Why Is Shade Grown Coffee Better for the Environment?
Perhaps you’re a coffee lover, and you’ve already heard of and subscribed to shade-grown coffee. But chances are good that you’ve either heard of the term but don’t quite know what it is, or you’ve never heard of the term at all. Produced from coffee plants under a tree canopy, shade grown coffee is simply coffee that emanates from plants that exist in their most natural form.
On a coffee plantation, for example, the natural tree canopy consists of various types of shade trees. Given the shade provided by the tree canopy, natural ecological relationships between plants, animals and the environment are allowed to develop and are actively promoted, rather than using human-made fertilizers and pesticides that can be harmful to the planet, for example.
So what makes shade-grown coffee better?
Why Shade-Grown Coffee Is Better
According to the site Grounds for Change, “coffee is a shade-loving shrub and naturally occurring varieties can only be cultivated under a canopy of shade trees.” In many instances where coffee is not grown in natural, shady conditions, instead, coffee farmers end up clear-cutting the forest to create space for plantations that can exist in full exposure to the sun.
These plantations, without the natural flora of the forest and the density of the trees, are more likely to suffer from soil erosion, which can lead to mudslides. Further damaging the reputation of full-sun coffee plantations is the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, the run-off of which can acidify the soil. With shade-grown plantations, coffee exists in an area with a breadth of biodiversity, thus living nearly twice as long.
Trees in the shade also produce their own mulch product, leading to a reduced need for replanting and all but eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers to be used in the cultivation of coffee.
The Taste of Shade-Grown Coffee
According to Earth Easy, the benefits are many, including improved taste, healthier crops, a more healthy environment, greater biodiversity and bird habitat, and more sustainable rainforests. When it comes to the taste, they argue that “as the coffee beans mature more slowly in the shade, natural sugars increase and enhance the flavor of the coffee,” leading to a better bean.
To learn more about why you should support fair trade and shade grown coffee, check out this page from the Exotic Bean.