Why is Shade Grown Coffee Important?
In order to understand why shade grown coffee, fair trade is important, we first need to know what it means. The coffee plant, which is a shrub, naturally grows in forested areas under a canopy of trees. When big agribusiness came into profit on this burgeoning slice of business 25 years ago, they took the coffee plant out of its natural setting by making hybrids that could withstand full exposure to sunlight. Of course, this modified version of the shrub was placed in large plantations, which performed wonderfully for them….and we’re sure they’d argue for you too.
However, there are a number of things wrong with this picture. Creating these fields for their hybrid plants involved destroying habitats and local ecosystems. With the deforestation, many species of animals have either left or died off. In particular, 150 species of migratory birds have seen a reduction of 50% in their population, just in the past 25 years since Big Agra started their campaign. This is simply ridiculous! This isn’t even mentioning the fact that the increased sun exposure on the land and that the harmful pesticides and chemicals they use destroy the soil and the surrounding environment and produce toxic runoff and mudslides.
The organic shade grown coffee
With shade grown organic coffee, practically all of these things aren’t a problem. The coffee we sell in our store is harvested from shrubs under a canopy of fruit bearing trees. These tiered shade trees provide several benefits. They provide the cool shade the shrub is accustomed to, as well as natural mulch. This allows the coffee plant to live twice as long as their full-sun counterparts. The increased vegetation promotes biodiversity by attracting wildlife, which provides natural fertilizers (Yes, that’s right, poop.. We said it!), decreasing the need for chemical fertilizers. Migratory birds flock to these locations as natural havens against the full-sun plantations. Those are just some of the benefits for animals and the environment.
The shade, fruit-bearing trees, some of which are oranges, mangoes, lemons, and avocados, also provide food for the community and families working there as well as additional income for their sale.
So, now that you understand why shade grew coffee is so important, why is Fair Trade also very important?
Before Fair Trade Organizations came to be, local farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, had little contact with the international market for their products. Transportation and access to information posed significant hurdles for them. When middlemen came into the picture, they’d grossly misrepresent the value of the farmer’s product on the international market, which ended with the farmer and their family only getting between 2 and 4% of the retail price (in the case of coffee).
This would put them out of business and/or heavily into debt since the gain was far less than the cost of production. What Fair Trade Organizations do is bypass the middleman and set up democratic cooperatives that link directly to importers. This means that farmers and their communities can set prices that can actually sustain themselves and their families, and have enough money to give their children an education rather than enlist them into child labor.
Health Benefits of Coffee
Not only can you feel good about helping the world by choosing our coffees, you can also feel good about your health! More and more research is confirming the many health benefits of regular coffee drinking. Here are just a few links to pique your interest.