Coffee cozy and shade grown coffee good for environment
CoffeeMan1 has always favored shade grown (traditional small-farm) coffees from Sumatra, Guatemala, and southern Mexico. Flavors are robust and roasts are usually medium to medium-dark, which lead to a good, rich cup of coffee or glass of iced coffee for summer.
Unfortunately, shade grown coffee can be hard to find at your local roaster because sales of organically grown shade coffee represent only about 1%, or $30 million, of the U.S. market for coffee beans.
This decline in shade coffee occurred because growers introduced higher-yield "sun" coffee in 1972 and began destroying rain forest for more coffee plantations. They’ve stripped 60% of the 6 million acres of coffee lands since 1972. Only the small, low-tech farms, often too poor to afford chemicals, preserved their shade trees.
Lately, as we’ve all become more aware of environmental changes, we have more incentive to drink shade grown coffee because it has five major benefits:
- May have better taste. As coffee beans mature more slowly in the shade, natural sugars increase and improve the coffee’s flavor. This taste difference may be small, but consumers who want to do something good for the environment believe it’s there.
- Is healthier. Coffee is sprayed with more chemicals than any other product consumed by humans except tobacco. Shade grown coffee is most often organic and without chemicals.
- Promotes healthy environment. Requires little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Shade trees filter carbon dioxide, which causes global warming, and create mulch from falling leaves, which help retain soil moisture to limit erosion.
- Provides bird habitat and more biodiversity. Migrating bird populations have declined rapidly since the introduction of “sun” coffee varieties in 1972. Shade canopies shelter up to 150 species of birds.
- Helps sustain rain forests. Coffee planted in the sun suffers from soil depletion and increased erosion, so growers strip rain for est to open fresh growing ground. Shade coffee farms are mostly organic and sustainable.
In 1996, the Smithsonian Institute's Migratory Bird Center sparked a movement to support shade grown coffee in order to bring back the birds, save rain forests, and protect the environment. They gathered environmentalists, farmers and coffee companies to address the problem and promote awareness of shade coffee, which is now beginning to rebound.
Of course, the biggest influence on whether shade grown coffee thrives or fails is you, the consumer. So gather your French press and insulated cover; then get some Sumatran or Guatemalan organic coffee, brew, and enjoy!