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Shade Grown Coffee

Shade Grown: Our Arabica coffees comes from a more delicate, higher-altitude tree and grows at a lower temperature and receives only 2 hours of direct sunlight a day.

Why Shade Grown Coffee?

During the 1960s-1970s, changes in growing techniques made the production of coffee increasingly more devastating to the environment. Coffee which was traditionally grown under a shade canopy was now being grown without a canopy, under the sun. The elimination of the shad canopy also eliminated a vibrant habitat for wildlife. Also, growing coffee under direct sunlight required a dramatic increase in the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.

Coffee plantations managed in the traditional shade grown manner provided a vibrant agricultural habitat able to support a variety of species of migrants and other species that prefer or are restricted to forest habitats. In some cases, shade plantations have supported more than 150 species of birds; a greater number than is found in other agricultural habitats, and exceeded only in undisturbed tropical rain forests. Traditional coffee fields attract wildlife because they mimic forests. The coffee bush is a shade-loving understory plant, sometimes growing as tall as 30 feet. The plant's propensity for blurred forest-floor light sets coffee apart from other tropical monocultures, like sugar, bananas, or cattle, which replace forest ecosystems with fields. On the other hand, shade coffee areas provide a habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.  During the 1960s-1970s, coffee growers with the support of local governments began to grow coffee without a shade canopy. Coffee growers took chainsaws and bulldozers to their plantations and introduced "sun-hedge" coffee fields as a means of increasing yields. Growers noticed a dramatic increase in yields -- as much as five times more beans than the shaded plantations.  However, the increased yields had increased environmental costs. Bared to the low-altitude sun, the coffee plants and the bare, red earth washing chemical require the constant use of fertilizers and pesticides. Furthermore, with no foliage to break the fall of tropical rainstorms, the rains pound the coffee plants and the earth, washing chemicals and soil down the slopes. In addition, wildlife suffers at every level from the destruction of their habitat. While this manner of production increases coffee yields, it must also be accompanied with the additions of chemical fertilizers, as well as a range of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Coffee plants grown without a shade canopy are also subject to a higher incidence of premature death in environments possessing a marked dry season. As a result, the plants need to be replaced much more frequently the shade varieties. The transition from shade coffee to sun coffee has resulted in major habitat change for migratory birds in the past two decades. Overall, the transition from shade coffee to sun coffee marked a sharp decline in the diversity of migratory birds.

Many  also maintain that in addition to being environment and bird-friendly, shade coffee tastes better than sun coffee. Shade coffee is similar to fruit that is dry-farmed, the lower yields lend to an increased intensity to the coffee bean that is translated to a more flavorful cup of coffee.

Coffee Shaded by Banana©
Shade Grown Coffee Shaded by Banana©
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