The term bird friendly coffee denotes coffee plants/coffee beans grown beneath a canopy of trees.
Bird Friendly Coffee vs. Full Sun Grown Coffee
Arabica Coffee beans are grown in shade in many parts of Central America, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia as well as some parts of Africa, India, and Indonesia. In many areas large quantities of Arabica as well as Robusta coffee is grown in the full sun.
Definition of Shade-Grown and Bird Friendly Coffee
The Smithsonian Institution suggests a definition of shade-grown coffees to include organically grown Fair Trade coffee plants shaded by a canopy of mixed native trees, and also outlines other specific criteria that must be met for a coffee to be designated (certified) as Bird Friendly® coffee.
This concept emphasizes the importance of shaded (canopied) areas to native wildlife, particularly the migratory songbird populations of Central America, while also benefitting the health of the farmers and the environment.
Conserving Biodiversity Helps Farmers and Land
The Shade-Grown, Bird Friendly method conserves biodiversity, is healthier for coffee farmers, protects waterways and water sources, decreases potential for soil erosion, and eliminates chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, properly Shade-Grown Bird Friendly coffee ripens slower and produces a higher quality coffee bean.
The Bird Friendly Seal of Approval program also encourages traditional coffee varietals as well as new varietals that are naturally resistant to pests. Other goals include controlling pollution at coffee mills and achieving fair and stable coffee prices for farmers as well as good housing and health care.
Bird Friendly Coffee Plant Varietals
Generally speaking, the best coffee beans from Central America, are from shade-grown coffee plants of the three primary coffee plant varietals - Arabica (Coffea arabica var. arabica), Typica (Coffea arabica var. typica), and Bourbon (Coffea arabica var. bourbon).
Shade-Grown Bird Friendly® coffee is now sold online as well as at many restaurants and stores including all National Zoo stores.
Alternatives to Bird Friendly Coffee
The Smithsonian definition of shade-grown is considered controversial by coffee farmers who grow their coffee plants under a canopy of non-native trees and thus are not eligible for the Shade-Grown Bird Friendly® designation. Other coffee farmers, who may grow their plants in the sun, also maintain large areas of forest reserves on their land.
Bird Friendly Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips
For tips on brewing the perfect cup of Bird Friendly coffee see our section on coffee brewing. You can also read detailed coffee flavor profiles of gourmet coffee and instructions on preparing Espresso Drink Recipes.