Shade grown coffee was the natural way to grow coffee until the 1980’s when new full-sun hybrid coffees were introduced to produce higher coffee yields. This made large agribusiness-style plantations economically feasible. Many such large plantations cultivate full-sun coffee.
Experts agree that shade grown coffee tastes better and is superior to full-sun coffee. Shade grown coffee matures slowly and produces fewer coffee cherries than full-sun coffee. Programs and certifications promoting shade grown farming recruit farmers for specialty coffee cultivation and help increase the adoption of sustainable and eco-friendly practices as a way of life. The domestic and international demand for shade grown coffee has increased dramatically worldwide along with higher prices for specialty coffees.
Coffee cultivation is a profession that requires patience and perseverance.
1. The cherries ripen at different times and are picked primarily by hand, one at a time, a time and labor intensive task. Imagine that: picking only the red cherries from a cluster to ensure superior coffee flavor and maintain the quality of higher priced gourmet, specialty coffee.
2. It takes about 2,000 Arabica cherries to produce just one pound of roasted coffee. Think about that the next time you hold a pound of coffee in your hand! Or, stated another way, the average coffee tree produces only one to two pounds of coffee per year.
3. It takes anywhere from four to five years for a coffee plant to produce its crop. Frankly, the road from bean to the cup is a very long one with many risks and expenses along the way.
Shade grown coffee plantations are an invaluable habitat for many species on Earth, including endangered ones.
Many migratory bird species, butterflies, bats, amphibians and insects depend on shade-grown coffee plantations for their survival. The shade grown cultivation method is eco-friendly. It promotes the use of natural pesticides and sustainable practices that are good for the environment. Drinking coffee that comes from habitats that are free of chemicals and pesticides is a good thing for humans and for the wildlife that calls coffee trees and grounds “home.”
Among the amphibians that live in coffee plantations are many varieties of frogs.
Frogs are very sensitive to chemical pollution. This is why chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other man-made pollutants should not be used in frog habitats. Ponds, of course, are ideal for egg-laying and tadpole nurseries. Adults and small frogs need the cover of emergent plants near and around the pond area for their survival. Ponds, small creeks and water bodies are commonly found in shade grown coffee plantations offering a healthy living area to frogs. Coffee trees provide shelter from predators and help maintain moisture on the ground and in the air. Moisture is essential for the survival of frogs and is required for the health of coffee trees and plants as well.
Like coffee, the transformation from a tadpole into a frog is a slow process.
Bullfrogs and green frogs, for example, require a whole year to become frogs. These amphibians help keep coffee habitats healthy by controlling the population of insects, mosquitoes, flies, algae and aquatic plants. For example, a cricket frog eats about 4,800 bugs per year or almost 14 bugs per day. In contrast, the death of 10 frogs means an additional 48,000 bugs crawling around and wreaking havoc, for the most part, on the environment at huge expense to farmers and consumers. Do the math when 100 or more frogs disappear… not a pretty picture at all.
It is a fact that, when the frog population decreases, bug reproduction is uncontrolled. Result? A devastating effect on nature, wildlife preyed on by the bugs, and people losing economic opportunities. On top of that, tragically, increased bug populations lead to higher pesticide and chemical use. It does become an unhealthy vicious circle for humans, livestock, pets and wildlife.
So, what’s the conclusion about frogs? Frogs are bio-indicators that help sound the alarm for humans about poor, polluted water and air. Their thin permeable skin is sensitive to changes in the environment. Frog monitoring is a first line of defense for humans.
Consumers who value sustainability and want to drink coffee grown or harvested with respect for fair trade practices, wildlife, and the environment prefer to consume specialty, gourmet coffees. How can you positively impact the environment and wildlife, including frogs? The answer is simple: drink shade grown specialty coffee!
So, ready to drink a cup of delicious Supremo Colombian Organic or Salvador High Grown Organic?
Timothy (“Tim”) S. Collins, the author, is called by those who know him “The Gourmet Coffee Guy.”
He is an expert in article writing who has done extensive research online and offline in his area of expertise, coffee marketing, as well as in other areas of personal and professional interest.