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What Is Shade Grown Coffee

What About Certified Shade

What Is Shade Grown Coffee?

While the shade-grown certification system is appropriate for some growers, it comes with costs.; We dont believe it provides sufficient additional benefits for us to ask our producer partners to go through this process on top of the fair trade and organic standards they are already meeting. Its important to note that both organic and fair trade standards have environmental components that cover much of what shade-grown certification requires. From our perspective, shade certification doesnt alter in a significant way the practices of farms that are already fair trade and organic certified.

Why Does Shade Matter

By Emma Sage, Coffee Science Manager, SCAA

As the specialty coffee industry grows more concerned with sustainable practices at origin, we often find ourselves in conversations about shade-grown coffee. No one will argue that shade-grown coffee is less sustainable than growing coffee in full sun plantations, but what scientific information exists to support our tendency to support this practice? Perhaps shade matters more to some because they feel it influences the quality of the cup. What do we really know about these important issues? Justifiably, much research has been done on the ecological and economic impacts of shade-grown coffee. However, there is far less information available on how this influences the cup quality. Below, I highlight some of the most interesting points available in the scientific literature as I assess whether shade matters.

Differences in Shade-Cropping Systems;

1. Shade Matters Because It Positively Impacts the Environment;

Environmental Advantages;

Shade-grown coffee can benefit the environment. It can do this in a variety of ways and at differing levels, but at the very least we can refer back to the bumper sticker in our hippie hall-mates dorm-room: Trees are the Answer. Trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and use it during photosynthesis. The carbon is then fixed or stored in long-lived plant tissues . Therefore, trees mitigate greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which impact climate change.

One Scientific Caveat:


Where To Buy Bird Friendly Coffee

Use the Smithsoniansearch form to search by state for coffees on the market that are certified as 100% shade-grown and organic, meaning that they are grown without the use of chemical pesticides that poison the environment, and are bird friendly.

For more information about bird friendly, shade grown, fair-trade and organic coffee labels and what they mean, go to theCornell’s All About Birds & Coffee.

Our Favorite

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Shade Grown Coffee In A Nutshell

So, there you have it. Shade grown coffee is coffee grown in a natural way under a forest roof. While not yet a full-blown movement, its well on its way to a global consciousness. And now YOU know what its about as well, so you can feel more equipped than ever when you make your coffee purchases.

Just remember, if its truly shade-grown, its coming from an undamaged habitat that is eco-friendly, and most likely producing higher-quality coffee beans. Its a win-win!

If you have any thoughts or comments, Id love to hear them. And, if you truly care about creating a more ethical, conscionable coffee world, please share the post! This is a topic that the world needs to hear more about!

What Exactly Is A Shadow Plantation

Shade Grown Coffee

Shadow planting is a form of planting coffee trees together with different types of shade trees*. This cultivation system incorporates many ecological principles, and coffee grown in this way is marketed as shade-grown.

*Shade trees are large trees whose primary role is to provide protection to the surrounding plants due to its spreading canopy and crown.

In these types of plantation, coffee plants are grown under a canopy of shade trees. And since this cultivation method integrates the principles of ecology to promote natural symbiotic relationships, coffees grown in the shade can be considered a by-product of permaculture.

This planting configuration of the coffee tree is formed by a sophisticated agroforestry system, in which coffee is associated with other species in different levels. This cultivation method contributes to a more sustainable use of resources and to an interaction of the ecosystem and more natural breeding because it promotes greater animal and vegetable biodiversity.

The dense vegetation needed to produce shade-grown coffee helps to purify the air and filter the water, improving the quality of both.

In the next image you can see an example of a Shadow Plantation:

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Benefits Of Growing Coffee In The Shade

The post The problems with sun coffee outlines some of the negative environmental impacts of growing coffee in the sun. Here are some of the benefits of growing coffee in the shade:

  • Shade coffee supports biodiversity, and farms can act as wildlife corridors between plots of natural habitat. Numerous studies have shown that the diversity of birds, orchids, bats, ants, amphibians, bees, beetles, spiders, mammals, and other taxa are higher in shaded coffee than in sun coffee.
  • Shade coffee provides pollination services, increasing the fruit set of coffee itself, as well as other plants on the farm.
  • Shade coffee farms have a higher diversity of predators that help control coffee pests .
  • Shade coffee typically has fewer weeds. Weeds often require more sunlight and are also controlled by the natural mulch supplied by fallen leaves from the shade trees.
  • Nitrogen-fixing trees on shade coffee farms enrich the soil, as do the fallen leaves from the shade trees.
  • Soil erosion is reduced in shade coffee, also improving soil quality.
  • Shade coffee farms have more stable microclimates and can buffer against temperature and humidity fluctuations caused by climate change.
  • Coffee grown in shade can improve quality.
  • A diversity of shade trees can provide other economic benefits to farmers.

Shade Grown Coffee Benefits Vs Sun Grown Defects

Some of the benefits of shade-grown coffee apart from the higher quality taste are best shown when contrasted against the other option available to farmers: growing coffee in the sun.

When a farm abandons the natural process for more productive means, often the plants end up out in the sun. This way, the coffee can be grown in massive quantitiesin an orderly, crop-like style. But under the brutally hot sun,they dont get the same level of nutrients;they need, and are often sprayed with fertilizers and herbicides.

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Shade grown plants, on the other hand, are fertilized by dead leaves dropping from the tall trees overhead, while things like weeds are rarely an issue between the carpet of dead, decaying leaves and the shade itself. Chemicals are therefore unnecessary in this method.

The entire process of growing coffee plants in the sun also forces an unnatural acceleration to the plants lifespan, leading to;sun grown coffee plants lasting a mere 15 years on average, whereas shade grown plants can live for twice as long.

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How Many Years Can A Coffee Tree Yield Fruit For

A coffee tree can yield fruit for about 25 years. It takes between four and five years for a tree to produce the first crop.


  • Coffee 101: What Does a Coffee Plant Look Like? . Retrieved from
  • Rodewald, A. . Shade-grown coffee has a surprising environmental benefit. Retrieved from
  • Craves, J. . The problems with sun coffee. Retrieved from
  • Bird Friendly Coffee. . Retrieved from
  • Carbon Negative Coffee. . Retrieved From
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    What Can We Do As Consumers

    Why Shade-Grown Coffee Is Good for Birds

    As stated by the website, the Bird Friendly stamp is a triple certification because it also meets organic and fair-trade requirements. The Cornell Lab views Bird Friendly as the gold standard of coffee certifications, and we encourage all coffee-drinking bird watchers to use Bird Friendly coffee.

    Remember, there is no common standard that producers have tomeet to use the term shade grown on the label of a coffee product, andverification is not required.

    As consumers, we should strive to support businesses that use sustainable farming practices. Shade grown coffee labeled Bird Friendly should be given a second look as shade grown coffee is better for farmers, birds, the ecosystem, and of course, consumers.

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    Green From Bean To Cup

    Next time youre picking up a bag of beans, think about the many certifications available to measure the sustainability of coffee. If you want to make sure your beans are a part of a supply chain that benefits growers, support Fair Trade and Equal Exchange initiatives. For an all-encompassing positive impact on the environment, check out Bird Friendly and Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee.

    Arabica beans are more likely to be shade-grown, so opt for this organic fair trade ground coffee or organic fair trade whole bean coffee for an affordable, smooth coffee without pesticides or preservatives. If you prefer a sweet cup, add some organic cane sugar! Keep it green by using your coffee grounds for composting and youre well on your way to a sustainable coffee routine.

    Our purchasing decisions directly impact coffee farmers. The low prices we often see for coffee are a reflection of poor cultivation practices, treatment of workers, and a negative impact on the planet. By purchasing organic shade-grown coffee, we can all take a step in the right direction to protect people and the planet.

    Summary For The Best Shade Grown Coffee Brands

    If youre a true fanatic of the energy-boosting drinks, then pick your favorite shade-grown coffee and indulge in sheer perfection with every cup.

    Weve learned about Rustic, Poly-Culture, Multi-Cropping and Mono-Culture methods for cultivating the best shade grown coffee.

    Weve also learned about diverse global habitats and ecological benefits of shade grown coffee.

    Do You;Want the BEST Shade Grown Coffee?

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    Shade Grown Coffee Vs Sun Grown Coffee

    In the past, when farmers were paid the same amount per pound for coffee beans regardless of the quality of the bean, they clear-cut the rain forest to make it easier and cheaper to grow coffee plants.; The coffee grown directly in the sun was planted at a higher density, leading to greater yields but lower quality beans.

    Sun grown coffee
    Shade grown coffee

    Shade grown coffee, as opposed to sun grown coffee, is planted at a lower density around existing trees that provide a canopy of shade.

    Reasons To Drink Shade

    What Is Shade Grown Coffee?  Recipe for Perfection

    “It’s amazing to walk through a shade-grown coffee farm and see that vertical structure and diversity,” says Shalene Jha, whose research has taken her to a coffee farm in Mexico that is also home to 150 species of birds. “It’s just so full of life.”

    You are free to share this article under the Attribution 4.0 International license.

    A biologist says that a simple choice can help improve sustainability practices in the $100-billion global coffee industry.

    To explain the impact your morning cup of joe can have, Shalene Jha, an assistant professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, starts with the basics.

    Coffee comes in two species: robusta, a plant that produces a lower-quality coffee, is able to grow in direct sunlight and at lower elevations and is typically produced using an intensive farming style; or, Arabica, a plant that produces a higher-quality coffee that flourishes under the cover of shade and is grown in more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.

    Coffee evolved in shaded environments, Jha says. It thrives in rain forests and under layers of trees patching together a blanket of shade from different heights.

    Its amazing to walk through a shade-grown coffee farm and see that vertical structure and diversity, says Jha, whose research has taken her to a coffee farm in Mexico that is also home to 150 species of birds. Its just so full of life.

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    Species Diversity And Habitat

  • Birds wintering on Bird Friendly-quality farms in Venezuela showed improved body condition during their time there, compared to those in forests in the area a critical issue for making the journey north in the spring . This finding is likely a result of the availability of more small-fruited plants useful to birds, as well as flowers that attract insects, offering brids a buffet of resources.
  • Trees in shaded coffee systems often harbor epiphytes such as bromeliads and orchids, the presence of which enhances bird diversity. According to a study in Mexico supported by Bird Friendly funds, birds like the bush-tanager are five times more likely to emigrate from a shade-grown coffee farm without epiphytes compared to a farm with epiphytes . Epiphytes can harbor many insects as a food source for birds, as well as provide nesting material for resident birds. Reductions of epiphytes can lead to losses of animal diversity within agroforestry systems .
  • Up to 65 percent;of cerulean warblers banded one year in Venezuela returned to the same coffee plantations the following year, emphasizing the importance of quality habitat and site fidelity .
  • In Ethiopia, certified shade coffee forests were less likely to be deforested than uncertified coffee forests and forests without coffee .
  • In Colombia, certified coffee farms displayed healthier riparian zones, higher pollution-sensitive aquatic macroinvertebrates level , and higher soil arthropod species richness than uncertified farms .
  • Growing Coffee In The Sun

    Two-thirds of the world’s coffee comes from Latin America and the Caribbean . When most of us imagine these coffee farms — if we ever do — we see long stretches of shrubs bathing in sunlight. This type of cultivation is called monoculture — a single plant species dominating a stretch of crop land.

    Lots of coffee beans are sun-grown in this way, especially the largest, mass-produced brands. But it’s not the only way to grow coffee. The monoculture method has only been around for about 30 years. The traditional way of growing coffee is in the shade, under a canopy of trees and fauna. This “rustic” technique creates an arguably tastier cup of coffee, allows for organic growing methods free from pesticides and herbicides, decreases the need for complex farm machinery, and provides excellent housing for countless plant and animal species. Shade-grown coffee is actually one of the greatest crops for maintaining a diverse ecosystem.

    But that’s just part of the story. It turns out that growing coffee in the sun instead of the shade has some pretty devastating effects on the environment.

    Want to learn more about protecting the planet’s biodiversity? Check out the Web site of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity for more information.

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    Camano Island Papua New Guinea Coffee Roast

    Grown without the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals, this organic coffee grows;under dense canopy trees. ;These agricultural features give Camano Island Papua New Guinea Coffee beans a much less acidic taste.

    The sweet and medium roasting taste gives every cup a clean finish, which will wake you up with the greatest savory flavors.

    These top 1% Arabica Beans grow;in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. ;These Highlands are popular for exporting their quality beans since 1930.

    The clean and crisp taste of the coffee, along with the rich aroma and unique blend gives every cup a drool-worthy salute.

    Every coffee lover will enjoy perfect roasting and balanced components, in hot water of straight with milk.

    Does It Make Our Coffee Taste Better

    Shade Grown Coffee – Trailer (Official)

    Nowadays, you can literally find coffee at every street corner all around the world.

    The empowering dark liquid is undoubtedly one of the most popular beverages in our society.

    In fact, this fascinating drink comes with a lot of great health benefits. Many coffee lovers even say that it makes them happier and live longer.

    Traditionally, farmers were commercially growing coffee under other trees. These trees were there to provide shade in a natural way.

    Indeed, the coffee plant, in its natural state, very much prefers shade in the heat of the tropics.

    However, the coffee industry went through a change in the 1970s. New sun-tolerant plants had been developed by then.

    The goal was to yield higher production rates. And, farmers aimed this to make happen by producing larger yields through higher-density and open planting over huge areas of land.

    Yes, this practice of open planting may be more profitable. But unfortunately, it is also completely unsustainable.

    Firstly, it damages the land through overexposure to the sun. Secondly, this method has a measurable negative impact on the environment.

    As a result, more and more farmers are switching back to the more sustainable concept of Shade-Grown Coffee.

    But, what exactly is shade-grown coffee? What does it stand for? And, why may it be better for the environment and for our coffee culture in general?

    Does shade-grown coffee also taste better and make our coffee better?

    Lets find out together.

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    What Is Bird Friendly Coffee

    Bird-Friendly refers to a certification created by Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center for shade-grown coffee.

    It represents the gold standard for ethically conducted coffee business. Bird Friendly coffee comes from Latin American family farms with good, dense forest habitat for birds.

    Shade-grown coffee production ticks all boxes on naturally responsible and better-tasting coffee for consumers.

    Businesses that use healthy and sustainable farming methods such as shade-grown coffee farmers are worth our support.

    As coffee lovers continue to demand less sun-grown coffee, more coffee growers will shift towards more ecologically sound methods.

    Now that you have read all about this bird friendly coffee, you may also enjoy reading our article about cold brew coffee.

    Nutrition And Possible Health Benefits Of Shade

    The taste and quality of shade-grown coffee are usually better for a few reasons, but mostly because of how it is grown.

    Besides, its method of production explores several important eco-friendly benefits that help in the sustainability of the coffee industry in the long term.

    This is beneficial to the coffee growers and coffee drinkers for generations to come.

    We always should consider where we get our coffee beans, and make sure to get them from brands who actually take care of the communities which grow the beans and the environment.

    Not only is it the right, moral thing to do but it makes sure the coffee community, and industry stays healthy in the long run as mentioned above.

    1. Habitat

    Unlike the difficult experience in empty fields, wildlife blossoms in shade-grown coffee forest farms.

    The canopies serve as shelter for thousands of migratory birds that settle in these farms and this is one of the reasons why this is called bird friendly coffee.

    When seasonal changes occur, the tropics release the birds which migrate to more temperate regions.

    One significant benefit is that these birds feed on insects in the farms, enabling farmers to use fewer pesticides.

    It really is a win-win situation and it is nice to know we are not sabotaging and sacrificing the welfare of the animals for our cup of joe.

    2. Pollination

    Shade-grown coffee farms help to supply the ecosystem with the support it requires to sustain a wide range of pollinators like bats and bees.

    4. Fewer Landslides

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