Do You Drink the Best Coffee?
By starting your morning with the richest tasting coffee, you can help tigers, migratory birds, and other wildlife. You'll also be helping the men, women, and children on coffee farms around the world. Because Americans drink one-third of the world's coffee, we can have a dramatic impact on coffee growing regions by purchasing shade grown and fair traded coffees to serve at home, church, and work.
Second Only to Oil
Coffee is big business. After oil, it's the most widely traded commodity on the world market. And cheap coffee, the kind that comes in industrial-sized cans, may be contributing to the loss of tigers, elephants and rhinos living half a world away, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.
The study says that increased production of robusta coffee, the inexpensive variety commonly sold in cans and used in instant coffee, is leading to deforestation of lowland forests in Indonesia, home to that country's last remaining populations of wild tigers and other species. Falling coffee prices worldwide has led to the need for more production, which in turn has resulted in more forest being cleared, even in national parks.
Quality Beans Gone Bad
Back in the 1960s in Latin America, coffee plantations growing arabica beans in the traditional shade environment tried to compete with the prices of cheaper robusta beans. To do so, they cut down the forest shading their coffee plants. The beans matured faster, but at a sacrifice in flavor -- a trend lamented by importers and roasters alike. Of course, this also removed wildlife habitat including wintering grounds for many birds which summer in the United States.
It's Better in the Shade
Simply put, shade-grown coffee is coffee that comes from farms that provide good, forest-like habitat for birds and other animals. Because of the shaded, forest-like setting created by these canopy trees, the rich tasting coffee produced this way is called "shade-grown." The alternative way of growing coffee quickly entails cutting down the canopy trees and growing coffee plants under full sun. These "sun coffee" farms provide little or no bird habitat and pollute the environment - they require large amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers to replace the natural leaf litter fertilizer and insect eating animals that's lost when the forest is cut.
Conservation by the Cup
Consumers can do their part by purchasing coffee that is fair trade certified (provides a fair price to farmers) and shade grown under organic conditions. If we do not act soon, our next cup of java may have the bitter taste of extinction," said the study's lead author of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
You can enjoy a cup of this type of coffee. It's shade-grown, organic, and fair trade certified. Starbucks and many grocery store chains are now carrying these coffees. Check in both the health food area as well as with the other coffees. Many faith communities are also serving fair trade, shade grown coffees at their gatherings.