Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v03n15)
Coffee Corner - Beauty and the Bean - by Heidi Huff
posted: Jul. 28, 2006
Beauty and the Bean
I'm sure that you're all sitting around pondering, "So, what do the rainforest and coffee have to do with each other?" Like beauty and the beast, it seems as if the rainforest and coffee are mutually exclusive. Plantations of coffee generally need wide open spaces. A large, sunny, flat area makes it easiest to grow and harvest the coffee. But easiest isn't always best. Coffee can be, and is, grown in and amongst other trees. In fact, many coffee aficionados attest that shade-grown coffee tastes better than sun-grown varieties. The sheltering canopy produces nutrient-rich soil, protects the coffee plants from the sometimes harsh sun, and causes the coffee to mature more slowly and fully. As a result, shade- grown coffee may have a richer, more complex flavor.
The "shade-grown" coffee is also less commonly known as "bird-friendly". Doesn't the name give you warm fuzzies? But it's more than just a cute name. Like fair-trade and organic coffees, bird-friendly coffee also has a certification process. One of the major requirements for bird-friendly coffee is that it must also meet the requirements for organic coffee. Because of the parallels of the two certifications, they are often performed at the same time. Certified Organic coffee must be grown on land that hasn't used pesticides for three years; there must be a buffer zone between the coffee and other crop farms that potentially used pesticides or other chemicals. The farmer must also have a crop rotation plan that helps prevent erosion and depletion of soil nutrients.
This is serious stuff! In addition to meeting the requirements for certified organic coffee, bird-friendly coffee must also meet the requirements that follow: A minimum shade cover of 40% produced by at least 10 species of trees, not including the actual coffee tree; observing restrictions on trimming the shade trees and the over-arching canopy trees, called the "backbone", must meet a minimum height requirement of 12 meters. Additionally, the shade levels or "strata" must meet more requirements both above and below the height of the backbone. Extra recommendations exist for secondary plants, natural fences, and buffer streams. Oh, I almost forgot, there have to be birds! But if you build it (or basically leave it alone) they will come.
Don't forget, all bird-friendly coffee must also be organic - but the reverse is not necessarily true. Organic coffee is not certifiably bird-friendly unless it says so. Most often the words organic and bird-friendly will be in the name or used as a tag-line description such as, Ecuador Galapagos: Certified Organic and Bird-Friendly.
Want a taste of Certified Organic and Bird-Friendly Coffee? Stop into Hubbard and Cravens for a sampling on Saturday, August 5th at 10 a.m.
If you want to read more about organic and bird-friendly coffee, try the Bird Watcher's Digest site at www.birdwatchersdigest.com. Other sites with information are the Organic Trade Association at www.ota.com and The New Farm website at www.newfarm.org.