Buying shade grown coffee means you are financially rewarding the farmers who have chosen to preserve forests and bird habitats by growing their coffee under the tree canopy, rather than clearcutting vegetation to grow coffee in full sun. Many of our migrants winter on coffee plantations.
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center certified “Bird Friendly” means that beans were grown 100% organically with a variety of native shade trees. Criteria include a canopy at least 12m high with the dominant tree species being native, minimum 40% shade cover, and at least 2 layers of vegetation made up of at least 10 woody species. This certification has the most robust shade/habitat standards of any certification.
The Rainforest Alliance is an NGO with programs in several areas that promote standards for sustainability. Their sustainable agriculture program certifies many crops, including coffee. It covers a number of ecological issues as well as community relations and fair treatment of workers. There are no criteria for shade management. Criterion is for “native vegetation cover” and is not required for six years, perhaps longer. Therefore it is important to note that Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee may or may not be shade grown. There is no organic requirement.