Shade-grown coffee is for the birds
Quite a few years ago, we learned about the impact our choice of coffee has on birds.
Especially important to us, we learned that it impacts the very birds that spend their summer in our yard! Many of our favorite birds, such as catbirds and hummingbirds, fly all the way to Central America for the winter.
The problem is that in the 1970s, a form of industrial agriculture moved there, too. A large proportion of coffee is now being grown in sun plantations rather than in the shade, as was the traditional way to grow coffee. And these sun plantations are biological deserts as far as their ability to support any life except the coffee plants themselves.
Birds & Beans coffee
We recently found Birds & Beans certified Bird-Friendly coffee at the Wild Birds Unlimited store. When we can't get to the WBU store, we always buy Fair Trade, organic coffee, which is likely also to be shade-grown (how likely we don't know).
Also important, this kind of coffee benefits the small-scale farmers and the Central American environment. The farmers get a larger percentage of the price paid, and no toxic chemicals are used that would otherwise pollute their land.
We were thrilled to see that our local Wegmans store recently began to stock certified Bird-Friendly coffee! It's now the only kind we buy.
The Bird-Friendly certification symbol to look for is on the left side of the label under the USDA Organic certification logo. So far, it seems to be available only with the Single Origin Organic Guatamalan coffee, not the other Single Origin varieties.
I don't yet know whether this is offered in all Wegmans stores, but they don't seem to advertise the fact that it's special in this way, so we were just lucky to have spotted it.
Note that the Bird-friendly logo is not the same as "organic" and it's not the same as shade-grown. It's pretty small so you have to look closely on the package.
"Bird-friendly" is the certification program developed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center designed to assure that the coffee plantation is indeed bird-friendly.
Our birds who overwinter in shade coffee plantations
Besides the catbird, here are just a few of our yard's summer bird visitors that depend on shade coffee plantations for survival during the winter:
We always enjoy seeing the yellow-rumped warblers when they migrate through our yard, stopping to take a bath in our stream. I always hope they'll find good winter habitat when they get to Central America.
Baltimore oriole in our redbud tree (Cercis canadensis).
Ruby-throated hummingbird getting nectar from a cardinal-flowered lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis).