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 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.
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 coffee and instructions on preparing Espresso Drink Recipes.