Shade-Grown Coffee Beans

The term shade-grown coffee denotes coffee plants/coffee beans grown beneath a canopy of trees. The trees provide some protection from the sun for the delicate coffee plant, maintaining a more consistent temperature and slowing the overall development of the coffee cherries and beans. This results in a coffee that is more nutrient dense and has more flavor, which is desireable.

Shade-Grown Coffee Growing Regions

Currently the predominant areas where most of the Arabica Coffee is grown beneath a canopy include Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Central America, and Mexico as well as some areas in Africa, Indonesia, and India. In most other areas the coffee is predominantly sun-grown.

Standards for Shade-Grown Coffee

The Smithsonian Institute suggests a definition of shade grown coffee to include organically grown Fair Traded Coffee coffee 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 benefiting the health of the farmers and the environment.

Shade-Grown Coffee Helps the Farmers and the 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. In addition,

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.

Shade-Grown Coffee Plant Varietals

Generally speaking, the best coffee beans from Central America, are from shade-grown coffee plants of the three primary coffee plant varietalsArabica (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.

Shade-Grown Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips

For tips on brewing the perfect cup of Shade-Grown coffee see our section on Coffee Brewing. You can also read detailed coffee flavor profiles of Gourmet Coffees and instructions on preparing Espresso Drink Recipes.

For step-by-step instructions see Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot as well as How to make a Latte.

For detailed definitions of coffee terminology see the Coffee Terms.  Also check out the World’s Best History of Coffee.

17 thoughts on “Shade-Grown Coffee Beans

  1. My site is not up yet mainly because I am having some second thoughts about my strategy and mission. I love that I keep learning more and more about coffee and I originally thought when I started this venture that organic was the important thing. Now I realize that Shade Grown is where all coffee growing needs to go back to. Unfortunately all regions may not be capable of that now, or ever.. I realize also that Organic could just mean Organic additives or a healthier version of some type of chemical to compensate for the lack of trees and birds. I would like to promote the practice of strictly bird friendly shade grown coffee which in my opinion the true organic coffee. Is there some list of some kind that determines only shade grown coffee and regions? It would very much help me and probably save me a whole lot of time. If you can offer any help it would be so appreciated. Thank you so much. I am also in the process of opening a cafe as well which I plan to serve only shade grown coffee.

    Pam Bradley

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