Coffee Blog

Shade Grown/Bird Friendly

With all the different food certifications around these days, it’s hard to know what they all even are.  Organic, grass-fed, cage-free, fair trade… the list goes on and on!  And then, just for fun, we over in the coffee world like to add a few more: Rainforest Alliance, Shade Grown, Bird Friendly...  What does all of that mean?!?  We want to clear some of that up for you, and we’re going to start today with Shade Grown and Bird Friendly:

Good news: You can worry about one less definition, because Shade Grown and Bird Friendly are basically the same thing!  “Bird Friendly” is a certification from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center that is awarded to coffee farms in Latin America who “provide good forest-like habitat for birds.”  The SMBC requires a minimum of 40% shade coverage and has recommendations for tree diversity in order for a farm to get Bird Friendly Certified.  Instead of clear cutting forests for big plantations, some coffee farms choose to grow their coffee in the shade of the canopy trees around their land (hence the title “shade grown”). Fact: coffee grows perfectly well in some shade.  Fact: Many coffee experts say that shade-grown coffee tastes better than sun grown coffee.  Fact: When you decide to buy a coffee farm, you do not have to clear-cut everything in your path.  Just laying out some ground rules.

Even Better News:  Because animal life is affected by pesticide and chemical use, Bird Friendly coffee must not only be Shade Grown, but also Organic (this means that if you find a coffee that states it is “Shade Grown,” but not “Bird Friendly” it probably is grown in the shade, but maybe not organically).  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center “Bird Friendly” certification is the only certification that guarantees that 100% of the coffee is both Shade Grown and Organic.  And, unlike some other certifications, which allow for a little cushion of non-certified product in with the certified product, the SMBC requires that 100% of the coffee be certified in order for a farm to sell it as Bird Friendly!  So, when you buy Bird Friendly coffee, you can know that you are supporting both a farmer and a forest full of living creatures, not just birds, at the same time.  Now we’re talking good coffee!

The Best News:  Our Bird Friendly Costa Rican La Amistad is back in stock!  Roberto Montero, the owner of the estate, has developed completely sustainable farming practices that leave zero carbon footprint in order to preserve over 23,000 acres of rainforest.  One of the things that amazed us the most when we went to meet Roberto and see the farm was the plethora of gorgeous birds!  I could sit for hours and take pictures of bird after bird flying by, eating fresh fruit from the farm out of the bird feeders that Roberto had set up.  Talk about bird friendly!  As soon as our Costa Rican clears customs, we will let you know so that you can start pre-ordering!  But for now, see what other Bird Friendly coffees we offer, read more about Bird Friendly Certification on the SMBC website, or check out our Flickr Album to see great pictures of the rainforest in Costa Rica!

***We do want to clarify one thing about certifications in general.  In order to obtain any certification, the farm has to pay for a representative from each organization to come inspect the farm, etc.  For that reason, we encourage you to look for coffees with the certifications you would like, but we also encourage you to recognize that smaller farms in more developing areas, like some of our other partner farms, do not have the means to legally obtain such certifications, even though the farm itself completely qualifies.  If you want to know of other options that are Organic, Shade Grown, Bird Friendly, etc… we are happy to make informed recommendations from all of our partner farms.

Posted in Responsible Coffee


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About Our Blog

Welcome to the Little River Coffee Blog- a chance for us to share with you about all things coffee!  We've divided the blog into four categories so you can learn about every aspect of our beans.

Coffee Adventures: See where we've been, who we've met, and get to know our partner farms. read more >>

Coffee Perspectives: How much do you know about coffee?  Up your coffee knowledge here! read more >>

Responsible Coffee: Find out more about the different types of coffee we offer and how each affects our planet and its people.  read more >>

Gourmet Coffee: Learn the best ways to enjoy your coffee- from brewing tips to new recipes. read more >>

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