Jul 23, 2022
4 mins read
Shade grown coffee is something to look out for if you prefer to buy organic coffee grown sustainably.
Below we dive into what makes shade grown coffee different from your regular coffee beans and why it’s becoming more popular. Aside from the benefits of growing coffee underneath the shade for optimum flavor, protecting the broader ecosystem and nature benefits us all in the long run.
What Is Shade Grown Coffee?
Shade grown coffee is classed as higher-quality when compared to regular coffee beans.
To put it simply, shade grown coffee grows entirely under the shade of other trees. These types of coffee plants produce a better-tasting cup due to the cherries maturing slower than when exposed to direct sunlight.
This type of coffee doesn’t alter soil moisture and avoid deforestation, which often drives bird populations away from their natural habitat.
It’s eco-friendly and delicious. A must-try if you’re looking for a coffee that is ethically and sustainably grown.
The Shade-Grown Coffee Buyers Guide
Shade-Grown Coffee Benefits
There are many benefits of shade-grown coffee in its natural setting.
In a nutshell, environmental conservation and sustainability are the primary benefits when cultivating coffee thriving under shade trees.
Research indicates that shade-grown coffee plantations increases and maintains the natural flora and fauna in the immediate surroundings by preventing habitat loss.
The preserved nature provides an essential habitat for animals. To that effect, almost 150 species of birds have been discovered in shade coffee farms alone. The forest can also provide a temporary home for migratory birds.
This has a significant impact on increasing bird populations wjhile also acting as natural herbicides and pesticides.
The shade cover from the trees also provides cool temperatures and aid in soil moisture retention leading to improved growth and reducing soil erosion. A related benefit for this type of habitat is the improvements in pollination and a natural reduction in carbon dioxide.
The trees also provide a natural defense against climate effects, which may include increased temperatures and sporadic rainfall.
Lastly, a hidden benefit associated with shade-grown coffee is the additional opportunities available to cultivators. Farmers can harvest fruit from fruit trees, find firewood, building materials, and other crops depending on the surrounding flora.
Shade-Grown Coffee Vs Sun-Grown Coffee
In nature, coffee is grown under a blanket of shade trees. It wasn’t until 1972 when developments in agriculture and coffee cultivation offered new species grown in a sun-grown and plantation-like system.
This method was too profitable to ignore, and many farmers cut the surrounding trees and switched to coffee plantations, which produces a significantly larger yield than a shade-grown plant. Since then, 60% of the 6 million acres of coffee land has been stripped of the surrounding shade trees to be replaced with sun coffee farms.
While sun coffee production might have an edge in quantity, bird-friendly or shade-grown coffee plants tend to produce higher-quality coffees partly through richer soil.
Coffee farmed under the full sun also might not receive the needed nutrients to produce high-quality beans. They are also often sprayed with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can have a detrimental effect on quality.
Shade coffee farms can access natural fertilizers from the dead leaves found in the forest above, giving nutrients to the soil.
Sitting in the sun all day can also harm the lifespan of a coffee plant. A coffee tree growing under shade trees usually lives up until 30 years, while a coffee grown in the sun will only live half of that.
More and more producers these days are converting their sun-grown farms to shade-grown coffee lands where the decreased cost of growing coffee and an increase in output quality lead to an increased opportunity for higher than average bean values.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where To Buy Shade-Grown Coffee?
Compared to other certifications, finding a shade-grown or bird-friendly coffee can be quite tricky. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center offers an extensive list of retailers who carry coffee grown in the shade.
Nonetheless, we’d place Volcanica at the top of that list due to the broad assortment and freshness of the beans available online.
Why Does Shade-Grown Matter For Coffee?
Coffee, specifically Arabica, fares better when grown in the shade compared to the sun.
This also lets the sugars in the coffee cherries to ferment longer, leading to a sweeter cup. It also preserves the natural environment and greatly reduces the use of additives and chemicals in cultivating coffee.
What Is Bird-Friendly Coffee?
A bird-friendly coffee focuses on preserving bird populations and the natural environment for bird habitat, and its certification is synonymous with shade-grown coffee.
The label originates from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and it certifies if a coffee farm can provide at least 40% shade for its coffee trees.
Why Is Shade-Grown Coffee Better For The Environment?
As shade coffee farming doesn’t use any chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, this method helps preserve the surrounding environment’s natural ecosystem.
It can also promote biodiversity because it preserves a natural forest canopy for birds, plants, and animals.