Shade Growing preserves the native forest and biodiversity, and is still how many farmers grow their coffee. Beginning in the 1970's new sun-tolerant coffee tree varieties were developed with goals of increasing production rates and addressing coffee leaf rust fungus. Removing shade trees and/or cutting down areas of native forest can increase growing area and shorten fruit ripening time.
These cultivation practices often have a negative impact on the environment and are considered unsustainable by many. As a result, a counter trend supporting shade-grown coffee has emerged. A couple things you should consider when you see the label "Shade Grown" on your coffee.
- There is no standard definition of the term “shade grown” and can mean as little as 10% shade cover.
- The Smithsonian Bird-Friendly certification specifically identifies coffees that are shade grown (as well as organic) and is the most specific and stringent with regard to shade growing.
- Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee may or may not be shade grown.