Who knew about shade grown coffee (except you coffee connoisseurs!)? Not me, until recently.
First, what is it? Shade grown means the coffee is grown using traditional methods, in the shade, so the rain-forest trees on coffee plantations are preserved, rather than cleared out. Coffee comes from a small “understory” tree or shrub and has traditionally been grown under the forest trees. Because of this truly organic experience, there are a number of benefits. GroundsforChange.com lists three excellent reasons why shade grown is good (see http://www.groundsforchange.com/learn/shadegrown.php):
- THE ENVIRONMENT
Clear-cutting the forest for full-sun plantations (as opposed to shade grown) increases soil erosion and deadly mudslides and the chemicals used to support the growth of full-sun hybrids produce toxic run-off and acidify the soil. Needless to say, biodiversity on these plantations is negligible. Shade grown coffee shrubs live twice as long and the shade trees generate natural mulch, which means less replanting and less need for chemical fertilizers.
Experts agree that the flavor of shade grown coffee is superior to that of full-sun coffee and that it is significantly less bitter. Shade grown coffee shrubs mature more slowly and produce fewer coffee cherries so the flavor is more concentrated and mellowed in the resulting harvest.
- MIGRATORY BIRDS
The plight of migratory birds is frequently identified with shade grown coffee because shade grown coffee farms are small ecosystems, second only to tropical rainforests in terms of biodiversity. These farms act as an oasis for over 150 species of migratory birds whose populations have declined 50% in just the last 25 years, primarily due to habitat destruction caused by full-sun coffee plantations, which have 95% fewer bird species than their shaded counterparts.
For you Daily Changers, this may not be an easy find unless you have a well-rounded coffee house you support, unfortunately Starbucks and Coffee Bean do not offer, but shade grown coffee is out there, you may have to purchase at Whole Foods and brew your own, unless, of course, you have another source and if you do, please share! If more of us demanded shade grown coffee, coffee farmers would be incentivized to keep the trees.
Organic is good, Shade Grown is great.