For many years coffee has been grown in Latin America in the shade of large trees – hence the name “shade-grown” coffee. A coffee bean ripens slowly in the shady environment which results in a dense more flavorful bean. This growing method is organic and works beautifully within the forest ecosystem. The tree canopies on shade-grown coffee plantations make natural homes for migratory and tropical bird species. Countless other organisms including reptiles, insects, butterflies and plant life living in the forest rely on these trees, as well.
Over the past few decades coffee growers in Latin America have come under increasing pressure to convert to “sun-grown” coffee farming. Large tracts of forest are destroyed to grow coffee in full sun or at best partial shade. There is a huge downside. During the time it takes you to read this article, acres of tropical forest will be lost to this method of growing coffee. Many sun-grown coffee plantations also rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to enhance coffee production. When synthetic chemicals and pesticides are used in combination, exposure can create a poisonous effect many times greater than the two used separately. These two factors alone may have already contributed to the decline of many migratory bird species. It’s even more disheartening when you realize all this is being done in the name of increased profits for a few.