The mighty coffee plant traces its roots back to the forests of Ethiopia, where it grows wild throughout the forests. Being a shade-loving tree, it thrives under the dense jungle canopy created by other trees and plants in the rain forest. These days, coffee growing is a different story altogether.
You see, most coffee is grown now on cleared rainforest land, which is stripped of its native trees. Along with the foliage go all the animals and other critters that dwell there, like frogs, birds, and monkeys. The reason farmers grow coffee this way is because they use a type of coffee that can handle the hot, sunny conditions and produce hefty crops of coffee with the help of massive amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
This method of coffee production is detrimental to rain forests around the world, since coffee is grown this way all over the tropical world, from Costa Rica to New Guinea to Vietnam. Every day around the world, pieces of the lush rainforest are being cleared and burned so that farmers can plant coffee on the land. Pretty crummy, isn’t it?
Luckily, each one of us can easily be part of the solution to this problem. Due to customer demand and environmental awareness, coffee farmers around the world are going back to growing their crops in the shade of the rainforests. Growing coffee this way doesn’t produce the mega-yields like normal coffee plantations, but they don’t require the pesticides and fertilizers either. The coffee trees get their nutrients from the dense layer of decomposing leaves on the forest floor, and thrive in this environment.
Reverting back to growing coffee the natural way does a whole lot of good for the entire world. Coffee is one of the biggest crops in the world, consumed by hundreds of millions of people every day. The farmers do have an incentive for growing their coffee in the shade of the rainforest. First of all, they get a little bit more profit, since shade-grown coffee can sell for a little bit more, and it is almost always organic as well. Farmers who grow organic coffee can get a higher price for their quality beans.
For us coffee consumers, the choice is easy. Just look for coffee that says “shade grown” on it. Better yet, make sure it is organic, shade grown, and fair trade. By only supporting growers who make an effort to keep the rainforest intact, we are doing our part each day to protect forests around the world.