Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Shade Grown Coffee

Since taking a break (I haven't officially convinced myself I'm actually giving it up) from diet soda recently, I've really been appreciating my morning coffee. For a while now, we've been buying fair trade coffee, but I've been hearing a lot about shade grown coffee, too. So I've been checking it out.

Shade grown coffee is coffee that has been grown under the shade of the vegetation of its natural habitat. The conventional coffee growing method is to clear the vegetation and grow the coffee in the sun. It grows more quickly, produces more coffee and is more profitable that way; however, the quality of sun grown coffee is usually inferior. The longer growing time of shade grown coffee allows for a deeper, richer flavor.

Its inferior quality is the least of the problems with sun grown coffee. The biggest problem is the deforestation that occurs when acres and acres of vegetation is cleared for the coffee fields. Once the fields are stripped of the shade trees, a lot of chemicals and pesticides are needed to help the coffee grow. This contributes to soil erosion. More and more acres are stripped to provide new sun grown plantations when the soil becomes depleted of nutrients and needs to be replenished.

The sun grown coffee method is also causing the biodiversty of the region to change. Many birds are displaced (birds who would have eaten the pests that the pesticides are needed for) and many species of birds have become extinct in these areas.

Shade grown coffee is typically grown organically. It's good for the land and it's good for the workers who pick the coffee beans. They aren't exposed to the chemicals and pesticides of a sun grown field. It's also good for the coffee drinker.

Shade grown coffee is going to be more expensive than sun grown coffees. The fair trade coffee we've been buying for over a year now is more expensive, too. But I consider the expense worth it. I can't justify saving a couple of dollars at the expense of the earth, the birds and the workers who pick the beans for my morning coffee.

We've offset the expense by going out less for coffee. We used to frequently run out first thing in the morning, but now rarely go out just to get coffee. 

So now the question for me is - should I buy shade grown instead of fair trade? Is there coffee that is certified both? I'll be scouring the coffee isle next time I go to the grocery store and I'll let you know what I come up with.

How do you choose your coffee? Do you take into consideration the environmental impact of how it is grown?

Related Posts
Greening Your Coffee Habit
What is Fair Trade Certified
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Allison said...

I am very lucky to have found shade grown, organic and fair trade at Costco. The coffee is from a company called San Francisco Bay, you can go to their website here . We love their brand. At Costco you have to buy a 3lb bag but we freeze it whole bean until we grind it.

Robin Shreeves said...

Wow, triple wammy. Is it good?

Allison said...

We love it. It is a mild coffee, not too strong. And I feel real good about buying from a great company (SF Bay Coffee). Our neighbors gave us a bag a few months back because they love it. I trust their judgement higher than most because she used to work for an independent, local coffee house.

Robin Shreeves said...

Thanks Allison.

I was at the grocery store this morning looking at all the coffee. Wow can it be confusing. Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown, Rain Forest Alliance Certified...

I think I'll have to plan a future post explaining the difference between all the certifications and labels after I've had the time to research it all.

Drinking coffee shouldn't be this complicated!