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Joshua Kelly
Joshua Kelly

Where To Buy Shade Grown Coffee

At Dean's Beans we believe in supporting the health of the farmer, the consumer and the environment. That's why we buy shade-grown organic coffee. Shade-grown coffee retains the natural flora around and over the coffee plants, providing needed shade, nourishment and erosion control necessary for a healthy environment. Shade-grown coffees also provide critical habitat for migratory songbirds and other species from our own backyards that winter in coffee lands, such as Baltimore Orioles and Bluebirds, and Monarch butterflies. In addition, interplanting of fruit trees, such as bananas, avocados and coconuts, provides important nutrition to the families of the farmers.

where to buy shade grown coffee

Almost no "Plantation" or "Estate" coffees are shade-grown, as those owners have sacrificed environment to efficiency. Not all organic coffees are shade-grown, either (on some farms and cooperatives only a portion of their crop is shade-grown). We know, for sure, that ours are all fully shade-grown, because we visit and work closely with all of our growers. We also take our environmental stewardship seriously and are well versed in what that really means (Dean was an environmental lawyer for many years, and taught environmental law and natural resource management courses at UMass. and U.R.I.). Our environmental commitment is based in our values and our experience - not a marketing package to fluff up our image.

Bird Friendly coffee is certified organic and produced on farms with a shade cover that provides important habitat for migratory and resident birds in tropical landscapes, which are increasingly threatened by deforestation globally at an unprecedented rate. The Bird Friendly criteria are the world's most stringent standards for shade-grown coffee production.

At 34 million pounds, the total volume of Bird Friendly certified coffee produced has grown by 24 million pounds in the past decade with more than 5,100 participants managing farms from Mexico to Colombia and Ethiopia to Thailand. Bird Friendly habitat covers more than 37,000 acres around the world.

The following report captures the wide-ranging benefits of shade-grown coffee production. By reviewing more than 60 studies on shade-grown coffee farms in regions ranging from Central and South America to Indonesia over the past 25 years, the SMBC makes the case that shade-grown coffee production is the next best thing to a natural forest, and puts to rest any arguments about the comparative sustainability of sun-coffee systems.

While sun-grown systems can have higher yields, shaded farms easily outperform them in sustainability measurements. In study after study, habitat on shade-grown coffee farms outshone sun-grown coffee farms, with increased numbers and species of birds, improved bird habitat, soil protection/erosion control, carbon sequestration, natural pest control and improved pollination.

Trees provide an array of ecological services that offer both direct and indirect income and payback to farmers and the environment. In addition, farmers who shade their coffee may be less vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including increased temperatures and rainfall.

The "hidden yield" in the shade versus sun comparison is that of the non-coffee products and opportunities coming from the shaded system. In addition to ecotourism on several shade coffee farms, firewood, fruits, building materials and medicinal plants are all resources harvested to varying degrees by shade coffee farmers and used and/or sold by farmers.

Since SMBC introduced shade-grown coffee to the industry in 1996 at the first Sustainable Coffee Congress (which SMBC organized and hosted), the concept has garnered attention from importers and roasters looking to capture segmented markets, particularly in the specialty coffee sector. Many coffee producers, of course, have long known the benefits of shade.

For example, shade coffee trees provide extensive habitat, oftentimes in regions wracked by forest destruction and other landscape transformations harmful to natural ecosystems. The forest-like conditions of these systems allow for a wealth of ecological dynamics to occur, including increased bird habitat, soil protection/erosion control, carbon sequestration, natural pest control and improved pollination, making such systems vital for conservation initiatives.

Strict comparisons between Bird Friendly certified and non-certified shade farms are few, so the information in this report comes largely from studies done on farms of varying levels of shade, some of which might well qualify as Bird Friendly. We note where contrasts can be made with Bird Friendly farms specifically. And given that the Bird Friendly certification is considered by industry experts to be the most rigorous shade certification, any of the benefits of shade presented here will be enhanced where Bird Friendly farms are found.

The benefits of shade-grown coffee production only exist for coffee produced beneath a canopy that truly mimics forest conditions. Over the years, some companies have made claims that their coffee is shade-grown but have failed to certify to any particular criteria, creating what could be dubious or outright false marketing claims. The only way for consumers to know for certain is to look for a seal from a third-party, independent body that shows the production meets strict standards. The Bird Friendly logo is such a seal.

Insects, such as bees, help to pollinate trees, flowering plants and coffee, and predators keep insect pests that might otherwise harm production in check. Birds also display greater predation on insects, including coffee pests and larvae, in more shaded coffee systems.

Even though the shade-grown coffee system is a farmer's managed land, the diversity and complexity of the vegetation creates a setting that mimics many of the physical and ecological characteristics of a natural habitat. Of course, it's not nearly so complex or rich as untouched forest, but for agricultural land use, it can be impressive when we see what such diversity yields. In addition, the leaf litter that serves as protective mulch eventually gets incorporated into the soil, adding organic matter that maintains healthy soil structure and recycles nutrients, which is very similar to a forest situation.

The mere biomass associated with the shade tree component of coffee agroforestry systems can easily be seen as a carbon sink, where carbon is bound up in the trunks, limbs and leaves (above ground biomass), as well as the roots (below ground biomass). As with natural forests, the carbon sequestered within a shade-grown coffee farm's shade trees will be locked up in the wood (as opposed to being in the atmosphere and adding to global warming) until the trees are removed.

Moreover, the soil itself incorporates carbon from the organic matter that accumulates and gets broken down over time. The presence of trees in shade-grown coffee farms, then, can help keep carbon out of the atmosphere, as well as act as a possible buffer to future temperature increases brought on by climatic change. In addition, as with natural forests, the presence of trees can help protect water supplies in both quantity and quality.

In Mexico, Soto-Pinto and colleagues (2010) found that Inga-shaded organic coffee maintained carbon aboveground (56.9 tons of carbon per hectare) and in the soil (166 tons of carbon per hectare) to an extent equal to that of nearby forests, and traditional polyculture coffee maintained more carbon than all other examined land-use types. If we consider that scant-shade systems sequester an additional 53 tons of carbon per hectare more than unshaded systems do (Palm et al. 2005), the conversion of even 10% of unshaded coffee systems (currently covering 3.1 million hectares) to even scant-shade cover would result in 1.6 billion additional tons of aboveground sequestered carbon (Jha et. al. 2014).

Bakermans, M. A. Vitz, A. Rodewald, and G. Rengifo, 2009. Migratory songbirds use of shade coffee in the Venezuelan Andes with implications for conservation of cerulean warbler. Biological conservation 142:2476-2483.

Lopez-Gomez, A.M., G. Williams-Linera and Manson, R.H. 2008. Tree species diversity and vegetation structure in shade coffee farms in Veracruz, Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 124:160-172.

Vaast, P., Bertrand, B., Perriot, J.-J., Guyot, B. and Genard, M., 2006, Fruit thinning and shade improve bean characteristics and beverage quality of coffee (Coffea arabica L.) under optimal conditions. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Vol. 86, p. 197.

Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company works hard to provide our customers with the highest quality organic, fair trade and shade grown coffee on the market today. We are proud to be a USDA Certified Organic roaster.

Organic coffees are grown without pesticides and chemical processes, which allow for diverse ecosystems, cleaner, more efficient irrigation systems, and healthier, more resistant crops. Fair trade coffees are grown, harvested and sold at internationally-mandated prices that guarantee small farmers a viable living and a corner in the global marketplace.

Why shade grown coffee? Coffee is meant to be grown in dappled shade, unlike many high-production plantations today where shrubs are planted in full sun, resulting in scorched foliage and a bitter coffee flavor. Shade grown coffees are grown beneath a canopy of shade trees that encourage natural growth and mulch, and a mellow, even coffee flavor.

Because shade coffee is slower to ripen, it often provides a more complex taste and is more flavorful than other coffees. Additionally, shade-grown coffee encourages pollination of both the coffee and other nearby plants.

Shade-grown coffee works within the natural ecosystem, contributing to and receiving help from the system. Shade trees provide many nutrients to the coffee plants and the surrounding soil, natural predators help control coffee pests, and the shade trees help protect the coffee crops from frost. 041b061a72


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