It’s the time of year when many of the birds we have enjoyed all summer, ‘our’ birds, make their long, perilous journey south, completing one of the most amazing feats of the natural world. Many of those birds will spend their winter on coffee plantations.
A native of Ethiopia, coffee was introduced to Brazil by the mid-1700s, and coffee plantations today cover an estimated 7 million acres in the northern Neotropics from Columbia and Brazil to Mexico. Traditionally, coffee has thrived in shaded woodlands, but in order to produce crops more quickly, sun-tolerant coffee plants were developed.
Full-sun farming requires the removal of the forest and replaces it with a virtual biological desert. Without the forest birds to eat insects, and decaying materials to feed the plants, sun-grown coffee requires the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers. At least half of the coffee grown in the Neotropics has been converted to full sun.
Buying shade-grown coffee is probably the most important thing you can do to help save the rainforest and protect migratory birds. These days, shade-grown coffee is widely available in supermarkets and specialty stores. Sometimes you have to read the label carefully to verify that the coffee is shade-grown.
Too expensive? Don’t drink that much coffee? Here’s an easy alternative: Look for Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee. Nabob is a product of Kraft Foods, one of a few corporate giants that control 40 to 60% of the coffee market. According to the label, Nabob is currently more than 60% Rainforest Alliance Certified and working towards 100% certification.
Still drinking instant??? Most instant coffee is made from the poorest, sun-grown beans. If you purchase an inexpensive one-cup or small-pot coffeemaker, brewing the real thing is very fast. You can enjoy a better cup of coffee and help the birds with a minimum effort. Wake up and smell the coffee! The birds will thank you.
For more information about shade-grown coffee, see my Shade the Coffee, Shelter the Birds post. For plenty of information on many aspects of coffee and habitat, visit the site linked here: Coffee and Conservation.