I found a short writeup in the newspaper about Shade Grown Coffee. The article was written by Jim Burns, a Scottsdale writer and photographer who studies birds.

Here’s an excerpt:

Your choice of coffee could save songbirds

Originally, in the wild, coffee was an understory plant. Shade-grown refers to coffee that is cultivated in the traditional way, beneath a canopy of trees, typically leguminous species that fix nitrogen into the soil.

Let’s connect the dots between shade-grown coffee and songbirds.

It is estimated that up to 10 billion birds breed in North America, then migrate to winter in Latin America. In the late 20th century, two factors adversely impacted our songbirds’ winter habitat: slash-and-burn agriculture and the invasion of leaf rust. These have led to vast and rapid deforestation in Latin America, the latter because it induced many large coffee growers to convert their operations to sun-coffee grown with no canopy, using fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, an ecological desert with no trees, no insects and, thus, no birds.

Here are three random statistics along our dot line that will surprise, if not shock: By one estimate, more than 40 percent of Latin America’s permanent cropland is devoted to coffee; in 1999, 60 percent of the remaining forest habitat in El Salvador was on shade-grown coffee plantations; during the time of greatest decline in shade-grown coffee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife surveys documented a songbird decline up to 3 percent annually. The shade-grown coffee movement by consumers has not yet reached the critical mass of the dolphin-free tuna campaign of the 1980s, but the time has come today.

In the Phoenix area, shade-grown coffee is available at Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and the Sunflower Markets. Coffees carrying “organic” and “fair trade” labels imply smallerplantations operating in the traditional way under a forest canopy, but there is much obfuscation in labeling practices. To be sure, look for the shade-grown label.

Arizona Coffee

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