Many coffees are labeled “shade grown,” but no legal definition for this term exists, and it is open to wide interpretation. Here’s what you need to know about common coffee certifications.
This is the only true “shade-grown” certification. Developed by ecologists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, it has the most robust habitat requirements of any coffee certification, including rules on the height and density of the canopy cover and the number and types of shade-tree species. In addition, bird friendly coffee must also be certified organic. Only coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center can be called Bird-Friendly.
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Coffee that is certified organic in the United States must be produced under standards established by the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, even if the coffee is grown in another country. Requirements include no use of prohibited substances, including most synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, on the land for at least three years. Verification is carried out by accredited certifying agencies.
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The Rainforest Alliance is a non-profit organization whose sustainable-agriculture program certifies many crops, including coffee.
Rainforest Alliance certification covers community relations, the fair treatment of workers, and other issues. Criteria for shade management are not required but are included among many optional standards related to habitat. The shade criteria are not as strict as Bird-Friendly standards, and organic certification is not required. However, for farms where lots of shade is not possible (such as at high elevations, where clouds provide shade) or those that cannot meet all organic requirements, Rainforest Alliance certification is very valuable.
Examine the seal carefully. The Rainforest Alliance allows use of its seal on packages when only 30 percent of the beans inside are certified; the proportion will be indicated if it is less than 100 percent.
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Fair Trade is primarily concerned with alleviating poverty through greater equity in international trade. Fair Trade certification has no criteria related to growing coffee under shade, and standards regarding wildlife are generic.
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Announcement from Bird Friendly Coffee Coordinator, Suzanne Aldrich:
For all those with cabin fever, May is coming! Just like me, many of you are eagerly awaiting spring and International Bird Migration Day (IBMD).
Coffee continues to play its part! For the last five (5) years, the American Restart (light roast) coffee is registered as the official coffee of the International Bird Migration Day. Birds and Beans, LLC has an arrangement with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) as part of a bird conservation outreach. EFTA buys a significant volume of our American Restart coffee from Birds and Beans, LLC for re-sale to their constituents.
To celebrate, WCAS is offering American Restart blend (whole bean or any grind) on sale from April 1 st to May 10 th including delivery. Please see pricing below and at the online store on the WCAS website.
American Redstart (Light Roast)
$13.25 - $52.50
American Redstart, Light Roast, smooth and flavorful is the ‘Official Coffee’ of World Migratory Bird Day. (Guatemala). Choose between whole bean and coffee grind options Coarse, Extra Fine, Fine or Medium Grind. There is no additional charge for grinding. The whole bean option is not available for the pre-measured roast packs.
Photo: American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) by Tom Fishburn.
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