry said...

Patrick-I'm still searching for some places that carry it.-Some of the larger supermarkets carry organic coffee which is likely to be shade grown but not certified.-it may take some time before i've got it all figured out.

Anonymous said...

I am not a coffee drinker but if I was then I would drink shade grown coffee for sure!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... I love my shade-grown coffee... you betcha... Gotta go get another cup right now!

Mary said...

If I were drinking coffee, I'd take your advice. Both my husband and I gave up coffee two years ago. I always stored my "canned" coffee in the freezer. I have one in there now in case coffee drinkers come to visit.

Great post, Larry. I'll remember this next time I buy some coffee.

Cathy said...

Larry! Excellent post. You've raised my consciousness. I'm going to order this. I'm a coffee addict. Shhhhhh.

Larry said...

Monarch/Mary-I almost gave up coffee once but then the reports started coming in about how it's good for you.-I drink decaf much of the time though.
Jennifer-No wonder you have the energy to hike through all those woods taking pictures!
Cathy-Don't worry-I won't tell anyone.