Why It’s Better to Choose Shade-Grown Coffee
For most of us, coffee is part of what initiates us into the day when we wake up. Have you ever stopped and thought about how your magical brew is grown? What if I told you that growing coffee threatens the habitats of birds? What if you could fix this without doing anything, but sipping?
Traditionally, in most parts of the world coffee is grown under multi-layered forest canopies. However, with advances in farming methods and increased human demand for coffee, plantation coffee became a thing.
Today, much of the coffee we consume is grown under direct sunlight in large plantations. As consumers become more conscious and picky about what they buy, many are opting for organic shade-grown coffee.
Environmentalists are now advocating for a return to the old ways. Even as we get wooed to shade-grown coffee, what does it have to offer?
1. Better Tasting Coffee
Sunlight-grown coffee produces more beans, however, the coffee beans ripen faster which affects their flavor and complexity. Under shade, the beans ripen slowly to perfection, which produces a more flavorful cup of coffee
And the reason is simple- shade equals home. In the shade, the beans' natural sugars increase over time, which leads to enhanced flavor development.
Maybe it's not the coffee maker that's been failing you, but the choice of coffee.
2. A Healthier Option
Multilayered canopies are the natural habitat of most varieties of coffee. Coffee trees are more adapted there and can be grown organically, which requires little to no pesticides, herbicide and inorganic fertilizers.
In the canopies, birds provide a shield to the plants by consuming the pests. The leaves dropping from the trees not only decay to provide manure but also act as mulch, conserving water for the coffee plants. The interdependence of the trees, birds, and coffee trees is just amazing.
(Below is Ned from one of our beloved villages Som Poi - this is his coffee farm that sits beneath a shade canopy with fallen trees naturally decomposing!)
3. It Protects Our Forests
By taking shade-grown coffee you will be helping save forests in coffee growing countries.
In the 1970s, hybrid varieties of coffee that are sunlight- tolerant were introduced to keep up with ever-increasing global demand for coffee. To keep up with this demand most farmers ditched shade-growing for the hybrid varieties. Forests were cleared in preparation for coffee plantations. With time, lesser and lesser coffee is shade-grown.
The destruction of forests has subsequently resulted in adverse environmental effects. Birds' habitats have been destroyed, soil depletion and soil erosion have been the order of the day.
4. Supporting Small Scale Indigenous Farmers
While large-scale coffee growing has led to increased yields the changing business model has hit small-scale, shade-grown coffee farmers hard. Many small-scale coffee farmers have abandoned the crop altogether. However, some still remain, and the only way to support them is taking shade-grown coffee.
The ship has not sunk completely. We can salvage it by sipping more quality shade-grown coffee. Although it may be pricier, the benefits to us outweighs the costs.
As consumers, we have a weapon - consumer demand. Consumer demand can influence to a large extent how a product is delivered. You can choose to support the status quo or use it to ensure sustainable production of coffee.
At Lanna Coffee we specialize is sourcing shade-grown direct trade coffee originating from family farms in the Hilltribes of Northern Thailand. Not only do your purchases help to ensure the continued sustainability of these family farms, but also the sustainability of the entire coffee supply chain. Not to mention you'll get a great cup of coffee in the process. Happy brewing!